Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 5 Albums NOT of 2012 (Day One)

It's the last day of 2012 and I'm still hearing great new albums.  I just took my first listen to Incantation's "Vanquish in Vengeance" an album that will likely left off a lot of year end lists simply because it came out so damn late in the year.  I'm sure there will be more great releases to discover that I've overlooked and albums that will grow in their importance to me.  Everyone's posted their top 5, top 10 or whatever of the year (myself included) celebrating a lot of great albums released in 2012.

But what about the albums that DIDN'T come out this year?  What of the forgotten albums we've been waiting for with baited breath, raising our expectations to impossible heights?  Now that Wintersun has finally released their sophomore effort "Time I" (eight years after the debut, after a novel's worth of delays and hangups) metal fans need a new band to poke at and bitch about taking way too long on an album.

So without further delay (though "further delay" might be appropriate for this list) here's the first of five albums I wish we could've heard in 2012:

The Kovenant- Aria Galactica
2013 will mark the tenth anniversary of "SETI", the most recent album from Norwegian industrial-metallers The Kovenant.  In ten years we've heard rumors, mutterings and a few samples.  For a while now there hasn't been much activity and no word one way or the other about the fate of "Aria Galactica."  In the meantime the band announced its intentions on a career-spanning DVD and reunited most of the "Nexus Polaris"-era lineup for special performance.  Nagash has resurrected his Troll project and performed the band's debut album "In Times Before the Light" (originally released as Covenant) live as yet another special one-off.  Hopefully if and when "Aria Galactica" touches down it stays true to what's been touted as a more aggressive, once again symphonic version of The Kovenant.

Global Domination: Disincarnate- Dreams of the Carrion Kind Review

An overlooked gem borne from the mind of James Murphy (Obituary, Testament, Death, Cancer).
Review: Disincarnate- Dreams of the Carrion Kind

Global Domination: Atheist- Elements (review)

And so ends my Atheist retrospective.
Review: Atheist- Elements

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Very Metal Christmas Haul

Christmas has departed back into its jolly depths leaving credit card debt and fattened asses in its wake.  And presents.  Oh, the presents.  Below you'll see what I got myself for being such a great guy this year.  I decided to keep an eye out for holiday sales and nab the best bargains I could, provided they were available online.  I watched Amazon's lightning deals, scoured eBay and watched for word of sales from the bevy of distros whose newsletters clutter my inbox.  Earache, The Omega Order and Primitive Recordings in particular all received my business due to their holiday specials. 

Behold the bounty of a thrifty metalhead's Christmas:

From left to right, top to bottom: 
Sigh- Gallows Gallery (2CD digipack)
Sigh- Gallows Gallery (2LP)
Anathema- We're Here Because We're Here (EP/CD/DVD)
Anathema- Weather Systems (2LP w/ artbook)
Anathema- Weather Systems
Horrified- Deus Diabolos Inversus (Digipack)
Solefald- Black For Death (Digipack)
Horrified- Animal (Slipcase)
Horna- Envaatnags Eflos Solf Esgantaavne
Infernal Dominion/Ophiolatry- Split
Terrorizer- World Downfall
Horror Of Horrors- Sounds Of Eerie
Immolation- Unholy Cult
Necrovore- Unreleased Evil
Evil Damn/Toxic Holocaust/Chainsaw Killer- Blasphemy, Mayhem & War
Skyforger- Semigalls' Warchant
Autopsy- Dead As Fuck
Carcass/Napalm Death- Split Live CD
Entombed- Monkey Puss: Live In London
Insision- Beneath The Folds Of Flesh
Skyforger- Thunderforge
Marduk- La Grande Danse Macabre
Nominon- Revelation
Fragments Of Unbecoming- Skywards, Chapter II: A Sylphe's Ascension
Usurper- Cryptobeast
Insision- Revealed And Worshipped
Order of Ennead- Order Of Ennead (CD/DVD)
Diabolical- Synergy/A Thousand Deaths
Dio- Sacred Heart
Quinta Essentia- Neutrality For Defined Chaos
Blood Red Throne- Come Death

Monday, December 24, 2012

Prometheus Review

So I've finally seen Prometheus, the sort of but not really at all Alien prequel, after managing avoiding spoilers (telling people to shut the hell up when they mention the movie) and even though it's been half a year since its theatrical release the timing seems apt.

I received the Alien Anthology Blu-Ray set as an early Christmas present and its excellent presentation of the original film is still fresh in my mind.  Also as it turns out, Prometheus is a Christmas movie!  Sort of, but not really at all...

Though I kept clear of any plot details or even the vaguest of notions of what the movie is about I did ask everyone who'd seen it if they thought it was any good or not.  I received complicated and varied answers.

"Yeah, it's really cool, really freakin' out there."

"Oh god, don't watch it, you'll just be pissed off."

I do know that some negative reviews were fueled by the fact that this isn't Alien Zero.  I'm genuinely shocked that the powers-that-be allowed this film to happen.  The original plan was a Ridley Scott produced pair of prequels starring the Xenomorphs famous from the four Alien movies and their two cinematic skirmishes against fellow intergalactic badasses the Predators.  The studios insisted Scott take over the director's chair and Scott insisted they let him make a different movie.  So in a surprising turn of hands-offed-ness, Ridley Scott was left to his own devices to craft a movie that fleshes out the Alien universe with a few cinematic send-ups to the movie that started it all.  For fans of the original one of the biggest questions has always been, "Just what the hell is that thing in the chair?" and Prometheus set out to clear some of the mystery from the Space Jockey.

The monstrous, fossilized creature's last act is the whole catalyst of the film.  His distress beacon leads the crew of the Nostromo to its presence.  The film's classic villain, the eight foot "perfect organism" that seems specifically engineered to ensure its own survival is shown to have emerged from this mysterious being's abdomen.

But to think of Prometheus as a film meant to answer questions would only cause headaches.  More questions are brought up then answered, most of them philosophical rather than addressing series canon.  Where did we come from?  Why?  What are we meant for?

We set out far from earth to find these answers.  The response?  Well, it's confusing, disturbing and kind of cruel in a senseless way.  I can see why a lot of viewers would be upset that the movie never fully explains the questions it presents but I consider it one of the film's strengths.  Confusing, disturbing, cruel, senseless... I'd imagine this is exactly what an alien world could potentially be like.  Even in the most imaginative science fiction we like to think of other beings in terms of how they relate to us.  Martians are just green men, a Predator is a physically superior specimen to us with reptillian features.  We want the aliens to play on our terms.  But why would these Engineers (as the film re-christens them from Space Jockey) care to answer our questions?  How could they?

Delving further would go into spoiler territory but if you're the kind of person that doesn't mind asking questions after the credits roll then Prometheus is a ship worth boarding.  The pacing might be a little rickety in parts, the science could be nitpicked forever and with a crew of 17 a lot of characters aren't fleshed out.

I can't wait to see more of this universe and I'll be seeing Prometheus II (a speculative title I doubt will stick) in theaters.

Prometheus: totally a Christmas movie

Monday, December 17, 2012

Global Domination: Verdicts- Best of 2012

Wrapping up my triple article day at Global Domination, here's my Top 5 albums of all of 2012 along with a few other bonus lists and notes on other releases. 

This year in metal has been an exciting one, a huge array of great releases across the entire spectrum.  Mostly a year of pleasant surprises for me personally.  For instance, the top three spots on my list are all occupied by bands coming from their weakest releases.  There were a lot of great albums I didn't have room to include so I may have to make a more robust list soon.

One complaint about 2012 I have is it seemed to be a weak year for thrash.  Overkill presented another great album and a pair of Norwegian bands, Nekromantheon and Aura Noir fared well but overall there weren't a lot of highlights.

Global Domination: Brutality- Screams of Anguish (review)

There was amazing Florida death beyond the more visible bands.  Read on!

Review: Brutality- Screams of Anguish

Global Domination: Atheist- Unquestionable Presence Class6(66)

The greatest tech death album of all time?

Class6(66): Atheist- Unquestionable Presence

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

You're Welcome, Halestorm

Grammy-nominated rockers Halestorm, the band created for the preppy little sisters of Avenged Sevenfold fans, have announced their intentions to record a covers EP.  I know, contain your excitement.  Apparently the band are allowing their fans to contribute their suggestions and eventually vote on the band's top picks from these submissions.  Since the app associated with the voting only allows one song I've decided instead to compile my suggestions here.  I'm sure the band's handlers will send them word about this blog post, I can't imagine I'm not on their radar.

Anyway, here are but a few of my suggestions for Halestorm to cover:

- Megadeth- Hangar 18 except with more solos
- Every Dio song where he yells "Look out!"
- A medley of Bathory's "Sacrifice", Venom's "Sacrifice" and "Sacrifice" by Motorhead as a finale
- Anything by Manowar, performed with an orchestra and shirtless male choir
- Franz Schubert's Symphony No. 5 in B Flat Major D. 485
- The background music from the first stage of Super Castlevania IV

However, number one on my wishlist for Halestorm to cover is:

Over and over... for the rest of their career.

Monday, December 10, 2012

An Opinion on Metal Evolution (From Someone Who's Never Seen It)

Apparently people still watch VH1 expecting some kind of realistic portrayal of heavy metal.  That fact genuinely surprises me.  Sam Dunn, creator of acclaimed documentaries Metal: A Headbanger's Journey and Global Metal took to task the episodic exploration of the genesis and development of the genre.  Tracing the roots back to the more esoteric and aggressive strains of hard rock and following the myriad of branches to the present day. The results led to some controversy, something arguably unavoidable when it comes to sorting out subgenres and discussing who influenced who.  Though we metalheads can prove to be pedantic sons of bitches, I think it's fair to say that Dunn's execution fell well short of what it could have and should have been.  Metal Evolution spawned from the problematic "Heavy Metal Family Tree" featured in Metal: A Headbanger's Journey.


However it seems that Dunn has made amends for inaccuracies included in the original family tree, the DVD release acknowledging doom metal and removing Cradle of Filth from the above section.  It should also be noted that his work on visual releases for Iron Maiden and Rush were both well received.  Hell, one of the first things I did when I bought a Blu-Ray player was to snag a copy of Flight 666 and enjoy Dunn's doc on the metal gods' unprecedented world tour on their own commissioned jet, flown by singer Bruce Dickinson.  I also give Dunn huge props for Global Metal's inclusion of Sigh.  Praising the Japanese masters of the avant-garde is a quick way to my good side.  It seems that covering the whole of heavy metal, however, is too lofty a task for those involved mini-series.  Indeed it might be too controversial of one for the likes of VH1 as well.

Although the inclusion of episodes based entirely on proto-metal, grunge, nu-metal and whatever the hell shock rock is (a musical genre that basically includes any band that wears makeup) were baffling at best, Metal Evolution's biggest crime was ignoring anything heavier than Slayer and darker than Mercyful Fate. Considering the other two films spawned from Dunn's Banger Films acknowledged that real heavy metal lived past the '80s, this was frustrating to any viewer that actually knew the subject material.

The solution?  Ask the fans to pay for the production costs of a single episode to cover death metal, black metal and grindcore.

With just a little over two days left on the Indiegogo page set up to funnel donations to Banger Films, the donation total sits at $35,214, well short of its $135,000 goal.  It looks like the "lost" "Extreme Metal" episode won't be coming to fruition.

Good, I say.

Bands like Bathory and Death were both playing more or less full ahead versions of black metal and death metal respectively all the way back in 1987.  Why, a quarter of a century later are we still acting like these two distinct movements (I refuse to use the umbrella term "extreme metal" to try and condense what accounts for more than half* of all metal bands that have ever existed) are ineffectual or mere footnotes?  If the grunge movement warrants an entire episode in a TV series about heavy metal, shouldn't death metal receive at least two shows?

And once again, Sam, you forgot that doom metal is a thing.

*= As of writing Encyclopedia Metallum listed 87,871 bands in their database, 29,837 contain the word "death" in their genre tag and 21,870 contain "black."

Global Domination: Morbid Angel- Formulas Fatal to the Flesh Class6(66)

I've inducted a somewhat overlooked gem in the Morbid Angel discography to the Class6(66) section of Global Domination, where it belongs: