Music trends have been happening forever, for better or worse. At its best, trendiness has provided us with styles like bebop; at its worst, it brought us disco (no offense, disco fans). Even metal has seen a litany of musical trends come and go. Origins of death metal, new millennium metalcore, dragon-slaying power metal, nu metal, new wave of thrash metal ” they’ve all had their time in the metal spotlight. But what’s in the spotlight now…and what’s going to replace it? Today djent might still be king, with bands like Periphery, Veil of Maya, and Tesseract carrying the torch. But what’s next?
Perhaps more so than the last handful of years in metal music, 2012 has been pretty crazy, especially when considering the density of phenomenal albums released so far. In typical music fashion, there have been blockbusters, surprises, let downs, newcomers, and game-changers. Thankfully, most of the surprises (for me anyway) have been good ones. Many of the albums and bands covered below have already been featured in Metal Monday this year”if you’re following along, then you’ll be familiar with most of these acts already.
Both Cannibal Corpse and Dying Fetus released strong albums that largely feature more of the same from the two bands. Fear Factory‘s follow-up to Mechanize further cements their comeback, of sorts, and shows that they’re still the same old Fear Factory. Shadows Fall dropped an album that doesn’t particularly change their mold either, but is good none-the less. The real surprise from a more high-profile act was High On Fire, whose De Vermis Mysteriis was a huge step up from their last album, Snakes For The Divine. Job For A Cowboy‘s Demonocracy also featured more of the same, but a bit better this time around (not surprising, given the quality of the Gloom EP from a few months prior).
Things could have been much easier for Shelton Hank Williams, better known as Hank Williams III, if only he was willing to play ball and give Nashville what it wanted from him. Just imagine the extent to which Hank III”who is the spitting image of his iconic grandfather ”could have cleaned up in the country market if he had offered up some polite, modern variation on grandpa’s pioneering honky-tonk sound, or even a contemporary recasting of his father’s ˜70s outlaw stylings, as Shooter Jennings has done with Waylon‘s legacy. But it was probably that very same maverick spirit Hank III inherited that kept him from pursuing the easy path to Cadillacs and caviar in Music City.
You see, while Hank III does indeed have a deep love of”and aptitude for”country music, and a healthy respect for his family tradition, he’s just as heavily inspired by metal and punk, and he’s never stopped trying to honor all of his inspirations, sometimes simultaneously. That’s what has now led him to release no less than four different album projects simultaneously, each one representing a different side of his fearlessly fragmented musical personality.
According to the thirty-eight-year-old singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, rock & roll grabbed him at an early age. I got my first drum kit when I was seven or eightyears old, he remembers, and I would get excited when I would hear Heart or Ted Nugent or ZZ Top or Elvis, and run around the room. I always felt connected to that kind of music because of being a drummer and feeling the beat. As he got older, he went on to develop a passion for hardcore punk and heavy metal, and Hank eventually wound up playing bass with Superjoint Ritual, Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo‘s punk-metal side project. When you’re on stage with Anselmo, there’s wild stuff happening, he says. I was working with one of my heroes, man. That’s always an honor and a trip. But every time I would take the stage with Superjoint my job was to bang my neck as hard as I could every show and take it to the next level, and that’s what I tried to do for them.
It’s about halfway through the year, and you know what that means ”we’ve only got 6 months left to get new album of the year candidates. There have been some surprises, both good and bad, so far this year. We saw a return to form by a few bands, and a fall from grace from others. Even so, others have just solidified their dominance on their respective brands of metal. Here are the five best albums at the crucial halfway point of the year:
First up is Rhapsody of Fire with The Frozen Tears of Angels. Known as a band who always puts out solid symphonic power metal albums, it’s hard to really step your game up beyond “really good” after 7 albums, but somehow Rhapsody of Fire have found a way to do so. In somewhat stereotypical fashion, the album starts off with an ominously-narrated intro track before Luca Turilli’s fingers catch fire and he plays the most furious and blistering guitar riffs I’ve ever heard from Rhapsody of Fire. The rest of the band follow suit, delivering what is easily the band’s best performance since Dawn of Victory.
Next is the latest gem from Matt Pike, High on Fire‘s Snakes for the Divine. Though the release is a bit of a change from the band’s last effort, Death is This Communion, the band has delivered yet another solid record in very much their own style. All of the instruments, including Matt Pike’s voice, are as grimy as ever ” but at least now they don’t sound like they were recorded in a garage. The problem about this type of production is that it’s a very acquired, but fitting, taste for the music. The whole album sounds very dense”there isn’t much breathing room between instruments. Snakes for the Divine definitely shows more of Matt Pike’s influence from his days in Sleep, most notably in the slower sludge sections of “Bastard Samurai.”
It’s the new year. People are trying hard to keep up their resolutions, others have already tossed in the towel. For those of you whose New Year’s Resolution is to check out all the best metal releases of 2010, well, I’m here to help. Here’s a look at some of the bigger and more anticipated releases coming out early 2010: