Metal has had its fair share of oddities and curiosities, and more than once, as it happens, like a two-headed beast fighting over a shared body, we come upon two bands of the very same name, an unusual instance that often spawns tensions and lawsuits. TMO has gathered the 10 most prominent of these cases, looked into how they came to be, and then at whether or not a solution was ultimately found.
Wasting no time after dropping their mesmerizing 2013 album, Time’s Arrow, D.C. area metal horde A Sound of Thunder bring their next installment, The Lesser Key of Solomon, the band’s fourth full length since their 2008 formation. As with Time’s Arrow, the band turned to the popular crowd funding site Kickstarter to assist with the costs of the album raising over $23,000 (with an initial goal of $10,000). The band’s tendency to release top notch albums has enabled them to amass an amazingly loyal fan base and that fan base, in turn, has helped A Sound of Thunder blossom into the world class act that they’ve become. The band was able to, once again, recruit the talents of Dušan Marković, who provided ten expertly crafted pieces of artwork to adorn the booklet and front cover (worth the admission price alone).
The Lesser Key of Solomon continues A Sound of Thunder’s dominance with, perhaps, their most mature and nuanced album of their career. That’s a big statement, though, because both Time’s Arrow and Out of the Darkness were full of emotive performances, killer songwriting and execution, and, the band’s secret weapon, the untouchable vocals of Nina Osegueda. Here, we have all of the band’s trademarks, pushed to the extreme. The band wastes no airspace: despite the hour long run time, there is no sign of filler. Once again produced by Kevin Guiterrez, The Lesser Key of Solomon boasts razor sharp guitar tones, poignant bass runs and strong, driving percussion that give a thundering and fat bottom end without drowning out the rest of the band.
While this is definitely the band’s strongest album, which is a feat considering their discography is laced with solid gold, it is less immediately gripping than their previous albums, a grower, so to say; it could be from the dark lyrical themes or the more progressively tinged structuring. “Udoroth” may start off the album as a scorching, fast paced anthem, the rest of the album weaves melody, superb structuring and extremely strong musical performances with touches of prog and the occult styling of Mercyful Fate. The band has always had a bit of that King Diamond sound to their music, but the supernatural lyrical themes make the comparison shine so much brighter. The lyrics from “Elijah” read like a twisted tribute to the classic Abigail.
Josh Schwartz, the riff machine that he is, unleashes a maelstrom of classic heavy metal with undeniable swagger. “Master of Pain” shows of a choppy, trudging style while “One Empty Grave” focuses on bluesy licks. Not to be outdone, Jesse Keen’s bass performance is incredible, filling in every nook with solid fret work and fills that just seem to float in from nowhere. Chris Haren’s drumming is ominous and truly gives the band a thundering backbone, complete with impressive fills and the ability to change time signatures at the drop of a hat. All you really need to know is that this band is on freaking fire.
Certainly the centerpiece of any A Sound of Thunder album, Nina Osegueda has once again outdone herself. Comparisons to classic singers abound, but Nina has really come into her own over the band’s career. Nina’s voice is as sultry as ever on tracks like “One Empty Grave”, while “Udoroth” shows that she has more power in her voice than Halford has shown since Painkiller. Where she shines, though, is on the long playing tracks, such as the masterful “Elijah”, where she shows off her incredible range, not to mention when the hair on your arms will stand up while she portrays the protagonist’s “mother” (I won’t ruin the storyline for you). Tracks like “The Boy Who Could Fly” portray a more melodic, emotive tone, which even manages to top Time’s Arrow‘s classic “I’ll Walk With You”. This is the vocal performance of a lifetime, which is exactly what I said about Time’s Arrow. At this point, it seems that Nina never be dethroned as the reigning queen of heavy metal (Doro and Leather Leone have nothing on Nina at this point).
When Time’s Arrow came out, I was certain there was no way that the band could top it. Once again, I find myself blown away by what this band can do. A Sound of Thunder was already bordering on elite prior to releasing The Lesser Key of Solomon and I believe this may catapult them straight into legendary status. Everything fans have come to expect from this band has been multiplied tenfold: exceptional songwriting, classy riffing, thundering rhythms and the best metal vocal performance in quite some time. There seems to be no natural limit for A Sound of Thunder and The Lesser Key of Solomon is proof that there are legends among us.
Legendary harbingers of doom, Olympia’s slowest moving sons Earth have not shied away from reinventing their sound. Approaching the 25-year anniversary of his band, Dylan Carlson has smashed amps with Kurt Cobain, rocked out in the style of demons, and invented a signature brand of tumbleweed-drone. In later years Earth have become known for their western-noir blend of menacing deserts of sound, last heard on the meditative Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light-albums. Although solid in concept and execution, the last ten years there have been whispers of Earth being caught in a perpetual ouroborous, balancing on the brink of repetition.
Primitive And Deadly was recorded in the desert at Joshua Tree
Since 2005’s ponderous masterpiece HEX, Earth have slowly been honing their atmospheric post-drone formula. With Primitive And Deadly the wheel finally turns again. For the first time since 1996’s Pentastar, Carlson steps away from the purely instrumental approach. Featuring the talents of singer-songwriter Mark Lanegan and Rose Windows’ vocalist Rabia Shaheen Qazi, the somewhat monotonous songwriting of the band’s last few efforts evolves into a more traditional rock-structure. Carlson’s trademark guitar provides a solid foundation, backed by long-time percussionist Adrienne Davies’ steady beat and newcomer Bill Herzog’s (Sunn O))), Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter) throbbing bass.
Immediately engaging, “Torn By The Fox Of The Crescent Moon” is an aggressive and surprisingly blunt opening track. A menacing bassline takes us to a familiar nighttime prairie, but with a rock and roll energy that is rare in the Earth-canon. It’s heavy – remarkably so – and a mammoth re-envisioning of Carlson’s gloomy world. Following the crushing opening, “There Is A Serpent Coming” sees Lanegan lending his lyrical work as well as his brooding voice. The creeping darkness bears traces of HEX, but with a subtlety that is the product of years of refining their sound.
Next, “From The Zodiacal Light” is graced by the soulful pipes of Rabia Shaheen Qazi. A lethargic acid-rock number, the melodies are reminiscent of the sunbaked grooves that pervaded The Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull. Rather than a retreading of old paths, however, Qazi’s contribution elevates the music to unprecedented levels of opiate bliss. Earth are keeping one eye on the past, simultaneously striding forwards with unbridled confidence.
Bringing in guitarists Jodie Cox and Brett Nelson, Primitive And Deadly shreds some of the minimalism of Carlson’s signature sound. The result is dense with lush layers and textures, making even the instrumental tracks stand out in their own ways. “Even Hell Has Its Heroes” features a lengthy solo that would not feel out of place on Neil Young’s Dead Man-soundtrack, complete with electric folk freakout. It’s another way for Earth to step out of their own shadow, and in a sense it feels like their last few albums have all been building up to this cathartic emanation of dark psychedelic folk.
“Rooks Across The Gate” is Lanegan’s second contribution, and more than anything else feels like a continuation of the dark motifs from Angels Of Darkness. Once again, the addition of Lanegan’s crooning vocals gives the plodding song a soulful edge. Sorrowful and eerie, “Rooks…” takes Earth to new emotional depths. It provides a brilliant ending to an extraordinary album, with dreamlike qualities to carry the listener to some other world.
The vinyl version of Primitive And Deadly features the bonus 12-minute track “Badger’s Bane”. More conventionally droning than the rest of the album, the song feels a lot like a b-side or an abandoned recording, lacking the emotional resonance of the album as a whole. Whereas the other songs here are headed in uncharted directions, “Badger’s Bane” feels typically Earth anno 2005-2012. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but as a whole it unnecessarily drags the album out and feels redundant, even as a bonus track.
With Primitive And Deadly, Earth complete a cycle that began with the brooding dark western sounds of HEX. A pastiche of past sounds is reinvigorated by new experimentation, to awe-inspiring results. For fans who feel that the Angels Of Darkness-albums started to wear thin; this is the Earth-album you have been waiting for. It’s early to say, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Primitive And Deadly stand as Earth’s absolute masterpiece. Suffice to say, it feels like the accumulation of a sound 25 years and eight albums in the making.
Multifaceted Negativity Abounds
A mainstay in the US black metal scene, Krieg is one of the longest running active black metal bands in the country. Fronted by N. Jameson (formerly known as Imperial), Krieg’s lineup has been extremely unstable over the years. Currently pressing on as a five piece, N. Jameson is the only current member of the band returning from 2010′s The Isolationist. Despite Krieg nearing twenty years of existence, 2014′s Transient marks only their seventh full length offering, amid a vast catalog of EP’s and splits.
Krieg’s longevity is a testament to the creative force of N. Jameson. Granted the band has had a few down points over the years, but Transient seems to serve as a reminder to those who have happened to forget how truly devastating and disgusting Krieg’s brand of black metal can really be. Moving forward with their sound, N. Jameson stated that the band did not want to stick to the perceived confines of what black metal has become over the years. The result of liberating the band’s writing process resulted in, according to N. James, the band’s most black metal album in a decade.
Transient is a rather overwhelming listen that channels several levels of despair, futility and pure vitriol. Not content to just blast away for album’s play time, this album is varied and textured. Sure, everything on this album certainly sounds like Krieg, but the waxing and waning of moods and tempos will keep you on your toes and will require your focus and attention to not be left behind. “Order of the Solitary Road” starts the album off with cold, blasting drums and discordant riffing before welling into heavy percussion a la Neurosis with a meaty, grooving riff, to boot. Taking their base sound of mid-paced black metal, blasting drums and N. Jameson’s raspy growls and screams, Krieg tweak each track into its own nightmare. Sometimes this is accomplished with elements of post-metal, sometimes with industrialized sequences, sometimes with atmospheric wandering, but it stays dripping with negativity.
Tracks like “Time” and “To Speak With Ghosts” inject a portion of post-black metal, with melodic touches and slower drumming, but both strike back with walls of acerbic riffing swelling to the forefront. “Atlas With a Broken Arm” channels a mid-tempo sound with a trance-inducing yet cacophonous riffs while “Walk With Them Unnoticed” and “Ruin Our Lives” combines slow building atmospheric black metal to the concoction. It sounds like a rather large mix of styles, and it is, yet Krieg is able to keep this from becoming the disjointed cluster that it could have been. True to Krieg’s earlier sounds, this is as angry and miserable as ever; the sound of every negative emotion put to tape.
Transient is a trying listen; perhaps it’s because of all of the negativity imprinted on this recording or it could be the band’s constant shape-shifting throughout. N. Jameson and Krieg have crafted their most powerful release in years, if not their most powerful release in their long history. Despite this being a challenging and trying listen, it is well worth your time to let the miserable hatred wash over your ears. Nearly two decades into the black metal game and Krieg seem to have found their happy place. It just so happens that Krieg’s happy place is aphotic, piteous and wretched.
It can be bizarre. It can also be off-putting. But it’s an entirely new realm of the sub-genre that can afford some great new bands and masterpieces to listeners. The power metal scene has really blossomed since the arrival of X Japan in the ’80s, and since then it’s been taken to new heights and limits.
Hans gets up close and personal with Swedish melodic death metal band Meadows End and the whole band joins in to give some insight.
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie
The Million Dollar Grunge Album That Never Was
Tons Of Rock Day 3, June 21st 2014
Tons Of Rock Day 2, June 20th 2014
Tons Of Rock Day 1, June 19th 2014
The Suicide Silence guitarist opens up about the death of Mitch Lucker, getting the band back together, and their badass new record You Can’t Stop Me.
The Metal Observer recently had the chance to speak with the legendary founder and driving force behind Falconer, Stefan Weinerhall. Returning with the band’s eighth studio album, Black Moon Rising, which recently dropped on Metal Blade Records, Weinerhall speaks about the intensity of the new album, his approach to songwriting and influences, among other things.