After so much time (let’s be honest, 20 years is a long time for a rock band), our expectations for a band change. On one end of the spectrum you have bands like Metallica, suffering from intense overreaction (both good and bad) with every release since ReLoad. On the other, bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan consistently release quality material, but fans and critics lull into indifference because it’s business as usual. In this writer’s opinion, Every Time I Die have been cruising on this end of the spectrum for the entirety of this decade, and that’s just fine; but admittedly, there’s a point where this par for the course becomes a bore. Buffalo’s finest already have one of the most consistent discographies of any modern hardcore band, and they appear to have done it all, and most importantly, done it on their own terms. From humble punk rock beginnings, to mild enough success to warrant touring with Ozzfest, to Guitar Hero pseudo-stardom, to a sort of reinventing of their own sound, to refining that sound with “wild experiments” and “throwback” sounds, what’s left for a band to do?
Epica have been spearheading the symphonic metal game for nearly 15 years. Seven albums deep with the 2016 release of The Holographic Principle, an album based on the theory that our universe is digitally generated, Epica show no signs of slowing down and will likely continue to be powerhouses in…
Thrash metal. It’s the archetypal sub-genre of metal. It wasn’t the first one on the scene, nor is it particularly representative of what metal music means today. Yet, it was the genre which served as the gateway into metal for a huge proportion of our community. When those unfamiliar with metal are asked to name any metal bands that they may know, you can bet that Metallica would be one of the most popular answers. And it’s not surprising to learn why. Thrash metal exploded all across the USA and Europe in the mid 80’s, dominating the metal landscape with its speed, aggression and technicality. Fast, furious and pissed the fuck off, it was exactly what people wanted. Bands quickly rose to bona fide rock-star status, and we’ll be focusing, initially, on the big four: Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax. Through the early-to-mid 90’s some sought, and found, mass crossover appeal when turning to a more commercial style of music. Charts were topped, and millions of records were sold. Yet, this commercial zeitgeist was paradoxical in nature. Yes, some bands had scaled the mountain. They had made it. But they also had nowhere else to go, nowhere but down. It was an achievement, but it was also the beginning of the end.
Formed in 1978, Pagan Altar are among the old guard of metal. In their early days, they were unapologetic Black Sabbath clones – just listen to the first few seconds of Pagan Altar’s “The Black Mass” and tell me you aren’t expecting to headbang to Iommi’s legendary riff. But of course, there is nothing wrong with being a clone if your identical twin is Black. Sabbath. Crooner Terry Jones sings in a distinctly Osbourne-ian croak comprising the weakest part of the band’s sound, but it shouldn’t offend anyone who can palate Ozzy. The riffs that Terry’s son, guitarist Alan Jones, offers on tracks like “The Black Mass” and “Judgement of the Dead” are as doom-laden and memorable as anything the genre could sling when the Pagan Altar demo was released in 1982.