Posts Tagged ‘metallica


Opeth – Swedish metal fun!

Recently during the wee hours of the morning when I was having trouble sleeping I decided to check out my list on Tivo of shows that I randomly decided to record and check out later; one was another installment of the 2011 Sonisphere concert.  I had seen the past installments with Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth but not some of the lesser known acts.  For example, this particular artists featured this included Sum 41, Cavalera Conspiracy, Diamond Head, In Flames, and Opeth.  To be fair, these are not household names around the halls of HiFi Central, but perhaps they are in your abode.  Clearly they are “popular” to someone otherwise they would have never made the bill for Sonisphere in the first place. 

Out of the fore-mentioned bands I found myself listening to the Sum 41 set, which was more nostalgic than eye opening, the guys are good and still popular perhaps, say in Indonesia these days. Sadly, Sum 41 is not involved in the main music scene in the US these days; an underground fanbase I would assume keeps them alive here.  Sum 41 has not put out any radio worthy music in years; and in some ways reminded me of a goofy Green Day wanna be band on Sonisphere.  I’m sure the shoppers at Zumiez or Hot Topic may think they still are incredible, but here at HiFi Central we use their poster as a dart board and cd’s as drink coasters.

Cavelera Conspiracy had my attention for about 25 seconds and then I quickly found them utterly boring, especially when the lead singer Max Cavelera opened his mouth.  It wasn’t until I realized why I knew the name Cavelera and then zingo – Sepultura!  I always liked Sepultura’s instrumentals but never liked the vocals, hmmm, guess what?  Still don’t! After listening to the reincarnation with Cavelera Conspiracy, it was like trying liver again at 40 – I still think it sucks, sorry.

Diamond Head was merely a special reunion for a 1970’s metal band that some of todays bands merit (Megadeth and Metallica) with being highly influential.  Ok I guess, personally for me it was a bunch of old geezers having a good time and if they played my town I would disregard them as a decent garage band, the music was nothing worth really noting and I pressed fast forward (thank the Lord for TIVO!!!) 

After watching this chapter of Sonisphere 2010 the only bands that stood out for me were Swedish metal bands In Flames and Opeth.  I was familiar with In Flames since they recently had a show locally and I am kicking myself for missing the show; they are REALLY good!   Opeth was a complete mystery to me and I was amazed how good they were.

In Flames and Opeth are equally talented bands and exemplify some of the best Death / Progressive metal coming out of Sweden.  I found myself entranced with both bands sound and vocals;  these bands are accomplished masters of the metal sound and have discovered the ability to make quality music.  In Flames, although very good, is somewhat one-dimensional when compared to talents of Opeth. Opeth is clearly more of  a mix of conceptual progressive rock, death metal, and classic rock.  To make it a bit more precise, it would be fair to say that Opeth is a culmination of Dream Theater, early Rush, and Lamb of God mixed all together to create a tasty goop of hard driving riffs, strong choral arrangments, constant time changes, acoustic breaks, and the occasional growling vocals added at the right times. 

What I think appeals to me most about this band is the variety of music they have created over the past decade, albums range from mellow acoustic arrangments echoing with haunting vocals exemplified by the concept albums My Arms, Your Hearse (1998) and Still Life (1999).  Both albums remind me of an early Rush concept album like Hemispheres, not in the vocals but the story line.  In Still Life a character returns to his town after years of banishment due to his faith, a faith that contrasted with the majority and he comes back years later to find his true love. As the album moves forward it introduces those who originally banished him and the bad things that follow. 

Concept albums can be fun; especially when artists use the songs exemplify the chapters and progression of the character and development of a story as a whole; I think Opeth does a good job in these two albums.  As a sidenote, and clearly coincidental, the album My Arms,  Your Hearse offers three instrumental songs, one is named “Madrigal” (as found on Rush’s Farewell to Kings (1977)) luckily it’s not a cover.  Regardless, I still found this humorous; and “Rush-like” quality can be found on the first song off of Still Life called “The Moor”; very Cygnus-X1-like with a journey of soft haunting guitars setting the tone for a deep story full of twists and turns.

Opeth has been smart not to rely on the same recipe for their albums; they keep to a constant style, yet manipulate the arrangments very smartly.  This constant shift from acoustic to metal can be reflected in more recent albums where a much more hard driving non-stop Death metal style of growling vocals and blistering guitars is introduced sparingly.  I liken their albums to a “metal roller coaster ride”, albums may start off with a soft haunting vocal and guitar backdrop and then transition into fast paced dark anger and fury, then back to mellow.  Much of this style can be highlighted on an album such as Blackwater Park (2001); at the same time you can find a mix of both acoustic melodies and metal offered Watershed (2008).  So far I have found that Opeth put out very solid albums that keep the listener enthralled and not yearning to advance to the next song.  It’s actually more anticipation to see what’s next and I like that.

As much as I want to continue writing an indepth analysis about the the body of Opeth’s work, there is simply too many albums and not enough time for me to fairly be overly critical  (positive or negative); however, I can say with great conviction that from what I have heard so far, I am very impressed!

 This band is clearly on to something and I can’t wait to see if they ever have a show in HiFi Central’s hometown of Albany, NY.  If you are interested in learning more about Opeth see if you can snag their Still Life album as a starter; Still Life is one of my current favorites.   If you have seen Opeth or like their music please drop us a comment, we’d love to hear what you think.  If you have not heard them before and decided to check them out via this blog, please let us know if we made a good suggestion or whether we suck at making suggestions.


Sonisphere 2010 & Big 4 – 3/19 on Palladia HD

Very cool news for us metalheads who were not able to take our private jets to Sofia, Bulgaria to witness the Big 4 (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Anthrax); it would seem that the new music concert channel Palladia (formerly VH1) will be playing the concert (highlights only I’m sure) on March 19th during their Metal Mania Day.  The 2010 Sonisphere from London will first play at 8 p.m. EST, and then The Big 4 at 10 p.m. EST.

I’ve been pretty happy with the programming on Palladia since it emerged on my HD channel listings; last night I was watching Glastonbury 2007 and was amazed at the line up of bands I had never heard, and still hadn’t up until last night!  Palladia is still a hit or miss channel, something for everyone I guess, but I try to avoid the Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert concerts at all costs.  Otherwise, they have featured some great concerts on a regular basis and a keep things fresh for the most part.  I highly recommend the 2010 Austin City Limits concert they featured last week; clearly Ben Harper and Coheed and Cambria stole the show in my opinion.  The headliner was Pearl Jam, and I guess I just feel that their time has come and gone; one of the most boring acts of the lineup, especially for a headlining act.

Check out the Metalfest on March 19th and tell us what you think!


The Big Four

Can’t make it to Bulgaria on June 22nd to see Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax at the Sonisphere Festival?  Well here’s the next best thing…the concert will be simulcast live to movie theaters across the country!  Here is the web site for all the info, including the list of theaters showing the concert.  4 hours of the four greatest thrash bands of all time!  METAL!!!!


Metal-heads Unite! In…Europe?

Pretty big news for heavy metal fans!  The interesting story will be how Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine and James, Lars and Kirk from Metallica agreed to tour together.  Now let’s just pray they don’t restrict their tour dates to Europe!


magnetic metallica

metallicaNo, that wasn’t an earthquake shaking downtown Albany last night.  It was the sonic assault of the one-time reigning metal gods reclaiming their divinity.  Metallica’s 2-hour show at the Times Union Center re-solidified their status as heavy metal heroes, drawing on a wide variety of songs to please both the old hardcore fans and the newer ones alike.

The darkened stage blazed into a net of laser beams as the first notes of “This Was Just Your Life,” the opening track to their newest album Death Magnetic, blasted out of the speakers.  Singer/guitarist James Hetfield was barley illuminated as he belted out the lyrics, while drummer Lars Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo danced in shadows around the open stage.  Upon the final notes of the 7-minute song, all the stage lights burst to life, finally giving the crowd a good look at the veteran rockers.  To say the crowd greeted them enthusiastically would be quite understated.  Hetfield whipped the fans into a frenzy between songs, spouting rhetoric about everyone being a part of the Metallica family, blah blah blah…but the audience ate it up.

Following another new song “End of the Line,” long-time fans of the old Metallica got an unbelievable treat – “Ride the Lightning,” the title track of their second album.  And Metallica cranked it out like they just recorded it yesterday rather than 25 years ago (and they probably hadn’t played it live in 20 years at least).

The preamble to “One” featured a monstrous pyrotechnic display as nearly the whole stage erupted in flames, echoing the sounds of war that precede the song.  In my opinion, “One” is about as perfect as a metal song can be, from the beautiful, haunting opening melodies, to the eerie, descriptive lyrics that take us inside the mind of a quadruple amputee who also loses his sight, speech and hearing and is waiting to die, to the final few minutes of machine-gun riffs and wailing guitar solos.  And they played it perfectly.

They played a good number of songs from Death Magnetic, the other highlights being “All Nightmare Long” and “The Day that Never Comes,” both showcasing the band’s return to a much more thrash-metal sound.

Another fantastic surprise for the old fans was “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” a fantastic blend of beautiful melodies and hardcore metal.

As the set began heading to the finish line, they broke out two of their best – the title track to “Master of Puppets,” for which Hetfield was more than happy to let the audience sing most of the lyrics, and then, taking me and probably everyone by ecstatic surprise, “Battery.”  This is one of the fastest songs they’ve ever recorded, and they played it like they were still in their 20’s instead of pushing 50.  It was astounding…my neck hurts from head-banging.

They closed the set with the overplayed but crowd-pleasing “Enter Sandman,” complete with fireballs and audience sing-a-longs.

They left the stage for a few minutes and came right back with three more oldies: their cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy,” and then two tracks from their first album Kill ‘Em All – “Motorbreath” and “Seek and Destroy,” and during the latter giant Metallica beach balls rained down from the ceiling and bounced around the crowd.  It was a fitting end to a crazy, fun show that, as I alluded to in my previous post, brought all Metallica fans together.  Hmm, maybe that clap-trap about the “Metallica family” has some merit?

(See the full set list here:

Prior to Metallica, Virginia’s Lamb of God played for almost an hour, shoving their pounding death/thrash metal down everyone’s throats.  Lamb of God is arguably the best metal band to arrive on the scene in the last decade.  Their riffs are incredibly tight, and singer Randy Blythe’s demonic snarling vocals are a great fit.  I saw them open for Slayer about 3 years ago and they nearly upstaged the speed-metal icons.  Last night they probably recruited a lot of new fans who hadn’t heard them, but they probably also turned off a good chunk of the crowd.  Metallica fans have a diverse fan base, and those who really like more radio-friendly metal probably found Lamb of God a little too intense.  But they played well and Blythe interacted a lot with the crowd.  Unfortunately the vocal mix was not loud enough, making it hard to hear the lyrics.

Opening band Volbeat was pretty good.  Their sound was kind of rockabilly-meets-punk, with a little thrash thrown in.  They were very entertaining, and the sparse crowd seemed to enjoy it.

This Metallica concert gets 4 out of 5 stars!


…And Metallica For All

metallica_death_magneticLet me preface this by saying I never thought I’d ever have anything positive to say about Metallica ever again.  With their self-titled 1991 release (aka the “Black Album”), the band really toned down its hardcore metal sound for a more mainstream hard rock/metal blend, and ended up polarizing their fan base.  The hardliners (of which I was one) who worshipped the legendary sounds of Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets and …And Justice For All now found themselves disillusioned and disheartened by the new direction Metallica was taking, while more casual fans and those who didn’t care for the band’s thrash metal style now found these new songs much more accessible and easy on the ears.  The term “sell outs” was tossed around in Metallica’s direction, which, for the record, I disagree with.  I don’t think they simply went in a new direction just to make money.  I think they were genuinely interested in going new places with their sound.  Unfortunately the music suffered greatly from this decision; the quality of their lyrics and overall sound took a nosedive.

So for all of the 90’s and up until the release of Death Magnetic about a year ago, I thought, as I’m sure many did, that the downward spiral would be the status quo until Metallica eventually called it quits.  But this new album and current tour have proved otherwise.  They have managed to create an album that recaptures a lot of the old head-banging riffs and double-bass drum thump, but does not completely slip back into the thrash sound of those early albums.  In essence, they’ve made an album that should please old hardliners and the newer fan base alike.

The opening track “This Was Just Your Life” immediately brings to mind the Justice album – very similar production quality and riffs.  And the pounding drums and machine gun guitar strumming don’t let up much throughout the album.  “Broken Beat and Scarred” really lets drummer Lars Ulrich let loose, giving his arms a workout they haven’t had in probably 20 years.  The deceptively slow start to “The Day that Never Comes” gives way to some lightning-fast chord changes and Kirk Hammett solos.  “All Nightmare Long” will definitely not disappoint Metallica fans of days past, with its heavy riffs and James Hetfield’s tonal howling.  The album is not without its misses – “The Unforgiven III” is the one ballad, and really doesn’t add much to the album.  Let’s hope this trilogy of mediocrity ends here.  Hetfield is at his best writing about death and destruction, not introspective love songs.  “Judas Kiss” is another throw-away track; it’s not bad, but isn’t nearly on par with the other tracks.  Following a great tradition of instrumental Metallica songs (“Anesthesia,” “Call of Ktulu,” “Orion,” “To Live is to Die”), we get “Suicide and Redemption” on this album, and unfortunately it can’t come close to those classic aforementioned tunes.  It’s not without its charm, but the tempo changes seem forced and disjointed.  The album closes with “My Apocalypse” (death and destruction!), a fast and heavy ending to a pretty fast and heavy album.

I will be seeing their live show tomorrow night (with review posted here following), and I’ve peeked at some set lists from other shows this tour.  They are pulling out quite a lot of old classics, along with much of the new album, and thankfully they seem to be avoiding the albums during that space in time when their fans were at opposite ends of the Metallica spectrum.  Like Death Magnetic, it seems this tour is reuniting all Metallica fans…Metallica for all!

Death Magnetic gets 3.5 out of 5 stars

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