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    GUEST REVIEW: Soulfly – Enslaved (Roadrunner)

    March 8th, 2012

    Max Cavalera is living legend in metal. Many of the older metalheads vividly remember him as the charismatic frontman of Sepultura. Back in 1996 Max left his old band and shortly after a resurfaced with a new band, called Soulfly. His career kept on flourishing while Sepultura steeply declined after releasing a couple of haphazard albums. Despite Max’s recent reunion with his brother Igor under the Cavalera Conspiracy guise, Soufly is still his main musical vehicle. Enslaved is the title of his latest musical venture.

    Enslaved is first and foremost an excersise in Max’s hardcore and thrash metal roots. There are even some death metal flourishes here and there, courtesy of bassist Tony Campos (Prong, Ministry) and former Borknager skinsman David Kinkade. Unlike on the first three Soufly records, extensive forays into world music, dub and reggae are virtually non-existent on Enslaved. Only On “Gladiator” and “Redemption Of Man By God” “American Steel” and “Revengeance” is there some room for some more experimental parts.

    The common thread through all Soufly albums is Max Cavelera’s familiar bark, his profound love for straightforward guitar riffs and powerful choruses. ‘World Scum”, “Gladiator” and “Legions” are poignant examples of how potent the old Cavelera formula still is.

    A special mention should go the refined guitar playing by Marc Rizzo. His tasteful leads and solos add a level of sophistication to the Soulfly song material and it acts as the perfect counter balance for the straightforward and brute force which characterises Maxs’ style of playing. Each Soulfly album features a couple of guest musicians and Enslaved is no exception to that rule. This time around DevilDriver frontman Dez Fafara added some screams on “Redemption Of Man By God”. Travis Ryan of Cattle Decapitated fame did the same on “World Scum”.

    The production chores were skillfully handled by Zeuss (Hatebreed, Agnostic Front) and Max himself. They gave Enslaved a direct, yet gritty sound. This enhances the overall aggressive feel of this album.

    Drummer David Kinkade described Enslaved as “Arise on crack”. I think he’s right on the money there, because this album matches the ferocity and class of that famous landmark in Sepultura’s history. Soulfly may not be the cutting edge band it once was, but it’s still a relevant bulwark of power in today’s metal scene. Enslaved is a poignant celebration of Max Cavelera’s musical vision and his longivity.

    Great album!


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    RELEASE REVIEW: Lamb of God – Resolution (Roadrunner)

    January 24th, 2012

    “There are metal bands and there’s Lamb Of God” … “In 2012, Lamb of God remain the pre-eminent metal band and not by default”… “Everyone else is left to watch and marvel, and choke on their dust”. This is just a random selection of quotes from the enclosed biography for Resolution, the latest LAMB OF GOD album. Talk about bloated mindless PR banter.

    On to the music then. Wrath, the previous LOG album, left me pretty cold. It was aggressive and full of the usual vim and vigour, but the lack of dynamics and depth made it a fairly one-dimensional listening adventure. This time around, the guys from Richmond decided on a slightly more varied and experimental approach, just as they did on Sacrament. Don’t expect any frolics in vein of King Crimson, Cynic or Mastodon, but just enough nifty details to keep the music fresh and exciting.

    The doom metal references in “Straight For The Sun”, the blues/southern rock-styled intro of “Ghost Walking”, the creepy atmosphere on “The Number Six” and the accentuated bass-lines in “Invictus” are all examples of why Resolution has more to offer than its rather one-dimensional predecesor. The punk rock oannotations on “Cheated” and the use of female opera vocals on “King Me” are further indications that Blyth and Co aren’t afraid to look past their musical boundaries from time to time. Don’t worry, Resolution still has enough typical LOG stompers to offer in the form of “Desolation”, “Guilty”, “Insurrection” and “Terminally Unique”.

    The wolverine-styled vocals by Randy Blythe and the impeccable drumming by Chris Adler are once again the main attractions. Mark Morton and Willie Adler still showcase their guitar prowess from time to time, but it doesn’t get quite to the level of Ashes In Their Wake or Sacrament. A shame really. Another point of critique is the relatively long length of the album. With fourteen(!) tracks covering almost an hour worth of music it takes a lot from the attention span of the listener, especially with this type of engaging and ferocious style of metal. Perhaps cutting back to 45 or 50 minutes would have been a smarter idea.

    Despite this, I do consider Resolution to be one of the finer moments in the LOG catalogue. It showcases enough new elements to keep the album fresh and exciting, yet retains the trademark aggression and blue collar working ethic to keep the core fan-base happy.

    Whether this album justifies the ridiculously bloated statements in the PR material remains to be seen. Regardless, Blythe and Co are still the real deal and Resolution is a clear sign that they won’t slow down any time soon.


    About the Author

    Raymond is an occasional contributor and guest blogger here. He heads up the Dutch magazine Alternative Matter, which is growing in leaps and bounds and makes me all excited about the future of rock journalism. You can find him on Twitter @HomeNucleonics.




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    GUEST REVIEW: Trivium – In Waves (Roadrunner)

    August 7th, 2011

    This is a guest review by Raymond, who’s one of the brains at Alternative Matter. We’ve chatted heaps about Trivium and the band’s personal progression; so after AltMatter published his review, Raymond let me post it here too. Enjoy!

    A couple of years ago there was a sudden wave of American bands who married the melodic sensibilities of Iron Maiden and At The Gates with New York-styled hardcore. Nowadays most bands have  grown away from that or have vanished altogether. Trivium showed more resilience, due to relentless touring and delivering quality albums. In Waves is this outfit’s fifth record, so let’s see what it’s made of.

    Truth be told, I lost my interest in Trivium years ago, however what Matt Heafy and Co deliver with In Waves is simply astonishing. They still tap from thirty years worth of metal history, but they do it with style. This time around it’s all about the song. Gone are the Metallica-worshipping days on The Crusade and the technical powerplay which dominated Shogun. The guitar prowess displayed by Matt Heafy and Corey Beaulieu is impressive as ever, but this time it serves to bolster the song material. It’s no longer about shredding for the sake of shredding.

    Another impressive feature of In Waves is the sheer intensity and passion of which songs like Inception Of The End, Dusk Dismantled, Watch The World Burn and Caustic Are The Ties That Band are brought. This combined with an impeccable sense for memorable melodies, mature songwritingship and Matt Heafy’s convincing vocal delivery brings this album to the next level. A Skyline’s Severance and Chaos Reign are clear evidence that Trivium are out for blood on In Waves.

    The modern and powerful production gives the songs material lots of additional drive and aggression, thanks to skillful hands of Colin Richardson, Martin Ford and CarlBown.

    The sheer intensity and quality displayed on In Waves may turn some heads of people who wouldn’t give a damn about Trivium, normally speaking. Matt Heafy and Co certainly managed to convince this jaded cynic.

    TRIVIUM’s In Waves is out on 9 August, on Roadrunner Records. CLICK HERE to read the original publication of this review.

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    Sonisphere UK, 2011… How it went down…

    July 17th, 2011

    This is a GUEST BLOG by MADMan.

    There are certain times in your life that you don’t mind being called a bastard. I experienced one of these times last week when telling my mates that I’d won Rock Royalty tickets to this year’s Sonisphere festival. The added bonus for me, which not everyone appreciated, was that the win included a meet and greet with Limp Bizkit.

    Being as my homie Petrovski is a fan of the Bizkit, plus it was his birthday, he was the lucky recipient of ticket two. He couldn’t get the day off work but after some strategic truth realignment we were on the road and aiming for as much of the Big 4 as possible.

    Tent erected (stop sniggering at the back) we hit the main arena. Unfortunately, traffic fuckaboutery and confusing contraflow meant we’d missed Anthrax and Megadeth but as Slayer pounded their way through a blistering set and the beers flowed steadily down our gullets, it didn’t seem to matter. Finishing with Raining Blood and Angel of Death, Slayer played a blinder. But then it was time for the main event and as soon as the Ecstasy of Gold started wafting over the PA the crowd were off.

    There have been a few twinges around the music press about Metallica being a bit static and unengaged but clearly the people saying this need their genitals nailed to a moving train. The setlist was:

    Hit the Lights
    Master of Puppets
    The Shortest Straw
    Seek and Destroy
    Ride the Lightning
    The Memory Remains
    All Nightmare Long
    Sad But True
    The Call of Ktulu
    For Whom the Bell Tolls
    Fade to Black
    Enter Sandman

    Pretty much as good as it gets? Oh no. Not yet. As with their recent Big 4 appearances, Metallica were then joined on stage by Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax and members of Diamond Head for Am I Evil. Never has a moment been so metal. I assumed the world would implode. Once 60,000 people had finished going mental Metallica chucked Battery and Creeping Death at us and buggered off. Petrovski and I proceeded to drink a million beers, eat some crisps, and bivvy down for the night.

    Saturday morning brought with it a stunning hangover, an expensive sausage and egg baguette and a rather pleasant shit in the Rock Royalty cans. With the weather threatening rain, we headed down to the Apollo stage for Sylosis, who’s energy for 11:00 was extraordinary and a significant crowd got involved. Beers in hand we wandered across to the opposite Saturn stage for Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine. Having spent the last few years recording lounge music versions of modern pop and metal songs, Mr. Cheese has built up a bit of a cult following and as such, the numbers witnessing his versions of Limp Bizkit’s Nookie, Disturbed’s The Sickness, Black Eyed Pea’s Boom Boom Pow and Weezer’s Buddy Holly were huge. It was nonstop laughs and a thoroughly excellent addition to the lineup.

    Architects followed with a blistering set that lead nicely into Gallows. The day after Sonisphere, Gallows frontman Frank Carter revealed he would be leaving the band, which came as a huge shock considering the passion and balls out punk rock fury of his delivery on stage. Carter remains one of UK punk’s most compelling front men and despite Gallows continuing without him, it will be his new band Pure Love that will get my attentions.

    It’s not a heavy metal festival without Max Cavalera appearing in some guise. Cavalera Conspiracy brought a refreshing simple slab of chugging metal to the site with Refuse/Resist and Inflikted involving major crowd singalongs. He may look like a stinking cider tramp but Cavalera knows how to work a crowd, particularly with the inevitable inclusion of Sepultura’s anthem Roots. My only criticism was that Igor Cavalera’s snare sounded like someone hitting a bucket with a tennis racket but you can’t have everything I suppose.

    With the onset of a) pissing rain and b) Kids in Glass Houses it was time to meander back to Rock Royalty for an expensive beer, some shelter and another sausage baguette. The VIP area was a pretty opulent area for a festival. It even had, in some instances, seats. After another marvellously clean bog experience, we headed back to the tent for more provisions. In true male preparatory style we’d packed 15 cans of beer, 24 bags of crisps, 12 sausage rolls and a bag of dry roasted peanuts (important roughage).

    Despite the brutal downpour which started to assault the tent, I waterproofed myself up and headed out into the elements as there was no way on Satan’s green Earth that I was missing Bad Religion. The funniest thing about these punk legends is the fact that they are old. It’s difficult to imagine that the balding, polo shirt-wearing blokes on stage were the force behind Voice of God is Government and We’re Only Gonna Die but by the time they’d pulled out 21st Century Digital Boy and Fuck Armageddon…This is Hell their credentials could never be denied. Bad Religion are one of the bands that I started listening too in my yoof with the rest of the Fat Wreck/Epitaph bands so to finally see them in the flesh was a pretty immense experience.

    After another tent/beer/sausage-based product intake the sun found it’s way through and with the promise of Paradise Lost and The Sisters of Mercy on the way, we headed down to the Jagermeister stage for Rival Sons. A somewhat erroneous addition to the traditionally brutal Earache Records roster, this quartet sound like a modern day Led Zeppelin, with frontman Jay Buchanan commanding the stage as I would imagine Robert Plant did back in the day. Their blues-tinged rock and roll was absolutely spot on and is vying for a top five slot in terms of performances for the festival.

    Saturday started to go a bit wrong after that. As we descended upon the Bohemia stage, which is in a tent, we came across belligerent security guards and metal barriers. Seemingly Gojira had caused such a surge in the crowd that barriers were put in place and in their infinite wisdom, the crowd control staff decided that the tent shouldn’t be more than half full for the rest of the night. As a result, we stood in the drizzle for about twenty minutes listening to Paradise Lost before fucking it off completely and heading back to the tent. Saturday came to an inglorious end. In hindsight we should have headed to the Bedroom Jam stage for Watain but the buzzkill of Paradise Lost coupled with the turgid monotony of Weezer and Biffy Clyro headlining the Apollo stage meant we were better off smashing a few cans at the tent and waiting for Sunday whilst discussing pertinent questions such as who would win in a fight between Bruno Brooks and Keith Chegwin.

    Dawn broke, as did a great deal of wind thanks to a heroic intake of sausage rolls, and wellington boots were donned. Petrovski also made a sneaky dash to Asda for 24 cans of lager as we’d spent the national debt of Ethiopia on Tuborg over the last 36 hours and were feeling the festival pinch. So with cans in pockets and underpants we strolled into the main arena, unable to avoid the hellish aroma of a broken Rock Royalty toilet block but happy nonetheless. Opening the proceedings was Volbeat, who got a chunky crowd and despite covering Raining Blood with the wrong notes kicked the day off a storm.

    Arch Enemy then took the stage and the bizarrely sexy Angela Gossow unleashed her epic lungs upon us (stop it). I’ve never seen Arch Enemy play a bad set. Michael Amott’s guitar pedigree is unrivalled and their delivery is bordering on perfect every time. As I Will Live Again cascaded across the field and we were planning to head over to the Jagermeister stage for hardcore outfit Feed The Rhino I received a call from Steph van Spronsen of The Noise Cartel informing me that the meet and greet with Limp Bizkit would take place at 14:45. I won’t lie, I did a bit of a shit. Stop pretending you don’t sing along with Rollin’ whenever it comes on. I had also told my pal The Red Wizard I would film Fred Durst telling him to fuck off (there’s a long history of hatred there) but knew this would be unlikely to come to light.

    So back to the tent for a few more cans and some revision on who the fuck the bassist was in Limp Bizkit and off we went a-wandering. Steph met us and walked us into the band area which couldn’t have been more different from the place us proles were used to; clean, quiet, cheap beer, free tattoos, and Joel O’Keefe from Airbourne walking frantically in every direction with no obvious purpose. Durst’s PR met us and explained he was tired and feeling unwell; at this point I was expecting him to live up to his “being a dick” hype. However, we wandered over, shook hands, and just had a bit of a chat (which apparently was filmed by Scuzz TV, so if you see Durst with a fat bloke in a white vest and an Agnostic Front baseball cap on telly do let me know). He told us how happy he was to be touring with Slipknot again, we spoke about the tragic loss of Paul Gray. He also kindly offered to buy me a blowjob as part of the prize win, which I declined as, although generous, I suspected Hot Chick wouldn’t be too pleased. He then offered to fly her in by helicopter but alas, the logistics were just horrendous.

    Having bumped into the hugely pleasant Mikael Akerfeldt and stood a bit startstruck as a sweaty Arch Enemy walked past, we were ushered back to the main arena, where a series of odd events resulted in my giving the manager of Exit Ten my stock of festival Immodium. But still, we’d met the Durst, we were buzzing (legally) so decided to enjoy a bit of Motorhead. The sad death of original Motorhead bassist Wurzel the day before was a shock to the crowd but it meant that Lemmy and the boys delivered a spot on, emotionally-charged set of songs that spanned 35-odd years.

    More rain, more beers, and bin bags fashioned into dresses as the afternoon progressed and before long, Limp Bizkit took the stage and tore it up. The set was everything a fan would have wanted, i.e 90% Chocolate Starfish, plus Break Stuff. The only track from latest album Golden Cobra that they played was Douchebag, which features the eloquent chorus:

    “Douchebag, I’mma fuck you up
    Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you up”

    A searing critique of cultural oppression, I’m sure you’ll agree. But fuck it; it’s Limp Bizkit. Unless you’ve stood with 30,000 people during My Generation, Take a Look Around, Rollin, and all the other songs you all know, you really can’t say you hate them. To go all Durst on yo’ ass, that shit is fuckin’ infectious bro.

    Bill Bailey followed Bizkit with his absolutely spot-on comedy. From Rammstein to The Wurzels, he was hugely entertaining. But we didn’t come here for comedy; Sunday was all about Slipknot. Their first UK show since the death of Paul Gray was second to, if not on a par with the Big 4 in terms of anticipation. There were Slipknot shirts everywhere on people of all ages and despite the onset of the shitting rain, the crowd was immense.

    Opening with the traditional 742617000027 and blasting straight into (sic), Slipknot weren’t there to piss about. Drawing on over a decade of material, they fused new and old as my personal fave Disasterpiece led into Psychosocial before steaming through The Heretic Anthem and Duality. The lack of Paul Gray hasn’t effected the sheer intensity of Slipknot’s live performance and as Corey Taylor said, this was a celebration and not a commiseration. Earlier in the day there had been a two-minute silence across the whole site; all the fairground rides shut down and 60,000 people stood facing the stage in memory of the fallen Number 2. Taylor commended the crowd for their respect and tells us it was a truly wonderful thing to see.

    There is of course one main reason why Slipknot are so brilliant live and as the main set draws to a close, we’re told it’s time to “SPIT! IT! OUT!”. Most of the crowd know what happens next. Despite the mud, down we sit, and as the song kicks back in, up the fuck we jump. Wonderful stuff.

    Coming back on with People = Shit and Surfacing, a giant “2” dominates the backdrop and Gray’s boilersuit and mask are brought to the front of the stage. It all comes to an end and it’s been a hugely emotional experience for the ‘Knot but they couldn’t have been on better form.

    The music, and indeed the festival, had finished. As the rain continued to pour we headed back to the tent to evaluate the weekend we’d just experienced – the bands, the beers, the toilets, the food, the awesome fat ginger bloke in an army helmet – and there was only really one question on our minds; how the fuck are we going to win Rock Royalty tickets for Sonisphere 2012?

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    GUEST BLOG: Wimps, Posers and Hipsters – leave the hall!

    July 7th, 2011

    by Tom Valcanis

    In an age where Web 2.0 and 24-hour news cycles rule, it means you have to shout the loudest to get heard. But that isn’t enough. You not only have to cut through mediocrity and noise, but you’re up against people with fingers resolutely placed in their ears. Rock magazines aren’t the sole proprietors of “What You Should Listen To, Inc.” any more. People have iPods, people have Tumblrs and people have Twitter. They don’t need your approval – they’re their own curators now.

    Last year, sociologist and pop music scholar Don McLeese said:

    “Do critics have any special license to serve as pop music’s cultural interlocutors when anyone with an Internet connection can attempt to do the same thing? In other words: if anyone can make pop music and anyone can be a pop-music critic, do we really need professional critics to tell us what it all means?”

    But never mind that – how do we get these metalheads attention? How do we make the scant amount of money to feed ourselves from such a profitless enterprise? We can’t be gatekeepers; we can’t tell them what’s good any more! We can’t even get them to buy the crap we peddle!

    So let’s just piss them off.

    Yes, let’s deliberately upset our core demographic.

    Frank Lemke is now at the perihelion of the “Hipster metal writer” movement, penning an article panning Baroness’ almost universally acclaimed Blue Record with Decibel magazine claiming the new column promises “one brave soul sail[ing] against the current to inform all you clones why you can’t spell classic without ‘ass.'” I sure as shit hope they aren’t getting paid a dime for it.

    Yes, the magazine is making fun of you. You’re paying $10 or more to be laughed at by the metal equivalent of your schoolyard tormentors. The twist is the once bullied is now exacting revenge on his fellow Slayer “meatheads” and the Iron Maiden “long-haired pansies.” They sport old man caps, 5-gauge tunnels in their ears and ironic images of Yoshi and Decepticons emblazoned across their arms.

    They’re hipsters armed with BFAs, copies of Bukowski and Joy Division t-shirts, and they’re laughing at you.

    By rattling a cage of vipers – knowing exactly what upsets them and what doesn’t – literate and intelligent metal writing ultimately loses. By consciously positioning themselves as privileged interlocutors, these journalists attempt to say “I know better than you” at every given opportunity. Fans are the real gatekeepers of metal and they aren’t as dumb as these rock writers think they are an they’re certainly undeserving of their contempt. is at the vanguard of the hipster metal journalist revolution, soaking in all the pompous art school posturing they could muster from their $20,000 a year degrees in fine arts that their parents most likely paid for. Taking cues from the bible of hipsterism, VICE Magazine, they figured in order to cut through to a seemingly vapid and punch-drunk metal crowd you not only have to maintain a critical distance, you have to actively and almost passionately loathe the genre you cover. The dichotomy of “art” vs. “pop” collapsed a very long time ago and these hipsters are bemoaning 60 years of progress just so they can perch themselves on one rung above the rest of the metal-loving population. Is it so hard to accept that there’s artistic and technical merit in Hammerfall? Or that Kylesa stole some of their riffs from Weezer? That Eddie, despite being Maiden’s enduring gimmick, is actually fun to see as he terrorizes Steve and Bruce on stage? I mean, really?

    MetalSucks lures one in with half-decent interviews and recycled tidbits from but really go for the jugular by trolling their intended audience. They achieve this through asking stupid questions like “Should metal have melody in it” and producing ignorant lists of “greatest guitarists” only to pick the most obscure option because selecting what’s actually good is “too mainstream” and “non-controversial.” Are they winking or are they poking their tongue out and raising their middle finger at us? I believe it falls into the latter category. Can they just put on their thick-rimmed glasses they don’t need to see with, walk out of the scene and never come back?

    I am all for controversy and breaking down groupthink, but metal was never and is never going to be a ruled by a herd mentality. There are too many fans with too many opinions on what’s good and what isn’t and I don’t think they deserve to be pilloried for liking whatever they seem to appreciate. Instead of critical appraisal, it’s just a ceaseless noise of “you’re an idiot for liking this” because they write for the magazine and you don’t. Instead of conceding the point that curatorship and gatekeeping is an impossible task in the digital era, they choose to incite conflict instead of exercise their creativity. The best rock writing, according to Robert Christgau, is that the writing about rock is an art form unto itself; but we aren’t seeing that any more. What we are seeing is deliberately provocative navel-gazing and keyboard warrior Internet tough-guy posturing.

    Metal Mike Saunders, a rock journalist for The Rag in Australia said that “Most people listen to rock n’ roll. Yet others read about it and some actually have the lunacy to write about it!” but now I’m thinking that most people have to be prodded and cajoled into having their blood boiled and lifestyle mocked by a tiny cadre of hipsters that think they’re better than them.

    But they’ve lost the point. We like metal for what it is. It’s not above criticism – no artistic product can be. But like the “metalhead comedian” Steve Hughes said: “We can laugh at metal – we know the stupid bits and some of the stupid bits, we like!”

    There’s a dearth of intelligent, creative and down-to-earth rock writing and if you look hard enough, you can find it. But the more popular sites and mags get a kick out of watching your butt getting hurt but please – no more. The minute you start writing without having a contempt for me and my fellow metalheads will be the moment I take my fingers out of my ears.

    About Tom

    Tom Valcanis is a freelance journalist, media consultant and metalhead from Melbourne, Australia. He did a thesis on rock and metal because he actually fucking likes it. He has 20/20 vision, wears Megadeth t-shirts and only has ink on him when his fountain pen leaks.