The Path of Thorns

heavy metal

Velvet drapes, glowing candles.

by on Dec.02, 2010, under heavy metal, inspiration, music

Another favorite band of mine – top 5 all-time, I’d say – is an Italian band who recently found fame out west.  They call themselves Lacuna Coil, and last year they came out with an album entitled Shallow Life.

I couldn’t wait to hear it.  When I did, I found myself disappointed.  Their debut album, In a Reverie, was brilliant, though a bit unfinished; I feel the same way about this new record once again.

They had continually grown – through the excellent melodies and strong songwriting and harmony in Unleashed Memories, which also happens to include my favorite song of theirs, the Italian-worded “Senzafine.”  That song has a chorus intense enough to wake anyone up from any somber state and make them feel like they can take on anything.  It was heavy, it was soft, it was developed and a large growth from In a Reverie.

They really hit the center of the target with the perfect (in my opinion) record Comalies.  Familiar songs in the hard rock community like “Heaven’s a Lie”, “Swamped” and “Self Deception” blew me away when I first heard them at a club in Chicago when they were opening up for the late Peter Steele’s goth-metal band Type O’ Negative.  The songs are a perfect craft, a well-blended mix of catchy melody with the same bone-crushing guitar work and epic-sounding vocals that make them as excellent as they are.  With Comalies, they stayed true to their core while perfecting their sound on an album of songs that could only go together, like a fine-woven quilt.  I figured this would take them to the top of the charts to come – unfortunately America still hasn’t noticed them enough yet – but I digress.

They began to sound a bit more commercial in Karmacode, which excellently put out their biggest song yet, “Our Truth”, and a powerful cover of Depeche Mode’s most well-known song, “Enjoy the Silence”, a song with a title you could never forget.

Sorry, wanted to catch you up on Lacuna Coil a bit before I begin my slightly disappointing post of Shallow Life. If you like Evanescence, you’d like Lacuna a hell of a lot more.  I can’t get enough of this band.

Shallow Life, to me, reflected a problem a lot of bands go through.  They work hard, hone their skills, perfect their songwriting and direction, get fairly well-known, and end up selling themselves short trying to gain approval from a mass audience.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the album because like very few other bands I love, Lacuna Coil can do no wrong to my ears.  But I think they limited themselves too much with this one.

They continued the trend of having an album-busting song entitled “Spellbound”, which had the same strong effect on Shallow Life that “Our Truth” had on Karmacode.  Makes sense – if you want your album to be heard, open it up with a catchy, strong first single.  However, Shallow Life mostly goes a bit downhill from there.  The songs are shorter, and they hurry themselves up the same way a great storyteller rushes a story when they’re not in the mood to tell one.

“I Won’t Tell You”, “Not Enough”, and “The Maze” are nicely crafted tunes with riveting choruses I spend a lot of time listening to, but the rest of the album falls forgotten on my ears despite hearing them hundreds of times.  I don’t believe they ‘sold out’ because I rarely believe in such a meaning in the first place, but Lacuna Coil could have let these songs grow, develop and widen like they have so well in the past.  You hear a song, you like it, you want to experience more, and then the whole thing’s over when you feel it just began.

It’s a common flaw when trying to find a commercial sound when you should only spend time making an album for yourself.  And maybe Lacuna Coil did, maybe Shallow Life was written with the same frame of mind that they always have in the studio.  Beats me, I don’t know them personally, unfortunately.  However, it seems like they went into it with the thought that it would be a short-sweet, catchy album.  And it is; but Lacuna can do even better.  They can give their songs that heavy, epic, wandering sound that makes them one of the best hard rock bands on earth.

I hope they find their perfect sound again, without getting bored of what they’ve done so far.  I never want a band to sell themselves short, no matter what they want to do, but I worry one of my favorite bands did that with Shallow Life and I don’t want a band with their talent, passion and intelligence strangle their own sound like that going further.

They’re at the highest level of performance and songwriting, in my book.  I want them to write like they know that!

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Sweden’s best music will never be from ABBA.

by on Oct.01, 2010, under heavy metal, human emotions, inspiration, music

One of my favorite all-time bands, one of the best metal bands ever created, and one of the most promising groups of musicians I’ve ever heard, lived briefly in the mid-to-late nineties.  Their guitars were heavy and ugly enough to silence any other in their genre.  Their rhythms were as nasty as they were catchy.  The music they spanned in a few short years could have changed the scene forever.  They put on an incredible aggressive show, and captivated anyone that saw them.

That band was Drain STH; a band formed by four Swedish women that would lead you to believe they were Motorhead gone mad.  They made melodies ugly and phenomenal at the same time; something I haven’t heard before, or since.  Eleven years since their breakup, and I still miss their bone-crushing symphonies.

Horror Wresting ought to be defined as a metal necessity for any fan of the genre.  From the jaw-dropping heaviness of “I Don’t Mind” to the anthem that is “Serve The Shame”, to their hellfire cover of “Ace of Spades” that literally makes you feel like the apocalypse is about to incur its wrath all around you. And, in case you haven’t had enough of a powerful record thrown at you, they write the brilliant “Crack The Liar’s Smile” that sounds like something Nancy Wilson could have written.

But beyond that – their harmony, their excellent timing and their remarkable dark songwriting skills makes them as unique of a band as any I’ve ever experienced.  They were ahead of their time, and still are.  Every track had the same moodiness, but with different elements each time.  And having such a feminine looking band writing something so disgustingly fantastic made them even more interesting.

Their lead singer, Maria Sjoholm, married Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi and that was the end of that.  The other members play here and there, but they’ve never been able to find their niche since.  It’s such a shame, because in less than five years of playing music together, I easily mark them as one of the most unheralded, intelligent and mesmerizing metal bands in history.

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Show your scars.

by on Mar.30, 2010, under death, heavy metal, music

This is a post I’ve been avoiding a bit, just because I wanted to spread myself apart from music everyone who’s ever known me knew I loved.  I don’t want to come off across bias.  But then again, I know I’m not bias, you’ll learn I’m not bias, and I shall write about the feelings and emotions of any album I damn well please.

Death Magnetic.  In the eyes of most, an album that landmarks Metallica’s return to their heavy metal roots.  In the eyes of some, their best album in 25 years.  In the eyes of others, another disappointment after decades of other disappointments.  Metallica’s been in a position no other heavy metal band has ever been in; they’ve tested the depths of their limitations time and time again, ever since their beginning.  They always refused to make a duplicate sound, and when that ventured away from thrash metal, people called the band ‘sellouts.’  Which is ridiculous, ignorant and absolute nonsense, considering everything they do is for themselves, and taking risks in their careers that may potentially alienate everyone that’s ever heard them, like in Load and ReLoad, is an idea that is the polar opposite of selling out.  Metal fans have more of a fear of change than any genre ever created, and their strict and thorough guidelines as to what constitutes metal makes them about as unforgiving as the people that beat them up early in their lives and made them this angry in the first place.

But I digress.  If there is an album to call Metallica ‘sellouts’ on, it’s Death Magnetic.  It’s the first time any of us have ever seen them go backwards in any sort of sense; so backwards, in fact, that producer Rick Rubin forced them to listen to their masterpiece of 1986, Master of Puppets, over and over again until they returned to their 23 year old frames of mind.  If that isn’t proof that Rick believed this was Metallica’s last stand in their career, nothing is.  It was a hail Mary; a last chance; otherwise many would see Metallica as a band whose glory days ended twenty years ago.  Of course, other fans like myself enjoyed any sound Metallica made and felt grateful for it.

What made this album amazing, near-perfect and true is the fact that while yes, they did go back and revisit, it was a reminder to the band as to another aspect of what they were all about; “Metal Up Your Ass.”  They ventured, from country ballads to irish folk songs to symphonies and everything in between, and returned home with their decades of knowledge and experience to make this album.  It can be considered a Greatest Hits, because it’s everything in one; I hear the punk presence that they first introduced from Kill ’em All, I hear the thrash of Ride the Lightning and their inspiration Master of Puppets, and the commercial/mainstream monster licks similar to Metallica, or ‘The Black Album’ in there as well.  But it doesn’t end there; the “ballads” of the album, The Day That Never Comes and The Unforgiven III have a strong resemblance to melodies and harmonies of the Load era.  All that’s missing is the ugliness of St. Anger, which was little more than an ugly time in their lives that had to be created, let out, and left there.

The opening song, That Was Just Your Life, has the dark openings similar to previous other first tracks like Battery and Blackened.  It’s brutal, ugly, angry and violent, and damn near knocks you out of your chair if you’re expecting anything less.  Broken, Beat and Scarred is a clear narration of the personal and professional troubles James and the boys have gone through, and while it too sounds like an angry release similar to St. Anger, the song structure, solos and non-trash can drumming makes the fury of the song much more enjoyable.  All Nightmare Long is my personal pick for ugliest track; it literally sounds like a nightmare, and has one of the most incredible solos guitarist Kirk Hammett has written in years.  The album even has its first true instrumental since 1986’s Orion, entitled Suicide & Redemption, which consists of one of the heaviest, moodiest jams I’ve ever heard.  The closing song, My Apocalypse, might be the most brutal of them all; to me, it sounds like something Slayer or early Megadeth would write.

The album has all the fury every Metallica fan has ever needed; it has a lot of comparisons to their early work, of course, but at the same time it sounds nothing like it; it’s got the experience, the battle-worn trials and tribulations of their lives and careers, and the messages created in the aftermath.  It’s Metallica coming home after a long, hard, havoc-wrecked battle, and creating some of their best work yet.  They’re nearly 5o now, with wives and children, but no matter how much they experimented and traveled, they’re the same Metallica we know and love, and Death Magnetic has the feelings and sounds to make it an instant vintage classic.  Well done.

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Get your bodyguard to pick up your trash.

by on Mar.18, 2010, under heavy metal, industrial, inspiration, music, politics

It took me awhile to figure out if I liked Pain.  I think the band name’s pretty cheesy and unoriginal, like Death.  They’re also industrial, and at first they didn’t stand out as much to me as i:scintilla does.  Then I really listened and really studied their newest album, Cynic Paradise.  The album is a great comedic summary of how the band seriously feels.  And that’s where I got intrigued.

The more I studied this album, the more I got attached to it, and I ended up absolutely loving it.  They tackle the lack of glamor and honesty in my favorite track, “Clouds of Ecstasy”, where they really tackle the nonsense that goes on in Hollywood’s artificial atmosphere.  “Monkey Business” tackles similar fakes and liars, calling them out while delivering unbelievable industrial anthems that just blow you away.  The band thoroughly, completely and entirely calls out people they can’t respect or dignify, and they do it bluntly, but with enough tact to really understand what they’re talking about.

“Reach Out (And Regret)” and the incredibly fierce & catchy “Follow Me” with Anette Olzon of Nightwish continue the eager, aggressive industrial/metal force with feeling most new music doesn’t have.  When I think of ‘damn the Man’ bands, historically I think of the hippie generation mostly.  Having such strong messages about corruption, scandals and falsehoods from a band in such a genre is by far the most original and most interesting aspect of Pain.  These are intelligent guys, with a lot to say, and I know this will sound comical but they have the strongest opinion out of anyone I’ve ever heard from Sweden, of all places!

Pain is a outspoken, brilliantly talented industrial metal band with some of the catchiest tunes I’ve heard in quite awhile.  They’re a band to blare loud and proud, with lyrics that stick.  I’m a fan, a big big fan, and I recommend it to anyone who likes to rock out.  With meaning.

Get the album here.

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