If the purpose of Stepping Stone is to shine a spotlight on the bands and artists which started us on our way to metal, then Ronnie James Dio is one of the biggest stones in our path. Whether just by listening to his music at an early age or being influenced by his vocal style, the number of artists who have owe a debt to Dio is immeasurable. He is one of the largest names in a scene obsessed with the cult of personality, with plenty of drama and lore to back that figure (Ozzy vs. Dio, the “horns” and more). But I’d like to focus on a different story for this Stepping Stone, on mine rather than on the grandiose depiction of grand narratives within our scene and community. I’d like to take you back to the days when I was jut discovering metal and the power it had and what that power meant for the teenage version of Eden.
There’s a special place in heaven reserved for albums who don’t waste their listeners time. Skipping over intro tracks and getting right to the point, these albums want you to know exactly what they’re about, no frills or special announcements necessary. This works especially well for anything extreme, as the sheer shock of an album just exploding into over the top life can be a magnificent feeling. This is very much the case with Novareign’s Legends. These power metal enthusiasts hailing from California waste no time with their debut album, immediately diving into a mass of riffs, powerful vocals and galloping bass. The rest of the album rides on the momentum of these initial notes to create one of the best releases in the traditional metal revival that’s been going on for the past few years (and on which we posted in length not two hours ago).
Welcome back to our Taxonomy series, where we break down umbrella genres like progressive metal, post rock and doom metal and outline all of the progressions and sub-genres that have matriculated over the past few decades. This installment in the series is going to be a bit different, since we’re…
Enter Trigger, a young band hailing from Australia, the land of too much sun and great metal. Cryogenesis, released way back when in July of 2017, is chock full of the blurring of the lines between thrash and power that we referenced in the opening paragraph. I pounced on this album once realizing it wasn’t just a power metal album with impressive hooks in tow but also a science fiction conceptual epic. Under eventual and multiple listens, it quickly became apparent that Cryogenesis was a good album and an impressive effort for a second release but also an album which exemplifies many of the pitfalls of its sub-genre. At its core, Cryogenesis is motivated by big choruses and fast riffing but suffers from a muddled middle section, leaving the listener yearning for more.
Metal is inherently problematic. That’s a fact that anybody listening to metal should accept and come to terms with. It doesn’t mean that metal shouldn’t listened to, written about or loved; most things on the scale of globe-spanning musical genres are problematic. Metal’s inherent complex nature stems from the very reasons why metal is appealing and that’s what makes it so intrinsic to the style. Since metal appeals to places within us which society would rather not deal with, like war, violence, personal power, the mystical aspects of nature, and darker themes, those who work within the genre are prone to excess. In the process of writing about these themes and of immersing oneself within them, many artists lose the distinction between that which is to be faced and understood and that which should be aspired to or desired.
I’m in the process of writing an article on the difficulties of being a power metal/heavy metal listener, specifically dealing with its problematic themes and aesthetics. I won’t bore you with too many details (since I’d like you to read when we get around to posting it) but I thought it impossible to write this review without mentioning it. White Wizzard traffic in the kind of traditional metal revival sound that’s becoming increasingly popular, joining the ranks of Lunar Shadow, Sumerlands, Spellcaster and Visigoth, to name just a few of the bands operating in this milieu. As such, Infernal Overdrive is a treat for those in love with the sounds and sensibilities of oldschool, melodic metal; combining the genres of heavy metal and power metal, the album is a veritable rollercoaster of solos, emphatic vocal passages and rumbling bass.
Like every avid music listener, many of our favorite musical discoveries each year have actually been around for a while. Of course, these “new” albums don’t qualify for our annual end of year roundups, so we launched a new list last year dedicated exclusively to celebrating our staff’s top picks from outside of the current year. The following albums come from a wide variety of genres and range from releases we overlooked in 2016 to decades-old classics we finally got around to checking out. This has quickly become one of our favorite end of year features, and we hope you also discover some gems from yore that received just as much (if not more) playtime than some of the newer releases we’ve celebrated over the past twelve months.
Earlier in the week Eden introduced us to fun-loving Canadian weirdos Bird Problems, and I couldn’t help but think that Australia must have something of the sort. Enter Triple Kill, relative newcomers to the heavy metal scene in Melbourne. The quintet play straight up heavy metal, with drummer Connor O’Keane listing some of their key influences as “Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, Lamb of God and Pantera”. Add to this mixture of power metal and groove some distinct characteristics from both thrash and melodic death metal and you have yourself Triple Kill’s core sound. However, things don’t just stop at the music. Triple Kill have quickly made a name for themselves for producing some fantastic, hilarious videos. But hey, don’t take my word for it, check out the band’s introductory video below:
This week we’re doing something different as well. Instead of covering the news (there wasn’t a lot) we’re just going to do a “starter kit” on progressive power metal (despite my objections)! Basically, why anyone would want to listen to the genre (no idea) and if so, what bands should they start with (none of them)? Eden and I both discuss some classics. Names mentioned include Blind Guardian, Angra, Therion, Pagan’s Mind, Kamelot, Teramaze and Fractal Cypher. Then, we do an in-depth spoiler discussion on the excellent Blade Runner 2049. Enjoy!
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.