I try to keep up with metal and heavy rock internationally, but it was nice to get review material from an Iraqi band. Let it not be said I'm not open to metal from all lands.
Acrassicauda: Only the Dead See the End of War
Metal bands love writing about death and war. However, very few bands will be able to call on experiences of actual war to color their lyrical output. This lot, the subject of the documentary Heavy Metal in Baghdad, have seen enough to power the minds of scores of metal bands. And if you want to talk persecution and angst, they have seen their share of that too. They had to flee to the U.S. to pursue their preferred craft.
While only an EP, it’s a pretty tight affair. This is not surprising as it's produced by Testament/Alex Skolnick Trio man Alex Skolnick. There are various influences here from Megadeth on “Message from Baghdad” to something a bit more modern on “The Unknown”. Not one of these tracks disappoint despite their eclectic nature. It’s a release where the band is exploring their influences and finding their feet.
A compelling biography and some damn find metal really combine to quite an interesting package. With their next release, presumably a full one, they will have to emerge from their saga to play in the big leagues. On the strength of this release, they are certain to have a really good crack at it. Certainly a band to watch.
At Vance: Ride the Sky
This band are that European brand of metal that is highly polished, musically proficient, and terribly catchy. For proof, just listen to the soaring track “Last in Line.” It hits all the right triggers over the course of its length. Some might quibble about the pretentiousness of including an instrumental track called “Vivaldi” but that would be petty.
Rick Altzi has a Jeff Scott Soto quality about his voice and successfully avoids the pronunciation pratfalls you sometimes find with this sort of band. His voice is perfectly matched to the soaring guitar widdling of Olaf Lenk. In fact, the only criticism I could muster for this release is the rather pointless, if passable, cover of Bad Company’s “Wishing Well”. That said it could so easily be butchered and the band pull it off with aplomb. This lot don’t need to do covers any more so it’s a bit of waste.
If you like sophistication and quite a bit of melody in your power metal, than this band will work nicely. The mixture of AOR, power metal, and classical sensibilities works well. If you like the early days of Rising Force before Malmsteen went a bit off the boil, look no further. Over look the rather cheesy name and enjoy the music.
Raise the Red Lantern: s/t
These guys don’t do subtle that is for sure. They named their last album Thunderfuck and this release carries on that tradition. There isn't an over the top title like the first one, but they do let their music to the talking. They are made up of three guys who build custom speaker cabinets used by bands like Pelican and their ilk and anther who is part of the metal progressive jazz band Yakuza that has been amazing and confusing its listeners for years.
Similar to bands like Baroness and other purveyors of metal stoner doom, this is heavy stuff played with lots of attitude and angst. It's an amalgam of all the possible incarnations of doom metal from the modern to Black Sabbath and back again. You never know what is round the corner, but you are sure keen to get there.
Ultimately this sort of stuff is love or hate music. And you will probably not be sure how you feel depending on the day you listen. Deep, heavy riffing sludge that rewards the listener if you give a chance. Although it might be a bit of hype, this band does smack of one that you will be telling people you knew them once they hit the big time.
Okay, it's hard to tell what the hell this release is or what genre it falls under. One track would work great at a roller disco, “Strut (Disco Ball Mix),” with its naturally 70s disco vibe tinged with nice guitar riffing. This is an in-house re-mix done by Andy Selway of the band. Next thing you know it's some uber-heaviness care of the nuts at Prong. Ivan de Prime of White Zombie shows up for a mix of “Never say Never”. This is also a track that is tackled by Komar Kommando whoever he is, needless to say they end up quite different. Oh yeah and “Rave” Oglivie also takes a crack at the track.