Summer is here, and that means the time is right for me to tell you about six more metal releases you need to make room for in your record collection. Read on and listen to the latest sounds of Japanese serial-killer band, Church of Misery, the blunt-force trauma that is High on Fire live, the new Queens of the Stone Age, my thoughts on the new Black Sabbath record, “13”, and the first full-length from Austin’s heavy metal cowboys, Scorpion Child.
Scorpion Child’s self titled debut is due out on June 25st (June 21st UK), and according to the band’s official site, “Scorpion Child rocks like 1975, like somebody scrawled Physical Graffiti all over southern rock“. A comparison that smacks you right in the face when you hear the vocals of Aryn Schwartz on the track, “Polygon of Eyes“. Guitars hurtling at 100 mph, backed by hard-crashing percussion? Check. Songs about booze, women, and rocking out on the top of a mountain? Check. Straddling the line between classic rock and 80’s hair metal, Scorpion Child has made a record full of sweet, summer ear candy. And for all you wax-loving metalheads, the band is also releasing the double record on aqua colored vinyl, etched with the Polygon of Eyes logo. Via Nuclear Blast.
There must be something in the water in Texas, because there is some great metal coming from them thar parts this year. Thrash metal band Power Trip hails from Dallas, and their first full length, Manifest Decimation is a face melting masterpiece. It’s a hardcore adrenaline rush from the get go, not unlike the one you get listening to Pantera (another Texas export), while running from the cops after knocking off the corner liquor store. Tracks like, “Murderers Row”, and the drudge of “Drown” will make you form a mosh pit in your living room. Decimation also broke through to my inner 80’s headbanger with the track “Power Trip”, and the flat out frenzy of “Heretics Fork”. Power Trip vocalist Riley Gale is in full mayhem mode throughout Decimation’s 35 minute journey of must-have, head-throttling thrash. Out now via Southern Lord.
I generally like to feature bands that fly a bit lower under the radar than Queens of the Stone Age. However, the band’s latest release, Like Clockwork, took me by surprise. Not just because it was good, but because it’s easily the band’s best release to date. Clockwork is full of beautiful melodies, lyrics, and whining, doom-y sounding guitars. Speaking of lyrics, Josh Homme somehow manages to coolly channel Shawn Cassidy, by working the multi-decade lyric “Da Doo Ron Ron” into the impossibly ear-wiggy track “If I Had A Tail”. As if Queen’s didn’t have enough power on their own to make this one of 2013’s best records, they also get some help from Trent Reznor, Elton John, and regular co-conspirtor, Mark Lanegan.
As a huge fan of every version of Black Sabbath in history, and since the reception to the band’s first record with the original lineup in 35 years “13” has been somewhat varied, I thought I’d jump into the heavy metal fray with my thoughts on 13. First of all, I don’t think that 13 sounds like it’s trying to recapture it’s former sound and glory. I’m also not saying that 13 doesn’t harken back to the band’s iconic back catalog, because without question, it does, but in the most carefully crafted way.
Sabbath came together and made a record that sounds better than I had expected, and not like one that got pushed through a meat grinder for money, as I had feared. Tony Iommi’s textbook riffs are clearly the stand-out stars of 13. Sounding as heavy as he did in the 70’s, especially on the tracks “Methademic”, and “Live Forever”. Iommi proves that Sabbath’s classic stoner groove is still very much alive and well. Speaking of classic, “Damaged Soul” sounds so much like vintage Sabbath, it even comes complete with a harmonica-playing wizard. And what about Ozzy? I won’t lie; I’ve always been a huge fan of the man. That said, it’s entirely possible, that despite my 30+ years of adoration, even I wasn’t sure Ozzy was up to the task of manning the mighty helm of Sabbath’s satanic ship again. As it turns out, I was dead wrong. Osbourne’s vocals are strong and controlled; steady, and haunting; nearly matching Iommi’s sludgy, epic chops, track for track. 13 is full of pushed-to-the-limit, ominous, bell-tolling metal. And it appears that Black Sabbath’s fans agree, as 13 is currently poised to become the band’s first ever #1 record.
Thy Kingdom Scum is Japan-based Church of Misery’s fourth full-length. Scum picks up where the band’s 2009 record left off, and continues their obsession with writing songs about serial killers. Historically, the marriage of serial killers and heavy metal go perfectly together, kind of like Jack and Coke. Here’s Scum‘s bad-guy breakdown: “Brother Bishop” takes on Philadelphia murderer, Gary Michael Heidnik; “All Hallows Eve” is based on 70’s spree-killer, John Lynley Fraiger; and if you are a student of the school of serial killing, the thunderous, psychedelic track B.T.K. requires no explanation. Scum‘s dark focus gets laid back on the creepy track, “Cranley Gardens”, named for the address of Briton’s answer to Jeffrey Dahmer, Dennis Nilson. There’s also completely shook up, non-murder-related cover of “One Blind Mice”, originally done by 70’s prog-rock band, Quartermass. Like San Fransisco’s Orchid, Church of Misery is also possessed by the ghost of early Black Sabbath. Thy Kingdom Scum is an awesomely heavy, utterly dark, fuzzy freaked-out record. Out now from one of my favorite record labels, Metal Blade.
The brutal force of High on Fire comes through loud and fucking clear on the band’s new live record, Spitting Fire. The double-live record’s production is so clean, it’s almost like being there. Which is what any live album worth it’s salty licks strives for. Recorded last winter during two back-to-back New York shows at The Music Hall of Williamsburg, and the historic Bowery Ballroom, all 15 crushing tracks from the band’s decade-plus old catalog will pummel you until you’re black and blacker. If you haven’t seen the veteran Oakland-based trio (a band that gives the almighty Slayer a run for their money if you ask me), live yet, you must let the unbridled power of High on Fire live, whip you into a frenzy by way of your turntable immediately. Spitting Fire is out via Relapse Records on June 18th.