Friday, April 20, 2018

The Top 50 Metal Guitarists - 50 to 41

It's not a good year to have played guitar with me. The loss of my bud Shaun Dunn, marks the second guitarist I have lost in the past year. This turned my thoughts to what makes a good guitarist great. Metal finds the stakes for guitarists high. Shredding can come before playing a fucking song. While all of these guitarists can play a solo, I was also looking for tone, impact on the genre as a whole and how their personalities came through in their playing. So this list of the top 50 Metal Guitarists, is dedicated to Chris and Shaun, you two both talked about a few of these guys with each other and your favorites both made the list.

 50- Richard Z Kruspe

 He adds inspired texture and melody to the machine like grind of his employers.

49-Jason Weirbach

 One of the darkest heaviest and most interesting tones in the game. Much more muscle behind it than your typical tremolo picked black metal playing yet it still possess the hypnotic throb.

48-Steven Russell

 His two projects greatly differ one is atmospheric sludge the other is blackened thrash so this speaks to how he is versatile enough to shift his playing.

 47-Jon Schaffer

 His band has gone through various "lead Players" so he might be the only so called rhythm player on this list, but his tone and command of this instrument serve the song and power his band's sound no matter who is behind the mic or playing the solos. Though I prefer Matt Barlow handling the mic


 46-Oystein Garnes Brun

His band juggles so many vocal part and shifts in dynamics, he proves himself in one song being able master both epic almost power metal riffing and then dig into fast tremolo picked black metal. One of the most under rated prog metal guitarists out there.

45-Michael Keene

He has the worst tone of anyone on this list, but is fleet enough of finger to compensate for it , though live the sound was rather thin.

44- Justin Hartwig

On his band's last album he really stepped up to the plate and delivered stellar playing that should elevate this reputation beyond just playing in a funeral doom band.

43-Eddie Clarke

He is more of a rock n roll player who did just enough rough living to give his music a burly enough edge to be embraced as metal, He doesn't compete with the snarl of Lemmy's bass and occupies the right jagged mid range to cut through the blitzkrieg of bass and drums.


He has a dark dense tone, but I find his more melodic touches and more tender bits of musicality more impressive. Not the biggest fan of "the Satanist" , but trying to get over that and return to their earlier work that I did enjoy.



His odd angular playing might barrow from Emperor, but I think his band is impressive in how chilling and dissonant they keep things, which lies in his ability to not over play despite playing very technical odd timed black metal.


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Ghostbound : "All is Phantom"

It was a combination of the sounds described in the press release and the fact this one is on A Sad Sadness Song, that made me give this a listen.The song starts off a little disconnected in terms of the arrangement as the acoustic intro didn't really transition well. Then when the vocals that sound like then weaker lunged aged version of Bruce Dickinson come in I feel despite the brief blast beat I have been duped and this is going to be some kind of cheesy progressive rock album. The strum of the guitar leading into "the Wildest Of" is too happy for me. This goes to show that press releases can not be trusted. There is ,more of an angular math rock indie feel to this song that makes me feel it was at least written in the past decade. The vocals once again muck this one up a bit and I used to listen to yodeling prog metal. There is not an ocean of melancholy in the sound , but a few drops more on "Earthen Ground". The singer should stay out of his upper register because it cheeses out things in an 80s direction. This is an improvement over the first two songs. The guitar solo proves they are capable players just in need of stepping in front of a mirror to see 2018.

They think they are getting bigger in a Crowded House direction when they are moving toward Queensryche direction. Something can be said for a band that is self aware. "Keep" is another improvement , but the melodrama remains thick. The proggy croon is more awkward on "Tidings" . The bass gets busy like something from a Dream Theater song midway into it which is more interesting. I think if I knew I was heading into a prog rock album instead of thinking this would be closer to Nick Cave , I might have been more prepared. "Night Time" steps in a better direction despite the vocals , though I can do without the spoken word part. The instrumental portions of " It Goes Away " work really well. Not really sure what the point of the blast beats on "Roof and Well" are, as it sounds really awkward against the vocals. I don't have to have screaming , but I need more aggression than what is happening. The last song circles the drain in a similar vein as what we have already heard these guys do. I'll give this album a 5, it needs more self examination and commitment in terms of what they are trying to do. They are capable musicians who need direction. If you like prog this might appeal to you just don't go into this thinking they are either dark or metal. This album comes out June 1st.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Haunting : "Sealed Shut"

This first saw a tape release four years ago and is now being re-leased by Boris records. This release is of note in 2018 as before Scott Taysom formed Cloak , he was in this band. The first song shows shades of black metal influence , but it largely death metal. The vocals are a dry metal metal growl that is articulated enough to remind me of early Sepultura. The drumming is what held them back from really coming into their own as a death metal band as it's too rooted in punk. This can be a problem for a lot of bands that came from this  warehouse scene as the East Atlanta music scene which includes Little Five Points has always been rooted in punk so most Atlanta metal has leaned towards thrash since it's only a few steps away from punk.

"In the Mist" finds the band going on a much more straight forward death metal route that the majority of the EP finds itself following . Straight forward to the point of being stiff until they come to the Slayer groove of "Buried In Misery" . When the song accelerates, it's feels like they are running down a hill too fast. When they slow down and give the riffs room to breathe what they do certainly works better. At only four songs what are all briskly paced it might take another listen to absorb the finer points. Then it will become further cemented how this band worships the earliest days of death metal where it had not fully formed it's identity from the thrash roots it sprung from. There a some moshy break downs, placed where those typically go some where after the solos.

The more thrash of buzz saw to the gallop of the title track grew on me a little more. Lyrically it's pretty unimpressive. The lyrics are more articulated than your average growl. With more listens the Slayer influence becomes more pronounced. We are talking "Show No Mercy" era. Repeat listens did not help all the songs as "Buried In Misery" became background buzz despite the Slayer groove that originally caught my ear. It sounds like the bass might be doing something interesting , but its' buried so deep in the mid-range thick mix that it's hardly audible. With better production and drummer these songs could be taken to the next level, but this band has broken up so it's neither here nor there now. I'll give this album a 7.5 , which questions calling it an Atlanta classic, but if you are into collecting underground metal releases from this kind of death metal then it's worth having in your collection.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Soliloquium : "Contemplations"

We are not at the half way point of the year yet and I am already done with death doom. This makes me hesitant to check into doom, as I am afraid of stumbling into more of it. That is not to say I am opposed to mixing death metal elements with doom, in fact this band from Sweden does it well. The take the power of death metal and give a punch to the mourning atmosphere of doom. They are not just playing slow death metal and trying to pass it off as doom. The bass does some interesting things when the guitar gives the songs room to breathe. Clean vocals begin to make an appearance on the second song. By "Street Lights" things get darker and more interesting though there always seemed to be a correlation with me. The drummer starts thinking more out of the box, though I can hear a little Katatonia influence in his playing.

The death metal vocals return with more power in their growl on " Unfulfilling Prophecy" . These dudes are smart for they know to get  heavier doesn't mean just defaulting to predictable chugs or gallops. The ebb back and forth from more delicate picking on cleaner chords to more crushing waves of distortion. When the sung vocals come in they are more effective. It is almost hard to hear how it transitions into the Alcest like "22" until you go back and listen as it sounds more like a transition in a melodic break down. The first three minutes of "For the Accursed " if more like post-rock or some shit Agalloch would do, which is good shit , but it's in no way doom.The growled vocals wait til the five minute mark before coming in. So it's more like post-death metal as double bass drives it. This kind of melodic post- death metal carries over into "In Affect" . It's punchy and well written. I guess to some extent old Opeth might also be another reference point, but being from Sweden I can understand the reluctance to connect those dots. But Opeth is no longer death metal so there is a lack of this kind of thing being made with this brand of gloom about it. The clean vocals are not at the "Blackwater Park" level in terms of soulfulness, but they are not that proggy either.

They close the album with "Wanderlust" , it's darkly melodic and slower paced death metal, but listen to the solo break and tell me that's doom, and I will tell you how you know nothing of metal so your opinions not only don't matter on this blog, but my 8 year old knows more about metal than you. It's some good melodic death metal this is true, though this song wows me less than the otherwise adventurous songs on this album. I'll give this album an 9 as it's way better than expected when I checked it out on a whim thinking it was going to be doom. If you miss the band Opeth used to be on "Orchid" then this is worth your time or if you want dark melodic death metal of any kind then it's also worth your time.

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Voices : " Frightened"

Former members of Akercocke formed this progressive metal band. This is way more melodic that I expected and that is what drew me in further to this album. It has a wide array of vocal colors. The metal core of what these musicians creates from doesn't hamper it from bringing other elements ranging from post-punk to post- hardcore, though I guess these post-men aren't just ringing twice as any other post-sub genre can also be found. The mood at times reminds we of Katatonia when it comes to the shades of gray they languish in.Lyrically it's a pretty despondent look at the stories of the naked city. The opener also reminds me of Katatonia in how the drums gracefully move the song. The vocals are the rightful centerpiece as they go to some interesting places. Like the rest of the album they are well produced with effects layered over them to make give the feeling they are another instrument.  Harsher touches are applied , but the balance between singing vs growling seems to be perfect for that they are doing.

Before taking you deeper into this album I'll admit two things. One being I have not heard their first two albums. Second I haven't listened to Akercocke in seven years, though I used to like them.It's hard to hear where they second song begins and the first song ends, if you are sitting down to listen to this album straight through. The vocals get more dramatic and it ebbs down into a slower more sensual pulse. I have to keep looking up to check where I am at in the album, as the songs move from another like movements in a larger work. There is a more gentle almost David Bowie like vocal that I obviously love on "Evaporated". They managed to make their riffs angular without abandoning a sense of groove.  The first time is noticeable we are on a different song is due to the huge shift of dynamics going into the power ballad "IWSYA". This transitions into the heavier part almost like a depressive black metal band, though the drums keep it locked into a more progressive side.

"Dead Feelings" goes towards a more aggressive black metal side, but that is not to say they forsake the more melodic progressive leanings, as clean vocals surface along with a more Cure like guitar tone. "Manipulator" is way more melodic, though maintains the album's drive. Katatonia comparisons could be made though the likeness is merely circumstantial with them falling inn the same sonic realm. "Funeral Day" shifts the mood to a marginally darker direction, taking them further into a melodic direction. The keyboards are well placed through out the album. At a minute and a half "Fascinator" is more of an interlude than a song. "Home Movies" picks up the pace, before going into a more death metal section. This is the first time on this album the verses don't come together as well despite the excellent bass playing. Though it could be how it's venturing out of the pocket that is not giving it the same sense of groove previous songs had. It doesn't suck the first seven songs just raised the bar.

The brisk pace of "Sequences" does have a little more of a post-punk feel. It builds it's way into more of a metallic roar. One of the album's most impressive songs is "Footsteps". The punches swell like post-rock. Overall this album is very impressive  and I'll round it up to a 10. This might be one of the first contenders for prog album of the year and I normally hate when people say that , but it's hard to imagine someone bringing it in the dark and aggressive fashion these guys do though Katatonia might have an album coming out.  This album comes out April 28th, sadly there wasn't a download of it available so I'll have to keep watch for it to pop up on the normal places for consumption within the next week or so, I downloaded "London" to keep me occupied by then, so with

Ihsahn: "Amr"

The ex Emperor master mind's last few album's drifted further into progressive rock. The opening track of his new album is much more metal, closer to even black meta; when the drums come in. Synths are more to the forefront. Not just any synths , but very retro synths that sound like they are from an 80s horror movie. The metallic momentum doesn't let on the second song  even though it includes clean vocals. The choked croak almost picks up where his first solo album left off. More of the progressive elements begin to return this as well. The title track digs deeper into the more melodic slant the second song hinted at The clean vocals on the verses remind me a little of Elfman's Jack Skellington tone. Like many other progressive vocal approaches the melody is more relaxed and more focused on the grandiose than hooking you in.

"One Less Enemy" finds itself locked in more of a groove before the wretched vocals come in an the music fall into a more staccato pattern behind it. It rides the tension with a dark chug that reminds me a little of King Diamonds heavier solo moments. The haunting melodic throb of "Where You Are Lost an I Belong". The vocals build while the music lays back and gives them room to breathe. "In Rites of Passage" picks up the pace in a more traditional metal manner before going off into some weird electronic passage, while the vocals keep the song's trajectory. On "Marble Soul" things start heading in a more upbeat prog direction with the majestic melodies replacing feelings of melancholy. There is a lot going on with "Marble Soul" it is almost like Pain of Salvation in that regard. The 80s synths lead into " Twin Black Angels. It has a suitable palm muted tension with hushed vocals until it gets to the chorus. The chorus is a little too happy for. Almost to the Dream Theater level of happiness, though less Journey vocally. On the second listen to grew on me a little more.

The album closes with the much heavier black thrashing of "Wake".  This starts as one of the album's heaviest moments, though when the clean vocals come in at the chorus the mood brightens for better or for worse. As the song progresses it gets more progressive and these elements make the mood more grand than grim which might not be where I want it to go. He has certainly band albums that were more progressive. I think the inclusion of 80s synths is a nice touch to make this album stand apart. I'll give this a 9, while it is not his best work, its a shade better than what most other artists in progressive metal are doing, though the progressive side is what breaks up the dark aggression that we came to know and love him by. The bar is set pretty high and my threshold for darkness is at the level of soul sucking so if you like darker progressive metal it might be your favorite album so far this year, I a step away from being vampiric in my lust for darkness that will never be quenched by the metal of mere mortals, so take that into consideration. This comes out May 4th on Candlelight Records.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Look Back In Anger : The Cure's "Faith"

 Once again I take a look at a classic album and see how well it not only stands up over time, but resonates with me. Since today is the 37th Anniversary of the Cure's 1981 album "Faith" , Their 3rd album , "Faith" finds them hurling further into the dark place they began exploring on "Seventeen Seconds"/"The Holy Hour" is heavy in it's gloomy plod. I normally doing like their more up beat songs. "Primary" was still in touch with their punk side, and aggressively shoves it mood in your face. The taunt tension it moves with has gone onto to influence tons of post-punk bands. There is a colder stiffness to the bass groove of "Other Voices", yet it is a lighter mood than the first two songs.

Once we get to "All Cats are Gray" the sonic rain clouds begin to settle over the albums more narcotic drone. Synths begin to play a larger role as the atmosphere begins to thicken. Robert Smith's begin to show another side . His vocal is less of a staccato punk and more of a smoother vulnerable croon."Funeral Party" finds his vocals coated in a more despondent longing as the synths form a more dream like wall behind him. With lyrics like "two pales figures ache in silence" I think you can't get more goth than that, though Smith insisted the band was never goth. They just like to dance at funeral parties. "Doubt" finds them picking it up into more of a punk pace and Robert Smith's vocals revert back to what he was doing on the first two albums. Lyrically it's more aggressive, it seems ridiculous for Robert Smith to sing about beating someone up, but that is what's happening.

"the Drowning Man" might be the album's most powerful song with it's ethereal drone. The few people who I have spoken with who aren't into the Cure site the reason as being Robert Smith is too whiny for them. This is one of the few songs where his emoting might have a whine to it. I also doubt some one giving them a casual listen is going to hear since it's a deeper cut on an earlier album and not one that garnered much in the way of radio play. The title track closes the album. It follows a simple beat with the layers of single note guitar creating another drone. The lyrics might be the album's most depressing. There are some more abstract and some what religious metaphors in the them.  I'll round this one up to a 10 not their best album, but we are talking about at band who has made some of best albums of all time, so the bar is pretty high. It is still an important piece of their evolution and a great getting high on a rainy day album.