Otherwise – Sleeping Lions

If there’s one album that could launch a band into the stratosphere this year, it’s Sleeping Lions, the third outing from Las Vegas mob Otherwise. Mark my words: this album is prepped and packaged for the radio airwaves, plus almost every track sounds capable of inciting an arena-sized singalong, but that’s not always a bad thing. Their previous album cracked the Billboard 200 at number 50. This could surpass that. If they catch their big break with this record, the general population of rock enthusiasts will find something to appreciate about Otherwise. Generic? Absolutely. But it knows what it is.

Voices of The Void: The Dio Fach

I guess this was inevitable. When I originally conceived of this column, there was a lot of details I wanted to get into. Vocalists who started as screamers and turned into great clean singers. Vocalists who pioneered new styles. Vocalists who simply have unique voices. But before we get into all of that, I feel as though we have to establish some of the basics of metal singing. Back in the 70s, metal singers were simply rock singers with a louder band behind them. There weren’t distinctive styles. However, as metal became more and more separate from hard rock, the playing styles of each instrument involved in making metal developed their own identity and distinct style. In opera and classical singing, teachers and singers refer to voice types as “fachs”. The fach system was developed by the Germans to make casting operas easier. As we talk about the emerging styles of metal singing, I will be using this term. Arguably, the first metal fach was the Dio-fach. So, to establish these metal basics, I will be doing an overview of Ronnie James Dio’s voice, his career, and how he established this fach.

Edguy – Monuments

Edguy’s Monuments does a pretty great job as far as compilations go. Not only does Edguy include an EP’s worth of new material, they also include a DVD of live performances, and a never before released track from their classic days when they weren’t the German hard rock superstars that they are today. Hardcore fans like myself will find many reasons to pick this thing up and new listeners will find this release a great starting place for Edguy. Monuments showcases the power metal/hard rock masters perfectly in currently forms and presents a unique chance to look back at the band’s impressive career.

Stone Sour – Hydrograd

In China, there is a myth that carp swimming upstream try valiantly to swim up a waterfall, a clearly impossible task. Yet, they persist and persevere, straining every muscle as they strive to reach the top, and sure enough, a rare few are able to get there. It is said that any carp which successfully makes the climb is then rewarded for their determination with transformation into a mighty dragon. After swimming upstream for a decade, Stone Sour announced themselves a dragon of rock with their last two LPs, House of Gold and Bones (HoGaB) Parts 1 & 2 respectively. The masterful double album was the epitome of progressive hard rock in the modern era, infused with a thrilling concept, reoccurring musical and lyrical motifs, seamless transitions and excellent riffs. Taylor’s vocals moved effortlessly between unbridled aggression and morose beauty. The songwriting was inspired, each song standing proudly on its own two feet, yet even better when placed alongside its brethren. It was a rare release to draw inspiration from the giants of the 70’s and, when all was said and done, comfortably stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside them. Thus one could be forgiven for feeling optimistic about where Stone Sour went next. Unfortunately, Jim Root’s acrimonious departure in mid-2014 led to doubts over their future sound and direction, doubts which a pair of cover EPs did little to dispel. And so here we are in 2017, four years on from the magic that was HoGaB. Stone Sour is back, with Christian Martucci (Black President, ex-Chelsea Smiles) having replaced Root on guitar. The question though, is can they live up to the hype?

Solstafir – Berdreyminn

Iceland is a popular place these days in many ways and has become somewhat known for surprising people. The nation’s soccer (football) team shocked the sports world in 2016 in reaching the quarterfinals of Euro 2016, defeating England in the process, a plucky team in every sense of the word;…

Best Of – Power Ballads

Power ballads are in and of their nature sentimental sap-a-thons. They also happen to be one of the staples of metal and hard rock that kept its faint heartbeat alive at a time when the form had gone out of style with the mass public, if it had ever well and truly been “in.” These songs also served as gateways into metal for many a budding metalhead along with the more accessible songs that weren’t quite pop but had those sensibilities of melody and catchiness. This list is by no means definitive but it’s ours spanning a few decades and variants worth of feels. A number of contributors have added their favorites but please do share yours with us in the comments!

Summoner – Beyond The Realm of Light

Boston’s newest riff-appliance, Summoner, just dropped their third album, Beyond the Realm of Light. On the Metal Archives, they are listed as “Stoner/Doom Metal”, though, this seems a far cry from the content on this album. Every song on this record uses mid-paced to fast tempos, plenty of melody, and tons of upbeat energy. The band’s DNA consists of all the usual trappings and song ideas of traditional metal and NWOBHM but the band avoids the “vest metal” label by having an aesthetic closer to Baroness and later-Mastodon than Black Sabbath or Judas Priest. Unfortunately, this shift away from the norm is about 5 years too late and not enough to save the album from moments of sameness.

Royal Thunder – WICK

Atlanta hard rock outfit Royal Thunder have been making waves in the rock and metal blogosphere since their debut 2010 EP. Their sound is an amalgam of all the dadrock essentials: some blues rock, a little prog, a little 90s rock, and even a little classic metal—an odd sound for…

Mothership – High Strangeness

Mothership, out of Dallas, TX, claim a lot of ‘70s hard rock as influences while making one of the more interesting styles of stoner-space rock. The opening and title track of the album sounds more like a mashup of Monster Magnet and Explosions in the Sky than it does, say UFO or Black Sabbath. That said, the second track, “Ride the Sun”, on their third album, High Strangeness, lands squarely in that wheelhouse. One can also hear elements of Kyuss in the noise Mothership bring and it’s easy to see why they have become a favorite in their local scene and are now getting out on their own headlining tour. Just two songs in and they show a surprising range when they create a positively Iron Maiden-esque break around the 2:45 mark before locking down into a half-time groove to wind down the song.

Sail – Slumbersong

When is something good just as another example of its genre, without effort at innovation or experimentation? In other words, how do you distinguish between something that’s just lazy and an earnest work of art created out of love of the genre that might go a bit too far with leaving most of that genre’s tenets intact? Sail’s Slumbersong raises these questions and then some, as it mercilessly worships stoner metal in all its fuzzy glory, never bothering itself with saying anything new or audacious about the genre. But you know what? It works. Slumbersong is a pleasing album, clearly crafte with love and a not irrelevant amount of talent for riffs, raspy vocals and groove.