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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Metal Monday: Metal Soundtracks

Inspired a bit by Rami’s Soundtrax column, this week’s Metal Monday focuses on the most metal movie soundtracks Hollywood has to offer. You might be wondering “Are there even enough metal movie soundtracks to make a list?” The answer is yes, absolutely. Admittedly, however, some of these albums are much better than others. While not totally metal, the idea of a metal soundtrack started with movies like This Is Spinal Tap and similar films. So, where should we start? How about with the most “Extreme” soundtrack on the list?

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Metal Monday: A Look Back At Megadeth's 'Peace Sells…But Who's Buying'

1986 was a good year for metal. A really, really good year. Megadeth‘s Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying was a big part of why ’86 was so great. As you probably already figured out, 2011 marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the album’s release. Now, to commemorate Peace Sells as an absolute classic in the metal world, a new anniversary version of the album has been released“we’re doing our part by giving away a signed flat of the album art. This package isn’t an ordinary album + bonus material disk set, either. With five CD/three LP (three different mastered versions of the album and previously unreleased concert audio), a twenty- page book, assorted photos and reproductions of memorabilia and an especially cool rendition of the album cover, this version makes a pretty fantastic box set.

If you’re a fan of metal and are older than thirteen, there’s a pretty solid chance you’ve heard at least one song from Peace Sells (especially if you played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City). Whether it’s the iconic bass line that opens “Peace Sells” that gets you rocking, the evil opening of “Devils Island” that hooks you in or the litany of blistering solos that keeps you on the edge of your seat”there’s no denying that Peace Sells is a metal record for the ages. It’s stood the test of time, battling with albums like Metallica’s Master of Puppets, Slayer’s Reign In Blood and Iron Maiden’s Somewhere In Time for the top spot in metal for 1986.

Megadeth Signed Art Flat

Peace Sells art flat, signed by Dave Mustaine

To further celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of Peace Sells, OurStage is giving away an art flat of the album art signed by Dave Mustaine himself (cool, right?). How do you win, you ask? Tell us how you first heard Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying and what you thought of it in a comment on this post for a chance to win! If you somehow haven’t heard this album, don’t worry, you’ve got time to check it out and let us know how awesome you thought it was via a comment on this post (you’re totally welcome). You’ve got until 11:59pm on September 4th (EDT) to enter, but if you’re of the crowd that hasn’t checked out Peace Sells, we recommend doing so immediately.
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Metal Monday: Metal Album Remasters

If you never really listened to Megadeth or Atheist before the year 2004, there’s a fair chance that you’ve never really heard these bands as they originally sounded on their albums. Since 2000, both of these bands have undergone a serious remastering treatment (for better or worse). Capitol records released seven of the eight Megadeth records that started the band’s career”all of which sounded drastically different” though most would say the remasters were rubbish, falling prey to the loudness war like so many others.

Why exactly someone (or an entire group of people) felt the desire to remix and remaster those seven Megadeth albums is an odd question. The recordings didn’t sound all that bad before, but with that being said, they did sound a bit dated. Lots of mids, not a lot of high or low end and it wasn’t very loud (certainly not up to “modern standards”). Perhaps the decision was made from a marketing standpoint, as 2004 was the year Megadeth reformed after a two-year hiatus.

The first three Atheist records, however, didn’t sound very good at all. They were super dry, nothing really had room to breathe (even though the records were pretty quiet). Most of the albums featured a really flat EQ with almost no low end and only noise in the highs. Purists might disagree that the old albums sounded bad, but then again, purists usually do. When remastered, all the instruments were given room to breath and the records were equalized to sound more full.

Death is another band that desperately needed the remix and remaster treatment, and lately they’ve been getting it. While The Sound Of Perseverance was released this year, 2008 saw the remixing and remastering of the band’s previous six albums“all of which were drastically improved by the treatment (even though some would argue The Sound Of Perseverance didn’t need that treatment and, frankly, I agree).

Regardless of what you think about past remasters, and whether or not the changes were warranted, there’s not a thing that you can do to change the fact that they were done. With that said, you can have some input about what albums you think could seriously use the remaster treatment (even if it’ll fall on deaf ears), or state your claim about how some albums should never be remastered due to their classic nature. There are a handful of bands that have become incredibly famous, and even legendary in some respects, who have some less-than-ideal original recordings”recordings with loads of well written and performed material. Who are these bands? Well, here’s a few examples:

A Celebration of Guilt by Arsis
Focus by Cynic
Breeding The Spawn by Suffocation
Extreme Aggression by Kreator
Contradictions Collapse by Meshuggah
Follow The Blind by Blind Guardian
The Red Sky Is Ours by At The Gates
Morbid Visions by Sepultura
Every single Metal Church album

Now, what are some albums you’d love to hear properly remastered? Think that some of the suggested remasters above are sacred songs and shouldn’t be touched? Voice your opinions in the common section!

Metal Monday: Blackguard Q&A

If you’ve been to a few metal shows in the past year, there’s a fair chance that you’ve seen Blackguard, if not on purpose then by accident. Since the band’s release of Profugus Mortis in 2009, they’ve toured on a near constant basis”with close to ten tours supporting bands that range from Epica to Necrophagist and all sorts of bands in between. Paul “Ablaze” Zinay, the band’s vocalist took some time out of the band’s rigorous schedule to answer a few questions for us regarding touring and the new record, Firefight:

OS: You’re known as a band that tours incessantly, when did you find time between tours to record Firefight?

PZ: Mostly on the road and the small break we had after the Hypocrisy tour. It’s been tough but Kim (guitar) has a work ethic that puts most people to shame. The man busted his to get this done.

OS: Given that you tour a lot, you have to like it, but what would you say is your favorite part of touring?

PZ: I love playing shows plain and simple. There’s nothing like being on stage, playing the music you love for people who love to hear it.

OS: With the number of tours you’ve done, you’ve toured with a lot of bands. Which bands that you’ve toured with have been the most special?

PZ: The Nevermore tour will always hold a very special place in my black heart [laughs]. Not just them but everyone on that tour (Warbringer, Hatesphere). There was such a good vibe on that tour, it didn’t matter that most of the shows were shit for us.

OS: Are there any bands you’ve really wanted to tour with but haven’t had the opportunity?

PZ: Sure. I’d love to tour with some of the really big bands like Dimmu [Borgir], Cradle Of Filth, Children of Bodom, ect. just to be playing in front of so many people. Actually, I would kill to tour with Municipal Waste, I think that would be fun.

OS: When you were writing and recording Firefight, the band was still a six piece (Jo still being on keyboards) but there isn’t much keyboard on the album”what’s the story here?

PZ: Actually the record was pretty much all done after Jo left. After the Hypocrisy tour we scrapped everything we had been working on and started from scratch. There’s pretty much a full Blackguard record recorded that will never see the light of day.

OS: It’s quite clear by the band’s style that the primary roots of your bands are in power metal and folk metal, but what bands would you say had the biggest influence on you as a band?

PZ: Yeesh, I don’t know. I suppose there’s a lot of bands that have made up the landscape of the band so to speak. I suppose you can throw in anything from Nightwish, to Rhapsody of Fire, to Megadeth, to Ensiferum…and hell probably a few more in between.

Firefight comes out March 29th via Victory Records, and is probably the band’s heaviest and most straight-forward album to date. Definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of any of the following bands: Ensiferum, Children of Bodom, Norther, Equilibrium, Nevermore, Kalmah, Wintersun, Dragonforce, etc.

Noms and Snubs: 2011 Grammy Awards

This year was a curious one in GRAMMY world, with some heavy hitters being shut out and some less popular acts finally getting a chance to shine. The ‘Record of the Year’ category is dominated by urban pop, with just one band”CMT Artist of the Year Lady Antebellum (nominated in six categories)”bringing up the rear with their country album Need You Now. Eminem leads the pack with ten nominations for his smash success Recovery, landing on the list for ‘Best Rap Album,’ and Love The Way You Lie, featuring Rihanna, scoring nominations for ‘Record of The Year,’ ‘Song of The Year,’ ‘Best Rap Song’ and ‘Best Rap Collaboration.’

Other hip hop standouts include Cee-Lo’s three nominations for [Forget] You for ‘Record of The Year’ and ˜Song of The Year’ and ˜Best Urban Performance’.  Jay-Z made the list for ˜Best Rap Album’ with Blueprint 3 and again with newlyweds Alicia Keys (with Empire State of Mind up for ˜Best Rap Song’ and Best Rap Collaboration) and Swizz Beatz (with Onto The Next One contending for ˜Best Rap by Duo’ and ˜Best Rap Song’). Keys’ album, Elements of Freedom was shockingly snubbed from all categories, despite its heavy radio play.  Swizz Beats is also nominated for Fancy, his collaboration with Drake, whose debut album,  Thank Me Later earned him a nomination for ˜Best Rap Album,’ while his single Overscored him a bid for ˜Best Solo Rap Performance.’

On the pop front, Katy Perry is the front-runner with four nominations for her album, Teenage DreamKe$ha’s debut,  Animal, failed to garner any attention for the saucy newcomer and Lady Gaga‘s Bad Romance popped up on the shortlist for ˜Best Female Pop Vocal’ but was slighted in the categories of  ˜Song and Record of The Year.’  “Dance In The Dark” earned Gaga a ‘Best Dance Recording’ nom and Telephone, her duet with Beyoncé, earned her a nomination for ˜Best Pop Collaboration.’

B.o.B fared well with his debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, earning him five nominations including ˜Record of The Year’ and ˜Best Rap Album’ while his single, Nothin On You featuring Bruno Mars is making a run for ˜Best Rap Song’,  ˜Best Rap Collaboration’ and ˜ Record of The Year’. B.o.B’s duet with Paramore front-woman, Hayley Williams is also up for ˜Best Pop Collaboration.’ Meanwhile, Mars came in with seven nominations for his work with B.o.B., his single, Just The Way You Are and his work as producer with The Smeezingtons who are up for the ˜Producer of The Year’ title.

˜The ‘Best New Artist’ category seems the most diverse with contender Justin Beiber going head to head with Florence and the Machine, Drake, Mumford & Sons, and Esperanza Spalding (who was curiously excluded for any noms in the Jazz category) for the honor. Usher‘s, Raymond V Raymond will go against Chris Brown’s, Grafitti for ˜Best Contemporary R&B Album.’

This is the year of new beginnings. In addition to  Chris Brown’s nomination, fellow tabloid darlings Lee Ann Rimes and Fantasia, whose troubling private lives made very public headlines, end their year on a happier note with nods for the former in ‘Best Female Country Vocal Performance’ and the latter in ‘Best Female R&B Vocal Performance’ and ‘Best R&B Song’ for “Bittersweet.”

There’s a good chance we’ll see last year’s ‘Best New Artist’ winner Zac Brown Band on stage again this year, this time sans stick puppet”2009 addition Clay Cook was unable to accept the award with the band for their win last year because he did not have a credit on their first album. They’re nominated for ‘Best Country Performance,’ ‘Best Country Song’ and ‘Best Country Album.’ Other country favorites Keith Urban, Toby Keith, Carrie Underwood, Gretchen Wilson, Miranda Lambert, Jewel also received nominations.

No huge surprises found among artists in the rock categories, with multiple nominations for veterans Jeff Beck (‘Best Rock Album,’ ‘Best Rock Performance’ with Joss Stone and ‘Best Rock Instrumental’) and Neil Young (‘Best Rock Song,’ ‘Best Rock Album’ and Best Solo Rock Performance’) while Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton, John Mayer earning one nom each.  Hard rock and metal showcased no new artist nominations either: Ozzy Osborne, Alice In Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, Korn, Megadeth, Lamb of God and Slayer.

For the complete list of nominees across all 100 categories, visit Grammy.com

By Cortney Wills with additional reporting by Paula Gould

Cortney Wills is a pop culture journalist born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She has lived in LA, Chicago and NYC and enjoys all things entertainment.

Metal Monday: 1990, A Great Year In Metal

Though the metal genre has had many landmark years, no year in it’s musical history matches 1990 in terms of legendary and influential record releases. At a time when metal was starting to explore heavier sounds, such as brutal death metal, and bands like Judas Priest were evolving, the incredible album releases across the metal spectrum was an integral part of metal’s evolution. The year was epic in terms of both metal releases across sub genres and overall history.

For the new wave of British heavy metal, Judas Priest released their monster album Painkiller, which is considered to be one of the best metal albums of all time. It’s a considerably heavier sounding album than most Judas Priest material, and certainly heavier than their most famous songs such as “Breaking The Law” and “Hellbent for Leather.” Painkiller is the album in which Rob Halford finds his most sinister place, K.K. Downing finally breaks loose of the cheesier guitar riffs from the earlier days and Scott Travis adds more attitude on the drum kit. A true metal masterpiece.

Candidate for most metal artwork ever

The thrash world also had an all-time great album released in 1990 courtesy of Megadeth. Rust In Peace is a fairly short album, clocking in at just under forty minutes, but those forty minutes are densely packed with great riff after great riff, and blistering solos to spare. You also can’t forget Dave Mustaine’s incomparable voice, which is at its absolute best here.

That same year saw the debut release of the now legendary Atheist album Piece of Time, as well as Deicide‘s eponymous debut“both of which put a clear stamp on the death metal that would follow them. In a completely separate area of metal, Primus also released their debut album Frizzle Fry, considered by many to be their best album to date.

Splitting the top of the 1990 release charts with the powerful debut releases by Atheist, Deicide and Primus were bands like Pantera and Kreator. Both bands found the perfect formula for their very distinctive thrash styles, each releasing what was the best album of their careers (and still might be). Pantera’s Cowboys From Hell is certainly the band’s best known effort, boasting one of the most distinctive opening riffs in the history of metal. Even Bathory was on board with the year 1990, releasing Hammerheart, an album considered by many to be the first true “Viking Metal” album.

Less serious, but plenty awesome

In terms new metal bands, the “class of 1990″ list is pretty extensive: At The Gates, Converge, Kyuss, Opeth, Dark Tranquillity, Tool, In Flames, Fear Factory, Lamb of God and more. Many of these bands would go on to be extremely influential in their respective sub genres. In fact, the bands from Gothenburg (At The Gates, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames) went on to define a scene and sound for Swedish melodic death metal for the two decade to follow.

The year was marred by tragic events, such as Judas Priest being sued when their song “Better By You Better By Me” allegedly prompted a kid to commit suicide (the band won the case) and the attack and ensuing paralysis of Possessed frontman Jeff Becerra. Still, with landmark release after landmark release, 1990 will go down as one of the best years in the world of metal.

Rock 'n' Roll Call: Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock

Rockstar gamers rejoice! Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock was finally released today.

The game includes over 90 songs from the likes of KISS, Black Sabbath, Rush, Muse, Queen and Megadeth. In addition, it is the first Guitar Hero game to feature a story mode, known as Quest Mode. Narrated by KISS’ Gene Simmons, players will complete songs to move further in their quest to save rock ‘n’ roll.

Warriors of Rock: Here is your brand new axe!

Players can also engage in Party Play and Quickplay+ mode, which offers 13 gameplay challenges for each disc track and many downloadable songs from Guitar Hero World Tour.

As in previous releases, players can choose to play guitar, drums or sing vocals. An exciting new addition to this game is the updated guitar controller, which is now “shredding”-enabled and complete with a swappable body for custom designs.

Saving rock one track at a time!

Guitar Hero is also breaking new ground by collaborating with Soundgarden to release the first video game/album bundle. Soundgarden’s new compilation album Telephantasm is bundled with the first one million Warriors of Rock games. In addition, you can download the entire album to play on Warriors of Rock.

Below is the trailer for the game, for those of you who are still in the dark. If you can tear yourself away from this epic rock adventure, let us know what your favorite songs and game features are!

Metal Monday: The "Big Four" Concert

Chances are  if you’re a metal fan then you’ve probably heard that the “big four” of thrash (Megadeth, Slayer, Metallica and Anthrax) played some shows together (Poland and Switzerland among them) for the first time ever during this summer’s Sonisphere fest.

I don’t see what the big deal is, honestly. Sonisphere isn’t exactly the smallest metal festival in the world, there were at least six or seven globally recognized metal bands (e.g Stone Sour, Bullet For My Valentine and  Motí¶rhead among others) playing at each date. If the “big four” were playing a smaller and more extensive tour around Europe or the United States, then it would be more noteworthy.

big four photo

Anthrax, Slayer, Metallica and Megadeth: Friends at last!

Perhaps more notable than the concert itself is the fact that the Poland date was aired in movie theaters around the United States (such as your local AMC Loews). This is really cool option for fans who admire any of these bands and would love to see them play a live set, but it’s not like there isn’t footage of all of these bands playing live sets from the last thirty years. From what I’ve seen of the concert footage, it appears that Dave Mustaine and James Hetfield can barely even sing their classic songs anymore (butchering performances of “Hangar 18″ and “Master of Puppets” respectively). It’s hard to imagine that there won’t be a forthcoming DVD of one of the shows, which might actually be worth purchasing (or borrowing from a friend who feels the need to buy it).

If you paid to see the concert in your local movie theater, was it worth it? Which band played the best set? How about those of you who didn’t go see it? Why didn’t you go? Let us know in the comments below.

Metal Monday: Metal Essentials – Thrash

If a person is to consider themselves a metalhead, they had best know the roots ” the basics. Be aware of all subgenres, identify the artists who dominates them and know the albums that helped shape that subgenre. For the next few weeks, I’ll be schooling you on some essential metal albums from metal’s biggest subgenres ” making sure you know the biggest and the best in the metal world and giving you some essential albums to add to your metal collection.

This week we’re looking at the genre that features some of the most renowned metal bands of all, thrash metal

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