October/November 2018–New Records

I limit myself to new music once a month, because otherwise I’ll get new stuff every day, listen to it once and then totally forget about it.  And that’s a bullshit effort to give a band, particularly metal bands that still put out full, cohesive records.

I’m old.

Here’s what I scooped up recently, and what I thought about it after a few spins:

1. High on Fire–Electric Messiah

The new High on Fire is remarkably good, and that feels to great to write after the complacency of the last two.  There were cool songs on Luminiferous and De Vermis, but nothing that just grabbed your fucking attention like Rumors of War or Snakes for the Diving or Fire Flood and Plague and the like.  But here, right out of the gate, 3 of the first 4 tracks are classics.  Sanctioned Annihilation is the best mid-paced crusher they’ve done since Blessed Black Wings.  Perhaps a little let down on Side B, but not by much.

An excellent return to form, making Matt Pike’s recent injury and tour cancellation all the more disappointing.  Get well soon.

2. Anaal Nathrakh–A New Kind of Horror

I check in with these guys every so often, and it usually leaves me cold.  I keep looking for that feeling the first time Eschaton clicked in for me.  I don’t think that feeling is coming back.  Stick to Between Shit and Piss we are Born.

3.  Drive By Truckers–The Dirty South

I love this band.  Out of place on this list, sure, but a great rock band that scratches that Lynyrd Skynyrd itch like just about no one else out there.  I know Southern Rock Opera and Decoration Day really well, but seeing them recently inspired a revisit to the catalog.  This was the consensus next best one, and I get it.  As with the other Truckers albums I’ve heard, there are plenty of swings and misses, but the hits really connect.  If it was just Where the Devil Don’t Stay and Lookout Mountain, the record would still be a worthy entry into their catalog.  But just focusing on those two would do a disservice to Isbell’s tunes.  Danko/Manuel, Never Gonna Change and Goddamn Lonely Love are beautiful tracks that Cooley and/or Hood would be proud to have written.

4.  Revocation–The Outer Ones

Always mean to give these guys more of a chance, and always end up missing their show or just not picking up the new one because a few other records look a little more interesting.  Don’t fall into that trap for The Outer Ones–it is excellent.  Fills the void The Red Chord left behind.

Plus they covered Pull the Plug the one time I did sack up and see them.  That’s worth supporting.

5.  Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats–Wasteland

Not quite up to the level of the first record, but I put it above the second and on par with the last one.  The highlight for me is Uncle Acid unveiling a few new moves, including some twin guitar attack on Blood Runner and some real doomy groove on No Return.  These are welcome changes of pace alongside the tried and true Uncle Acid formula on tunes like Shockwave City.  Their tour with Graveyard next year should be worth a look, even if Graveyard’s last couple records were pretty disposable.

6.  Horrendous–Idol

This is an amazing record, a worthy successor in their string of home runs, and a contender for album of the year.  The best comparison I can think of is post-Human-era Death.  You know every record is going to be heavy, catchy, complex, inviting, familiar and innovative all at the same time.  Horrendous may have unseated Enslaved as best active metal band for me (especially since the last Enslaved was kind of…boring…you didn’t hear me actually say that).  They also put on a high-energy live show that isn’t too self-serious, a rarity in progressive death metal.

7.  Behemoth–I Loved You at blah blah a fucking Children’s Choir?  Really Nergal?

I don’t have much else to say beyond the above.  There are two cool tracks in Ecclesia Diabolica Catholica and Sabbath Mater.  The rest is kinda butt, though not insultingly so.  Sometimes Behemoth is meh, like the Apostasy, and sometimes they are awesome, like on the Satanist.  The Amon Amarth dynamic.  Unfortunately, this one is on the down cycle.

 

All in all an excellent set of records, sans Behemoth and Anaal unfortunately showing their age.  New shit from the Ocean and Bloodbath on deck!

 

Nine Inch Nails–October 27, 2018–Aragon Ballroom

This was the third and final night of NIN’s mini-residency at Aragon Ballroom.  It felt a little more special because of how the tickets had been distributed–there was no initial sale through LiveNation and the other evildoers, and instead you had to literally stand in line for 5 hours to get them morning they went on sale.  Was it cold and aggravating to do so?  You bet your ass.  But that air of community and doing something with other people instead of through your screen while merely in physical proximity to other people was palpable, and worthwhile.  Until it became clear a couple hours later that the FUCKING TICKETS WERE ON STUBHUB FOR ONLY A $20 MARKUP.  Somehow NIN didn’t think to put a no re-sale on these fuckers?  Goddamn it.

No matter once the shows got closer though.  I’ve been to quite a few NIN shows, and they have not disappointed a single time.  The best of the lot was a With Teeth preview “club” show they did at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2004.  That venue holds about 4,000, not dissimilar to the 5-6k at Aragon, and the energy was palpable.  But not far behind was Riot Fest just two years ago, where they smoked every other band from any of the three days by a wide margin.

So what did Trent have in store for this evening?  I was just a little bummed to discover it was not the Broken EP front to back, which has been and continues to be my favorite NIN release.  They did play Wish, Last and Gave Up though, so can’t complain.  And the rest of the set was littered with surprises (Last, Sin) and multiple stretches of true momentum.  Though Reznor is not nearly as crazed as the violent, barely contained maniac he was in the 90s and early 2000s on stage, the energy still surpasses 99% of any other band in any other genre.  The electronic/dance bent of so much of their stuff gives way to a cathartic aggression/release dynamic live.  I hope that never goes away.

The highlight was the sprint to the finish of the main set, where they unleashed in succession:

  • The Perfect Drug
  • Sin
  • Gave Up
  • The Big Come Down
  • Starfuckers, Inc.
  • Wish
  • Head Like a Hole

It was impossible to catch your breath, but I don’t think anyone wanted to.  For me, it was the thrill of realizing NIN’s bench is so deep at this point.  And with Reznor still so prolific and somehow healthy, their status as a dominant, EVENT live act may just be getting started.  Why can’t NIN become Pearl Jam?

The show of course ended with that contemplative moment where they cover Johnny Cash…er….you know.  If Hurt wasn’t perfect, I’d likely be annoyed with it by now.

This was the best show I’ve seen all year.   Now let’s keep it rolling Trent!

Paradise Lost–October 10, 2018–House of Blues, Chicago

I’m late to the Paradise Lost party.  An exhaustive Decibel article a few years ago inspired me to pick up Gothic, which I enjoyed quite a bit, but I did not pursue them any further.  I think my bad experience with Anathema (who sucks, guys, c’mon now) kept me away from the doomdeath/gothdeath scene.  Which may have been a mistake, because after everyone lost their shit over Medusa last year, I scooped that up and things suddenly started clicking.  It is fucking GREAT, and I am truly hooked now, giving Shades of God and Icon a few spins and excited to seek out more.

I was just getting into Medusa when this tour was announced.  It was welcome news because The Atlas Moth was opening and I had to miss their previous Empty Bottle show with Royal Thunder (which I’m sure was amazing, that’s a crazy bill).  But fuck, I missed Atlas Moth again here, so I have nothing to say about their performance other than Coma Noir is amazing and everyone should buy it.  They are a different band from their first 3 records on this one.  Sanford Parker apparently figured them out more than they could for themselves, and their new iteration has put out the best record this year.

Thankfully I was able to make it in time for the headliner, and more thankfully, the House of Blues was NOT sold out.  Now I want as many fans to come to these shows as possible to support the bands and all that good shit.  But as anyone who has ever been to the House of Blues knows, that place is one of the worst places on earth when it is sold out.  Not just concert venues.  Places, generally speaking.  Good luck moving an inch ANYWHERE on the floor–no beer, no bathroom, no breathing.  Plenty of needless pillars fucking up your sightline.  And an incredibly narrow viewing area?  Check.  Fuck this place.

But with the floor nice and open and conditions humane, this was one of the better experiences I’ve had at a smaller show this year.  A lot of that has to do with the professionalism of the band–pacing, stage presence, setlist, all of it.  The sound was a little spotty early, but they sorted that out in time for Greg MacKintosh to fuckin drill the lead on “Blood and Chaos” from the new one, and I was locked in from that moment.  The weight of each tune, the way they are able to make their songs feel like their own separate events in a set, is not a common skill in metal–outside of the obvious ones like Maiden, its really just Enslaved (when not just playing the new record), Opeth and Amon Amarth that spring to mind.  Paradise Lost has this, and it allowed the uninitiated like myself an easy in.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the sing alongs, though maybe that was more down to not being grounded in their more goth period.  “Say Just Words” was a lot of fun though, and there were a couple other moments of audience participation that I’m sure go smoother in Europe where the fans are typically more engaged.

Excellent show, excellent band, butt venue, buy Medusa and Coma Noir.