New on the Shelves
Shred Connoisseur, Clayton Arendse, highlights whats new on the CD shelves.
Roadrunner Records has been on a feeding frenzy as of late, regarding progressive and thrash metal bands. Recent signings include thrash veterans Megadeth (well, Dave Mustaine and a brand new band altogether) as well as Dream Theater, Opeth and Porcupine Tree (with semi-confirmed rumours of a side-project involving key members of the last three abounding). Two recent releases from Roadrunner are Megadeth’s long awaited follow-up to return to form “The System has Failed” titled “United Abominations” and the much hyped new Machine Head album “The Blackening.”
Megadeth – United Abominations
Ok, at the outset I need to clear up that I am a massive Megadeth fan, so I’ve been waiting for this album for ages. This is honestly the strongest and most political album since “Countdown to Extinction.” Mustaine seems to have found the original drive and anger that fuelled early Megadeth albums and he is backed here by an all-new band. Lead guitarist Glenn Drover plays like the love-child of Marty Friedman and Chris Poland, playing technically dazzling lines that breathe with his own personality but still feel at home with what you expect from a Megadeth lead guitarist. Mustaine himself is soloing better than ever and the rest of the band certainly holds up their end of the deal. There are ample amounts of shred guitar, but it never seems forced or at the expense of the songs themselves.
Where “the system has failed” was a return to Megadeth (and a very welcome album, especially in light of rivals Metallica’s shitty “St Anger”), this album feels like business as usual, a band that knows what it’s capable of and peaking again. It also features a guest spot my Lacuna Coil’s Christina Scabbia (who I am going to marry, whether she likes it or not) on a heavier remake of “A tout Lemonde” (originally on “Yuthanasia”). This album is the sound of a band doing what they are good at, celebrating their strengths. This album certainly doesn’t sound dated, especially in light of shitty new bands like Trivium truing for an updated thrash influenced sound.
Machine Head – The Blackening
Machine Head have made a career of oscillating between thrash metal and anthemic nu metal. Although “The Blackening” falls heavily on the thrash metal side of the coin (yay!), it retains the catchiness of their nu metal excursions, lending it a very contemporary edge. Amazing guitar work by Phil Demmel and Rob Flynn (both formerly of 80’s bay area thrash band violence), with stellar vocal work by Flynn and some stunning guitar solos. The album also sports a slight progressive edge to it, with experimental sounds and brilliant songwriting, contrasting dark and light elements, with incredibly tight interplay between all of the instruments. Do yourself a favour and check out the limited edition version, which comes with a bonus DVD and a cover of Metallica’s “battery”, recorded to mark the 20th anniversary of “Master of Puppets.”
Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime re-release
Although it’s been out for just over a year, this is a classic album that deserves a second look. Operation: Mindcrime, fully remastered and with a bonus live disc (and DVD footage on the deluxe edition).
Operation: Mindcrime was a groundbreaking album for a number of reasons. Firstly, although not Queensryche’s highest selling album, it set the stage for the follow-up album “Empire” and the single “Silent Lucidity” by drumming up sufficient interest in Queensryche. Secondly, though perhaps more importantly, it raised the profile of an entire genre, influencing both the musical direction and lyrics of very prominent players in the late eighties and early nineties progressive metal scene, including Dream Theater and Fates Warning (both of whom have toured support for Queensryche), as well as the current lyrical and musical focus of contemporary progressive rock and metal bands found on labels such as Magna Carta and Inside Out such as the underrated OSI and Magellan.
Although similarities to groups such as Iron Maiden and NWOBHM bands are easy enough to spot, lyrically Operation:Mindcrime tackles political, social and moral issues rather than the usual literature or fantasy fare usually favoured by progressive metal bands, and does so with both intelligence and class, while retaining a very coherent though involved storyline. Singer Geoff Tate, besides having an astounding vocal range, has one of the most emotive voices ever to tackle the heavy metal genre. Added to this is the excellent guitar work of Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton who, though virtuosos in their own right, more often than not choose lines that weave over one another and provide textures, supporting the vocals and serving the songs instead of the overindulgent shredding found in later progressive metal bands. And it cannot be stressed enough that it is the emphasis on songwriting that separates Queensryche from many of the bands who they influenced, many of whom took the lyrical themes and progressive tendencies and focused on them as ends in and of themselves rather than as a way of writing interesting songs. It is for this reason that this release, finally remastered, stands the test of time as a classic album!
Ok, after not being available for the better part of the last year, we finally have the entire back catalogues of both Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath available in South Africa again! Both bands are amazing in their own right, and incredibly influential, so you need to own at least one album of each band in your collection. Might I recommend “Very ‘eavy very umble” and “Look at yourself” for the former and “Master of Reality” and “volume 4” for the latter…do it, you know you want to.
Also, Cape Town band the Warinsane is busy recording their debut album, featuring members of local legends Sacraphyx. Do yourself a favour and check them out live before the album comes out…you won’t be disappointed…Definitely the best SA band I’ve seen in the last ten years (not to mention really nice and humble guys” and guitarist Alec Surridge is fucking phenomenal!