Wednesday, March 31, 2010

High On Fire Album Review

High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine
E1, 2010

7/10

High On Fire is back with their fifth album of rough, proto-metal style of hard rock. Not too much has changed over the years, and Matt Pike and company have delivered another solid slab that fuses the heavy riffage style of bands such as Motorhead, Melvins, and St. Vitus. The band is at their best on the faster, pounding tracks such as “Fire, Flood & Plague”, “Holy Flames Of The Fire Spitter”, and “Snakes For The Divine”. A couple of lengthy and slow, but no less heavy, numbers, “Bastard Samuri” and “How Dark We Pray”, add some diversity to the album but tend to drift off into boring, droning dirges. Matt still sings with his gruff, gravely-throated voice that is reminiscent of Lemmy. Snakes For The Divine is solid but not great effort. Fans will be pleased, but it’s hard to imagine that new fans will be won over. This power trio is a potent force live, and the strong bill for their inaugural headlining tour to promote the record should be crushing.

High On Fire will kick off their first tour for Snakes For The Divine at The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Wednesday, March 31. Support will come from Priestess, Black Cobra and Bison B.C.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Alice In Chains Album Review

Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue
Virgin, 2009

10/10

Who would have thought that Alice In Chains could not only find a legitimate, suitable replacement for the late iconic frontman Layne Staley, but also compose their first album in 14 years that sounds relevant in today’s musical environment? Almost no one, myself included. Given these challenges, Black Gives Way To Blue is probably the greatest comeback history in rock, and certainly the best since Deep Purple’s Perfect Strangers. I was so scared about the Alice In Chains legacy being ruined that I couldn’t even bring myself to listen to this album immediately upon its release. What the surviving members of the band (Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez) have accomplished with new vocalist William DuVall is nothing short of stunning. The first two singles, “A Looking In View” and “Check My Brain”, are classic-sounding AIC songs with slow, deliberate riffs and haunting vocal melodies. “Your Decision” and “When The Sun Rose Again” represent the acoustic side of the band. The remainder of the album mainly rotates between slow, heavy numbers such as “Last Of My Kind”, “All Secrets Known”, and “Take Her Out” and mellower tracks like “Private Hell” and “Acid Bubble”. The sad, beautiful piano ballad title track with Elton John ends the album and leaves the listeners pondering and reflecting upon how Alice In Chains have released the best album of their career. The power of Black Gives Way To Blue is immense, and the band sounds fresh and at the top of their game. William DuVall sounds uncannily like Layne Staley, but his voice sounds entirely natural and uncontrived. The songwriting (almost entirely by Jerry Cantrell) is consistent throughout and there’s not a single weak track. I have no doubt that Black Gives Way To Blue will go down as one of the greatest rock albums. The iTunes LP (ITLP) electronic version of the record contains two bonus songs, a remixed version of the title track and a live rendition of “Your Decision”, as well photos, artwork, liner notes, and two short videos (a tour documentary and studio footage). It’s a cool multimedia package, and the album can be set to play along with a neat photo slideshow. The ITLP version is well worth the couple extra bucks. Let’s hope the resounding success and universal praise for Black Gives Way To Blue will get Alice In Chains back into the studio soon.

Alice In Chains will be appearing at Roy Wilkins Auditorium in St. Paul on Sunday, March 21. Support will come from Middle Class Rut.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Inhale Exhale Album Review

Inhale Exhale – Bury Me Alive
Solid State, 2009

8/10

Inhale Exhale is an interesting metalcore act from Cleveland, and Bury Me Alive is their third album for the venerable Solid State label. Not being familiar with earlier works from this band, I initially cringed at the thought of listening to another metalcore album that sounds like Slayer with a hardcore screamer. Bury Me Alive is a refreshing take on the genre and left me surprised and impressed. Musically, the band’s sound takes cues from Voivod with the numerous twists and dissonant guitars often found in each song. A stellar example of how good Inhale Exhale can sound is “Did You Ever Have A Touch To Lose”, which alternates between pounding, heavy rhythms and guitar licks thrown out with no guitar overdubs, a sound most commonly found on Pantera and Van Halen records. Many songs incorporate melodic singing, but most of what is to be found here are mid-tempo, heavy crunchers. Things don’t let up as the album progresses, some of the best songs (“Better Her Than Me”, “Intentions”, “Thin Black Lines”) are found in the second half. Inhale Exhale have delivered a record that is as notable for its sonic variations as its quality song writing. Fans of metalcore will immediately latch on to Bury Me Alive, and casual fans of the genre should also be suitable impressed. Inhale Exhale is a band with a bright future ahead of them if they continue on the path they’ve laid forth on this outstanding album.

Inhale Exhale will be appearing at The Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis on Tuesday, March 2 as support to The Chariot. Additional support will come from Greeley Estates, Memphis May Fire, and The Color Morale.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Paul Di'Anno And Icarus Witch Show Cancelled

Last night's show by Paul Di'Anno and Icarus Witch at Station 4 in St. Paul was cancelled. Nothing has been heard on why, but it was to be the last show on the former Iron Maiden singer's North American tour. In a nice gesture the local openers, Cwn Annwn, Avalon, and Hate Beast played a free show.