Lamb of God
VII: Sturm und Drang
One of the most successful metal acts of their generation, Lamb of God return with VII: Sturm und Drang (which names an artistic movement that expressed itself through emotional unrest and the rejection of then literary norms). The fact is that Lamb of God has been on a major label for a good long while now, something few in the genre could ever hope for. It has always felt like struggle though. Their albums have never really felt as ferocious as you’d expect based on their live show and, of course, there has been all the emotional and business turmoil that vocalist Randy Blythe’s false arrest/incarceration caused, forcing the LoG machine to come to a grinding halt. Point being, VII is a make or break moment for a band that many consider to be the last hope for metal bands as headliners.
LoG really grow up on VII musically. They’ve always been tight but the balance of brutality and groove is almost perfect here. “Engage the Fear Machine” is one of the best examples in my opinion because it’s brutal as hell vocally, but the music isn’t tremendously thick and the band really captures a groove that makes you want to bang your head along. The opener, “Still Echoes” is a faster and more straightforward affair but it also captures many of the same nuances that I love about “Engage….” Meanwhile, “Embers” keeps the pace and quality consistent while adding in some sung lines that give the band new depth. It’s probably as close to an anthem as we will ever get from an LoG record.
There are also some semi-experimental moments here that work really well. “Overlord” brings another kind of groove to the mix with partially sung vocals, a bluesy solo, and a laid back fire that really catches your attention in a Stoner Rock kinda way before the band launches into the hail mary hellfire that they are best known for. Eventually they settle back into the groove giving the song a lot more texture than we are used to hearing from these guys. The preacher tendency during “Delusion Pandemic” is another cool moment as Blythe takes a minute to beat you over the head as he rages with the rest of his cohorts. It’s short and sweet and it’s also quite excellent.
LoG do a lot of things on this record and disappoint is not one of them. It’s always a tricky prospect when you hope a band will re-emerge from trials as a stronger band because many of them have their backs broken in these instances. LoG instead channel the energy into a monster of an album that continues to hone their unique sound while expanding their wheelhouse by looking towards the future. This is easily my favorite LoG album and it’s gonna be a tough one to follow.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Wulfhook represent a trend that has been gaining quite a bit of momentum as of late: Retro metal. For a while there it seemed that every metal band wanted to be Lamb of God. Or Hatebreed. Or Killswitch Engaged. Or *insert name of currently popular metalcore band here*. What happens when a style of music becomes stagnant and is filled to capacity with sound-alikes? Two things: innovation and rebellion. With innovation we might hear an entirely different sound, but with rebellion one might see a band focusing less on what is popular and more on what they feel most musically connected to. Sometimes that connection is a style of music from the past. As they say, everything old is new again.
Wulfhook take a stand against the status quo with their debut album The Impaler and play a sort of music that is, according to the band’s official site, “an unrelenting sonic attack that reveals a band that is completely unaffected by what’s popular or what other musicians are doing and is zeroed in on exactly what will make Wulfhook stand out in the over-crowded underground scene. No tongue in cheek retro throwback, just straight up heavy metal.” So… is it true or is it just marketing hype?
If the goal was old school speed metal then Wulfhook definitely hit the mark with The Impaler. With shredding riffs, ballistic percussion and vocals that could likely peel paint this album pulls no punches when it comes to paying homage to speed metal bands of yore. If you ever have enjoyed the heavier moments of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, or Metal Church then it’s a rather safe bet you’ll find something to appreciate about Wulfhook. Be forewarned however. The Impaler is most definitely not for the casual metal fan. This 5 piece force of musical mayhem hailing from Detroit, Michigan means business. And business is straight up old school heavy metal with no apologies. You don’t like that? Well then get out of the way ‘cause this train ‘aint stopping! All aboard for METAL!
Reviewed by Farron Watson
Right to Rise
Razor and Tie
Detroit rockers Wilson are back with the followup to their head turning Full Blast Fuckery! Right to Rise continues the Rock and Roll party by offering some groovy riffs that land somewhere between White Zombie, Toadies, and Black Label Society.
There is a lot of good Rock and Roll out there these days so if you are into bands like Rival Sons, Fuel, Scorpion Child, or Archer, then you’ll find plenty to love here. With that said, Right to Rise takes a ballsier approach to the sound with huge guitars, full sounding rhythms, and a vocalist that can do more than wail. Everything just seems “thicker” on this album than Wilson’s contemporaries, which gives it a wider audience as it fits right in with aforementioned bands as easily as it does with the new schoolers.
There really isn’t a bad song here so what you take from this is going to be based on personal preference. “Guilty (You’re Already Dead)” is a definite highlight for me. It’s a big summer anthem laced with a snarly sound that’s got a slight White Zombie bounce combined with the pissy attitude of Motorhead’s best work. “Satisfy Me” is another favorite that starts out as a riff monster but evolves into a big anthem rocker and by the end of the song the band are just nailing it (I wasn’t sure this sound was possible in the digital age as a matter of fact). It’s not too often that I wish a song was LONGER but I could handle a lot more of this one. “Waiting for the World to Cave In” and “Right To Rise” are both fist pumpers as well that get the adrenaline going without resorting to cheesy lyrics or name dropping. It’s pure Rock and Roll my friends! Wilson aren’t reinventing the wheel, they are making a better one.
As someone who has spent a fair amount of time in and around Detroit over the last decade, I’d dare to say that Right to Rise is the sound of their city …a soundtrack for theunderdog. This is an excellent album that will appeal to Rock and Roll Revivalists of every generation.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Search and Destroy/Spinefarm
Do you love the Rock and Roll Revivalist movement? If Rival Sons, Scorpion Child, Wilson, The Answer, Orchid, and the like are your bag baby then Turbowolf is ready to turn it up and turn you on with Two Hands!
This is my first experience with Turbowolf and I can’t say enough about how unique their sound is. The production is tight, crisp, and clear (unlike The Darkness whom you might be tempted to compare them too). Sharp, tight, buzzsaw guitars riff their way through each punk tempoed tune that has so much groove that there are moments where you are tempted to draw a correlation to Rage Against the Machine. Especially on my two personal favorites, the back to back “Rabbit’s Foot” and “Solid Gold,” which both sound like a funky, young Vince Neil fronting RATM.
The band aren’t all groovy fury though, after the first four tracks they settle into a little more laid back groove that spotlights another side of their sound. The superb, “Good Hand” is the best showcase of this side of the band in my opinion. They loosen up the buzzsaw guitars while the rhythm section lay down the foundation for the anthem, allowing the vocals to really shine. “American Mirrors” has more of a Punk Rock rage to it overall but manages to work in some classic rock riffage and some psychedelia to keep it far out from the isle of predictability.
The album’s closing moment, “Pale Horse,” is the only real stumbling block for me. I love parts of the five minute burner but it just never seems to gel as well as the other tunes. So, one song that I’m not so into? That speaks volumes. This is not an album that you find favorites and skip to them after the first listen. This is a solid spark of Rock and Roll from start to finish and you’d be a worse person if you missed out on it.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher
Dead City Records
Gather around and listen, kiddies. Long ago, when your humble narrator was but a boy, music was arranged in divisive factions, and the artists never crossed genre lines. Metalcore? Not in my day! You had hardcore or metal, and never did the two meet, until one band led the charge with the ferocity and determination to change the face of all things truly heavy. That band was Crumbsuckers, who formed in Long Island, NY back in 1982. Their debut Life of Dreams is a classic, mixing hardcore and thrash into a violent, snotty, and even musical attack. Before this piece of metal history were the demos, 1983’s Crumbsucker Cave demo, and 1985’s Charge of the Light Brigade. While these have floated around the internet in various forms over the past few years, the good people at Dead City Records have decided to grace the masses with a proper release of both on The Demos.
The two demos that comprise this release really chronicle Crumbsuckers at different points in the development of the band. Tracks 1-5 comprise the earliest document of these legends on the rise, and is very much a hardcore affair. These songs bring to mind Minor Threat and DRI, among other classic hardcore godfathers. “A-OK” is clearly cut from the same cloth as much of the songs on Minor Threat’s debut, and is immediately followed by a tongue in cheek cover of the Chubby Checker classic “The Twist” which would sit perfectly beside Black Flag’s “Louie, Louie.” Guitarist Dave Wynn shows some fairly impressive blues rock chops on this song, which is also a clear leaning in his lead guitar work on songs like “Emil Mauer (You Dick!)”. This is a great indicator of where the band is going, as Wynn is equally comfortable playing straight ahead, full speed hardcore on “The Kids In My School.” “Don’t Like It” is an early example of the hardcore breakdown that has become a genre staple. Clearly, early Crumbsuckers was a prime example of 1980s hardcore.
The remaining eight tracks on The Demos show the band moving closer to thrash, while still retaining the power and ethos of hardcore. Part of this is due to the addition of guitarist Chuck Lenihan, whose lightning fast shredding is an interesting counterpoint to Wynn’s blusier solos. Listen to the two trade leads on “Shits Creek” and it’s apparent that Lenihan’s playing took Crumbsuckers in a decidedly more metal direction. All the same, hardcore song structures remained in place, and songs such as “Interlude” and “Shot Down” are pure hardcore fury. Other songs, such as “Live To Work” and “Trapped” showcase thrash riffing. Vocalist Dave Brady’s approach has changed as well on this second set of songs, offering a more raspy, metal influenced performance that really suits the heavier nature of these songs. Overall, this is a clear step in the hardcore/thrash fusion that will be unleashed on Life of Dreams in 1986.
The Demos is an important release not just because of its place in the history of hardcore and heavy metal, but because the songs are solid enough to withstand the ravages of time. Sure, members of Crumbsuckers have gone on to play in such notable bands as Pro-Pain, Life of Agony, Christian Death and Genitorturers, but even on their own merits these songs are pretty damn good. While the production isn’t stellar by today’s standards, it’s clean enough to hear each instrument, and is more than acceptable for a hardcore release of its time, and the clarity is far beyond many of the surviving hardcore demos of the time. Nearly all of the tracks from the Charge of the Light Brigade demo made it onto the band’s Combat Records debut (minus, ironically, the song “Charge of the Light Brigade”). The Demos captures the evolution of a classic band, and an important time in musical history. This takes me back to my hardcore cassettes, and it’s as exciting as the first time I heard Minor Threat, Black Flag, or maybe more importantly, Crumbsuckers.
Reviewed by Jim McDonald