Posted on 1 Comment

Doc’s Top 10 Records of 2014

For some reason or another, no metal website asked me for my top albums list this year, so I figured I would release the list on my own. I should probably include a few disclaimers beforehand: First, I listed my favorite albums that I have listened to in the last year, not necessarily the albums that were released within the calendar year of 2014. Secondly, this was a really great year for music and heavy music in particular, and frankly I just didn’t have time to check out everything. I know Machine Head and Slipknot and many other bands put out killer records, but it would be disingenuous to put them on my list when I haven’t really dug in and spent time with the albums like I would like to. Thirdly, I am listing my favorite albums regardless of genre. There are two kinds of music: good and bad.

10. Killer Be Killed – Killer Be Killed
killer be killed
Supergroups rarely pan out how we hope they will. Killer Be Killed is one of the few exceptions where the end product is the perfect meeting point of what you envision the individual artists will bring to the table based on their original band’s influence. The meat and potatoes of the music is more Sepultura than anything, but I suspect Greg Pusciato on 2nd guitar had a hand in reinforcing the modernized thrash direction. In an era of musicians striving for brainy, cold instrumental and computational perfection, it was refreshing to hear something that just crushed inside your gut. Visceral and joyous.

 

9. Nothing More – Nothing More
nothing-more-cover
I first heard of this band when Metalsucks.net posted a blog attempting to shit on the band. I checked it out and was blown away. It sounded a bit like some of the more radio-oriented “Active Rock” that is so common these days, but there was something next level about this band. When people ask me what Nothing More sound like, I say Mars Volta meets Sevendust. I am patting myself on the back for such an accurate description as I type this. This album is pretty good, but they have one GREAT song, “This Is The Time (Ballast)”. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

 

8. Animals as Leaders – The Joy of Motion
The_Joy_Of_Motion2014
Although I had listened to this record a bit earlier in the summer, I didn’t fully appreciate this album until my friend Luke began playing it on repeat, and I became hooked. I feel like genre titles can often be used as weapons to discredit bands. Animals as Leaders is so much above a limiting genre name like “Djent”. The musicianship is obviously in an elite stratosphere, but the playing rarely feels self indulgent. These are compositions that take us on an emotional journey. For me, it hearkens back to Steve Vai’s Alien Love Secrets, which was my gold standard for virtuosic instrumental guitar albums.

 

7. Opeth – Pale Communion
Opeth_Pale_Communion_album_artwork
Opeth are one of a few bands that, for the vast majority of their career, every creative move made was unimpeachable. They could do no wrong. None of us could argue with Mikael’s genius. Admittedly though, I didn’t really like Heritage. It wasn’t bad music per se. It just seemed noodly, aloof, and lacked the hooks and somber quality of what we think of as Opeth. Pale Communion isn’t any heavier or metallic than Heritage, but it just feels more like Opeth. Which is just that…a feeling. The atmosphere they create is so distinct, to be in it is intoxicating if you are a true fan. They are masters of creating that feeling.

 

6. In Search of Sun – The World is Yours
in search of sun
I get sent lots of music from bands via social media; Links to Bandcamps, Reverbnation sites, Soundcloud, and Youtube clips of up and comers. I try to listen to everything. Surprisingly, most stuff is good, but rarely great. In Search of Sun’s manager sent me one of these links to the title track “The World Is Yours”, and I was blown away. It’s a heavy metal hit. If you aren’t listening to this band, you are fucking up. To me, they are 2014’s Twelve Foot Ninja. Not that they sound like 12FN, but they are on a similar trajectory of doing something dynamic, fresh, with tremendous command of their craft, and still remembered to write an actual song. It’s an antidepressant in a world of downer metal.

 

5. Wovenwar – Wovenwar
wovenwar
I almost feel like this pick is skewed, because like many of you guys, I was rooting for this band to succeed from the jump. I still wore this damn album out because it’s so fucking good. Musically, it’s not dissimilar from As I Lay Dying, but clearly this band felt limited by the tropes of Metalcore, i.e., incessant screams and breakdowns. Because the arduous circumstances ending As I Lay Dying, these guys had a long time to work on the material. That time paid off because you can hear the work that went into sculpting and molding every detail of the instrumentation, arrangement, and production of these songs. I am really proud of how this band persevered, and turned something negative into something positive.

 

4. Gary Clark Jr. – Blak and Blu
gary-clark-jr-album-e1346335365100 
I really discovered Gary Clark Jr. when I was working for the NBA  at the beginning of 2014. Christina Aguilera was supposed to perform at halftime at the All Star Game. She canceled, and GCJ was one of the artists chosen to perform in addition to doing the National Anthem with a slide guitar. He was incredible, and I fell in love with Blak and Blu. The album is pretty much half Blues and half slickly produced Pop infused R&B. Needless to say, I gravitated to the Blues tunes. This album and the song in particular, “When My Train Pulls In”, was the soundtrack to my journey driving cross-country when I moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles. Gary Clark Jr’s Blues helped get me through the challenging journey.

 

3. Bad Rabbits – American Love
Bad-Rabbits-American-Love
I have one person to thank for my fandom of Bad Rabbits, Mike “Scuzz” Scuilara, whom I was playing with in Unearth and also plays drums in Extinction A.D. Bad Rabbits reminds me of some of my favorite R&B from the 80’s and early 90’s. Morris Day and the Time, Bobby Brown, Rick James, Tony! Toni! Tone!, etc. These are party jams. If you know me, you know I like to party with the best of ’em. The thing that sets Bad Rabbits apart from modern “Urban” music is that they are a real band. No drum loops or samples. Just great players with a great singer. Check out “Can’t Fool Me” if you want to smile, and go watch the band live. Spectacular show!

 

2. At The Gates – At War With Reality
AtTheGatesAtWarWithReality
It’s difficult to talk about the new At The Gates album without mentioning last year’s Carcass reunion album, Surgical Steel. There are too many parallels not to draw a comparison. Both bands were probably equally the most influential Melodic Death Metal bands off all time, broke up relatively at the same time, both became more popular and legendary after they split, and now they’ve both managed to put out classic quality albums nearly 20 years apart, which seems like an impossible task. There have been countless imitators, clones, wannabes, including the guy writing this, but something about these 5 guys playing together that just sounds caustic and medieval in a way that is supremely unique and filled with character. Color me lucky because I NEVER thought there would be new records by either of these bands; let alone great records.

 

1. Bring Me The Horizon – Sempiternal
BMTH-Sempiternal
This album came out in 2013, but I supposed in my mature age, some things tend to find their way to me after the fact. Now, I’m going to do something the makes me look really stupid. I’m going to compare Bring Me The Horizon to the Beatles. Aside from being British, both bands started as more style than substance and evolved into true artists and innovators. BMTH hasn’t made their Abbey Road yet, but they have made their Revolver. In my humblest of opinions, Sempiternal is the first true classic of the Scenester, Warped Tour, Altpress, “Boy bands with guitars” genre. I can’t even tell most of those bands apart, but this record moved me. I felt that thing I felt when a truly powerful heavy record makes you punch your steering wheel when you are listening in your car, and head nodding hard as fuck on the subway with your earbuds in. I felt like a kid again. There is real passion in these songs, and I am glad that someone is moving the needle and thinking big, even if I’m late to the party.

Posted on 1 Comment

A Band Called Death

Death

Last night I had the fortune to watch the highly anticipated documentary film, A Band Called Death. I don’t want to spoil it too much, but in short, it is the story of three black blood brothers from Detroit, MI who formed an energetic rock band in the mid 70’s called Death, that in hindsight is viewed as a predecessor to the punk rock movement.

This story really hit home with me because of the parallels to my own life and musical development. I know what it’s like to start a band in my seminal years with my brother, have an uncanny musical connection, and to later be estranged from that brother. I can identify with being in a predominantly black band trying to make a mark in a white world. It is the tale of truly being an outsider, and Death had it far worse than God Forbid in that they received tremendous blowback from the black community. They were trying to make their way in the capitol of traditional black music and the home of Motown Records. The story pinpoints how their morbid band name strangled the band’s progress like an albatross around their neck.

The element of Death’s story that struck the biggest chord with me was their dedication to the purity of rock n roll. They studied the greats, and put the hard work and time into becoming a first rate band with a high standard of excellence. They wanted to be a great rock band. Not just great for black guys. There was no handicap in being good in spite of their blackness as if it was a gimmick. They also didn’t feel the need to “black” up their music. Their standard was The Who, The Beatles, Alice Cooper, Queen, Jimi Hendrix. God Forbid was the same way. Our standard bearers were At The Gates, Morbid Angel, Candiria, Suffocation, For The Love Of, Pantera, Sepultura, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Machine Head, etc. We weren’t going to be legit until we were at their level from a technical standpoint. And that led to countless hours in the jam room, meticulous studying of our favorite bands, trying to decode the art of being the in the big leagues. Just being a nerd about your craft. Obsession. It never feels like work at the time. You just love it so much that you devour as much content as possible, and it becomes part of your DNA. It’s beyond culture. It’s purity.

A Band Called Death serves as a great contrasting companion piece to the previously lauded rockumentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil about 80’s Canadian glam-thrash, could-have-beens. For me, Anvil served as a cautionary tale as what not to become as an aging musician. They were desperate for stardom probably because of the colossal success of their peers. The 80’s set a standard that allowed for a swath of unreasonable expectations, as documented by The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. This was a generation of people who were not living in reality, and everything that goes up must come down.

A Band called Death is about family. It’s about dedication to music. It’s about holding on to artistic virtue. It’s about doing it for the right reasons. They called the band Death, because death is real. I can back that.

Posted on Leave a comment

I AGAINST I (Posted Nov. 2nd 2010 on Metalsucks.net)

Dolph Lundgren is really from Sweden
Dolph Lundgren is really from Sweden

For my opening salvo, I suppose I should mention that it has been a long break between blogs. I’ve been meaning to get back to it, but this summer has been a very busy one filled with the musical composition of the new God Forbid album as well as a new project I’ve been working on, in addition to the daily pursuit of living life and getting by. I hope to contribute more frequently in the near future.

If you’ve followed my articles in the past, you may notice that I often address music history, and pertaining to this site, heavy music specifically. I have a great respect for artistic pioneers and the roots of where the most admirable and brilliant music stems from. I was the type of kid who would read liner notes and interviews by my favorite bands to find out who influenced them. I would always want to climb that musical family tree to see where it lead.

Continue reading I AGAINST I (Posted Nov. 2nd 2010 on Metalsucks.net)

Posted on 1 Comment

COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION (Posted May 13th 2010 on Metalsucks.net)

OldPeople

In the last few years, something seemed to happen and I barely noticed. Suddenly, I’m no longer the young kid at the show. I’m one of the guys hiding out by the bar. I’m not crowd surfing, not covered in sweat with my shirt off, and I’m certainly not moshing. I’m also not randomly yelling “Slayer!”, but that seems to span all demographics. I became… (gulp)… an adult. I don’t know what the range is in the ages of the followers of MetalSucks, but I’ll assume that it’s a mix of younger and older metal fans. I am 29 years old, but I still feel relatively young and energetic considering my opening salvo. I’m the youngest member of my band, and younger than a good majority of my friends in bands and the industry.

With that said, I think there comes a time for all metal heads, and probably all adults for that matter, when you look at what is popular amongst the true youth culture (16-24), and you feel as if not only do you not relate to it, but it feels alien, as if it’s creation was not meant for your consumption (which it wasn’t) – and it also seems inferior to music that you grew up with. I’m only 29, and I’m already having “back in my day” moments. It kind of scared me, and I began to wonder if I was being obtuse and a little too set in my ways, or if my analysis was accurate.

Continue reading COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION (Posted May 13th 2010 on Metalsucks.net)

Posted on Leave a comment

TEAR IT DOWN NOW (Posted Jan. 21st 2010 on Metalsucks.net)

hardcore_dancing

We’ve all been there. Tensions are high in some packed, sweaty venue, sparked by feverish excitement and the potential for violence. These people paid good money to enjoy some type of cathartic release. The frontman for whatever hard-nu-death-crab-metal-core outfit is brazen and demanding. Can you believe this shit? You PAID to be entertained, and this guy is telling YOU what to do! The speech goes something like this: “I want everybody in this room moving! Front to back, side to side, NO ONE STANDS STILL! When this part kicks in, I want total [Insert destructive word here like “chaos,” “mayhem,” or “bedlam” if you’re witty]. If the person next to you isn’t moving, MAKE THEM MOVE!” Than, if the action is not adequate, this screamer/pep rally organizer calls YOU some variation of “pussy” or “faggot” or really anything to make you feel like a soft, womanly bitch of a man in order to get in that pit and kick another grown man in the face, all in the spirit of making this band look like they are awesome. But then something happens, as if the air is sucked out of the room at the moment of impact – when those glorious staccato chugs kick in, the crowd is almost always powerless to its charms regardless of the obvious lack of substance. Like junk food and reality TV, we have a love affair with breakdowns.

Continue reading TEAR IT DOWN NOW (Posted Jan. 21st 2010 on Metalsucks.net)