Once incapable of fault as a household name in the world of metal, Mastodon have seen a lot of scrutiny following their 2009 prog opus Crack The Skye. It was an immediate critical hit and the general consensus was that it was an instant classic. Indeed, Crack the Skye still holds up and hasn’t aged much at all, but it did prove to be a turning point in the band’s career. The sludge metal pioneers slowed down, reigned in the technical showmanship, and started writing more straightforward rock songs in their own style and aesthetic. Crack The Skye’s followups The Hunter and Once More Round The Sun were by no means terrible, critically panned slogs, but the fanbase became divided over the clear stylistic evolution happening.
It’s been a while since we’ve written one of these columns, and that’s not because we dislike them. Past a certain point it starts to become more difficult to find important bands representing or making waves in a certain genre or sub-genre and finding a group of similar or tangentially-related bands to recommend. Up to this point though we haven’t really written one of these posts as essentially a response or plea to listeners. Sometimes bands who execute a certain style or sound garner a lot of critical and popular praise to the point of being credited with some sort of innovation or something radically different from anything else out there when the reality is far from that. It’s rarely the fault of the bands themselves though as they don’t give themselves that kind of credit, but once in a while it’s important for someone to politely correct consensus thinking and offer a little more context, and that is exactly what we’re going to do here and now with the debut album from metal/jazz fusion band Nova Collective.
It’s March of 1987. Anthrax has been around long enough to have released two other full-lengths that cemented the band as a fixture in the emerging thrash metal scene. The band had been in the studio recording after lengthy touring in support of Spreading the Disease. What was recorded and released would become one of their most iconic works. One which 30 years later they would be touring on once again to packed houses. That album would become a canonical work of, not just thrash, but all of heavy metal. Among the Living would go on to achieve Gold sales status in 1990 catapulting the band into the upper echelon of metal’s hierarchy and continues to find itself added to the collections of music fans today.
2016 was a strange year for fans of Nine Inch Nails, though not in a bad way; Trent Reznor promised new music and he delivered, in the form of the EP Not The Actual Events near the end of the year, along with a handful of soundtrack work with Atticus Ross. Possibly more interesting than Not The Actual Events was the announcement that Nine Inch Nails is officially a duo, with Ross finally joining Reznor as a legitimate band member (as opposed to just a long-time collaborator). (For those unaware, the two have been officially working together since NIN’s 2005 album With Teeth, though their relationship predates 2005.) Then, to stir the proverbial kettle again, it was announced that Not The Actual Events would not be released on CD (though it is available on vinyl), but instead a very limited “physical component” would be available for purchase, bundled with a digital download of the EP. As a big fan of Reznor’s work, I was excited to see what this could include, and so I ordered this “physical component” as soon as it became available, back in December. It wasn’t until February that I received my copy, and, frankly, the results are…interesting.