The Anatomy Of: Vexes

Surely by now you've all heard some of the buzz surrounding the up-and-coming hard rock / post-hardcore group Vexes. Featuring former members of A Life Once Lost, Vessl, Fury of Five, and Downstage, the act are... Read More...

Heavy Rewind – 1987: The Year in Metal

Every once in a great while we have calendar years that see iconic releases across a range of styles. It is rare that we see this happen in just one particular style. 1987 was one such year, though, as the entire spectrum of heaviness saw iconic records drop like so many tears from the eyes of mainstream pop music stars that these albums would devour. At the time, it didn’t seem like this was any different of a year for music until fans started to take a look at their growing record collections and what would spin out from the influence of so many landmark albums.

Hey! Listen to Electric Hoodoo!

It’s a well documented fact that rock music has roots in the blues; you can’t really step into rock without running into the staples of the genre. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Guns N’ Roses, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and more all lapped up the sounds of B.B. King and Muddy Waters like milk in their early careers. Blues rock is still prevalent today, with bands like The Black Keys and The White Stripes taking massive influences from early blues acts. But where’s blues metal in all of this? We always think of blues rock, but not much more. Guns N’ Roses arguably footed the line between hard rock and metal, and some bands today - Elder comes to mind, as do many bands from the recent trend of throwback and "occult" metal (Graveyard, Witchcraft) - have some minor hints of blues. However, we never really think of/see metal bands adding a significant chunk of Muddy Waters to their music. I believe that Electric Hoodoo, and their self-titled album, are an important stepping stone on the path to that blues metal sound. While they aren’t entirely metal, they are about as heavy as you’re going to get at the moment with a band so inspired by the blues.

Half Life – Alice In Chains

Alice In Chains were one of the few bands, in my opinion, to overcome the stigma that the label of “grunge” brought to bands in the 90s. While it took years (if even that) for the likes of Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots to be thought of as more alternative rock, Alice In Chains sort of stuck in the middle. They don’t quite fit into any particular genre. The amount of blues they are influenced by makes one want to put them in with the like of Guns N’ Roses, yet the heaviness that guitarist Jerry Cantrell brings to the table, combined with the vocal harmonies the band is now famous for, puts it somewhere in metal. (Cantrell, for the record, actually believes the band to be heavy metal.) But nonetheless, the influence the band has had has been enormous. Dirt remains one of the best albums of the 90s, and Layne Staley is remembered as one of modern rock’s greatest singers. It’s about time we go back and go over the albums that made this band what they are today.

Oceans of Slumber – Winter

It is beginning to become apparent that it is our fate, preordained by a cruel group of gods intent on prolonging our misery, to keep railing and raging against the sin of album structure and, more specifically, this industry's apparent inability to understand how important it is. Album after potentially great album are destroyed in the hot fires of confusion, chaotic arrangements rendering their otherwise decent voices into a cacophony of wailing, lacking context or understanding. It is an especially frustrating flaw to have; you can sense the potential being squandered, willing as hard as you can to manage to like and enjoy this disjointed mess, like Frankenstein mewling over his mangled creation. To come to the point, Oceans of Slumber's Winter is such a frustrating creation. This album is filled with gems and when it's on, you know it's on. However, it is also almost completely dominated by lackluster explorations into arena rock, cover songs and lukewarm folk renditions, completely burying the excellence contained within it in a bland nothingness.