It’s time to put on your leather pants, as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out a bunch of the heaviest new music releases around and a special guest review gives a recent release another look.
Best New Album for Fans of Shredding
DragonForce: Reaching Into Infinity
If you think the problem with music today is that there isn’t nearly enough guitar solos then DragonForce is the band for you.
With roots in Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath but with the speed turned up to a million, this British metal band formed in 1999 in London out of the ashes of power-metal group Demoniac. They released debut album Valley of the Damned in 2003, with the title track building an immediate underground following, then followed up with Sonic Firestorm in 2004.
While DragonForce had a hardcore speed-metal fanbase prior to the release of 2006 album Inhuman Rampage, it was the inclusion of single Through the Fire and Flames as a super-hard challenge on Guitar Hero that really drove the band to mainstream success. Recognizing a good, audience expanding idea when they saw one, the band continued to provide music for video games over the next few years including Skate 2 and NHL 10, and even survived the departure of their lead singer in 2011.
Reaching Into Infinity is one of those albums that has a definite time and place. If you’re running, working out or battling dragons, it’s perfect. Less so if you’re relaxing by the pool or trying to drive under the speed limit.
Standout tracks: Reaching into Infinity, Judgement Day, WAR!
Sample lyric: “We are the masters of the universe, on we ride towards the sign.” (Judgement Day)
Verdict: 7/10 — the speediest of speed metal.
Best New Single for Fans of Home Grown Metal
Not to be confused with the online online science journal of the same name, Melbourne’s Toxicon are not mucking about. They play loud, fast, anthemic metal that almost demands that you bang your head in time with the thunderous beat. New single Circling is a cracker, setting expectations high for their impending album.
While Toxicon take their music seriously, the same couldn’t be said about their approach to PR. Singer Wayne Clarris, guitarists Adam Esposti and Paul Jones, bassist Jacob Maloney and drummer Thomas Nunan supposedly met during a table-tennis competition at their local YMCA, then spent six months rehearsing in a room filled with paint fumes. They also give snacking advice to accompany the single, with wine and cheese getting the surprise nod over beer and cigarettes.
Toxicon are about to embark on an Australian tour — for details check out their social media.
Sample lyric: "As you lose your grip, but refuse to drown."
Verdict: 8/10 — the future of Australian metal.
Best New Album for Fans of Sludge
Danzig: Black Laden Crown
I will be honest and admit that this is the first Danzig album I have ever listened to. I’ve been aware of the lead singer Glenn Danzig presence for many years, a heavily muscled barbarian straight out of a Frank Frazetta painting, but I couldn’t name one of their songs if my life depended on it.
Glenn Danzig got his start in metal way back in 1977, when he founded seminal horror metal band Misfits. It lasted until 1983, when Danzig split and formed Samhain. Less than four years later, Rick Rubin tried to sign Danzig to a solo deal, but settled on hiring most of Samhain and changing the band’s name to Danzig. The newly rechristened band’s first single appeared in the 1980’s cult classic Less Than Zero, the film famous for foreshadowing Robert Downey Jr’s impending struggles with substance abuse.
Black Laden Crown is a slow, heavy album without a lot of light. There’s plenty of shade, mind you, so if you’re prone to darker thoughts you may want to skip this one — Danzig is far from a barrel of laughs.
Standout tracks: Last Ride, Devil on Hwy 9
Sample lyric: “Deep in the warmth of the devil’s grave, that’s where I live.” (Eyes Ripping Fire)
Verdict: 6/10 — consistent if not particularly inspired.
Best New Album for Fans of Comedy Metal
Steel Panther: Lower The Bar
Oh, Steel Panther. Will you ever grow up?
For those unfamiliar with the Panther, the Los Angeles quartet got together in the early 2000s and gained popularity on the seedy Sunset Strip — the same area that had spawned the monster that was Guns ‘n Roses almost 20 years earlier. They even played the same sort of hair metal, but pushed the stereotypes, objectification of women and swagger to ludicrous extremes. Their 2009 debut Feel The Steel set the tone for subsequent releases, with track names like Asian Hooker, The Shocker and Fat Girl.
Follow up release Balls Out continued to push the bounds of good taste, with Just Like Tiger Woods, Supersonic Sex Machine and the oh so classy It Won’t Suck Itself, featuring Chad Kroger of Nickelback and Nuno Bettencourt from Extreme in a triple threat of mediocrity. 2014’s All You Can Eat was more of the same, with songs like Gloryhole and Bukkake Tears. I reviewed the album back in 2014 and gave it 1/10, which in retrospect was probably a little generous.
It should come as little surprise that new release Lower the Bar does nothing to reinvent the wheel, happy to parody 80s metal and compete with themselves on how offensive they can be. The only respite from the juvenile humour is the power ballad That’s When You Came In, which sounds a bit like Poison if they weren’t really trying very hard.
Standout tracks: Depends what you mean by standout. Goin’ in the Back Door is about the most misogynistic song I’ve heard in a while…
Sample lyric: “After all the critics said, our debut record was our peak.” (That’s When You Came In)
Verdict: 0/10 — the lowest rating I have given any album ever.
Harry Styles: Harry Styles
(by Claire Walsh)
Harry Styles’ new album came as a bit of a surprise to me when it was released. Even though the years of obsessing over One Direction’s every move has taught me which genre of music each band member would go into when they went solo (and yes, we all knew this day would come); I was sceptical about if he would truly be able to capture the classic rock he was going for; especially as how manufactured all the One Direction albums were.
While John has said that Harry doesn’t cast his influences out very wide, I have to disagree. While, yes, he is influenced by bands like The Beatles, The Kinks and Rolling Stones (I mean given how much he looks like Mick Jagger, it’s not surprising); I hear other influences like Pink Floyd, Electric Light Orchestra and Fleetwood Mac (he did a duet with Stevie Nicks and cried during the performance, which is understandable. It’s Stevie Nicks).
I was pleasantly surprised about how close he was able to get to the classic 70s Brit rock that I grew up listening. The album is a good mix of songs that will have you dancing in the car (Carolina, Only Angel, Woman and Kiwi) and songs to just chill to (From the Dining Table, Sweet Creature, Two Ghosts, Sign of the Times and Meet Me in the Hallway).
I think that if you forget you are listening to Harry Styles from One Direction and just listen to Harry Styles the solo artist, you will be able to listen to the music for what it actually is. This is a multigenerational album. If my dad – who is a massive music snob – and I can listen to it together that is saying something. I sincerely hope that Harry keeps releasing music like this and this genre of music becomes mainstream again.
Some good points there Claire and thanks for your contribution!
That’s it for this week but, until we meet again, keep the devil’s horns raised…
Books by John Turnbull are now available on Amazon and Kindle. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Damnation's Flame by John Turnbull is also available in the IA store HERE. (Free postage!)
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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