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Metal CD roundup

Working my way up to getting some proper writing done on this day of low productivity...

A while ago I noticed that having some good, nasty metal music on the discman helped me focus on my work better. To test that, I went to the library and rented four metal CDs. All of them were recorded after 1995, had promisingly tasteless cover art and had a name and reputation that I was familiar with. Unfortunately, that didn't stop them from being mostly awful, making this experiment a failure (that is, I still don't know if metal is better at keeping me focused on my work than other genres because I found listening to them too much of a chore to play the records repeatedly while working).

Beyond the Veil by Tristania is weepy Goth-metal mixing grunted male vocals with an operatic female soprano. There wouldn't be much wrong with that if the group, like many other weepy Goth-metal groups, hadn't forgotten to write coherent, comprehensible songs and resorted to stringing together riffs and fragments of music. I don't expect John Hiatt-level songwriting in a metal record, but I do have some minimal standards. Bleah.

Stratovarius, who had been recommended to me in the past, do have coherent songs, but that didn't make Elements pt.2 any less of a chore to listen to. If I'm in the mood to put on a metal album, the last thing I want to hear is life-affirming, optimistic lyrics. I want anger, hate and agression; get with the lootin', pillagin' and settin' fire to churches already! Seriously, Stratovarius' sub-Helloween Happy Metal got on my nerves. A lot. So did the guitar solos. I'd have enjoyed this one when I was 14 years old, but now it just sounds empty and air-headed.

Pro-bot by Dave Grohl and guests, is better. It's a tribute to the underground heavy metal of the 1980s with a wide range of vocalists from that era providing lyrics and vocals to music that Grohl wrote especially for them. It does emulate the pedestrian playing and indifferent production quality that I remember from 1980s underground metal, and some of the guest contributors are reduced to schtick — Lemmy from Motörhead in particular sounds like a shadow of his former self in "Shake Your Blood". Even Lemmy's bass playing sounds thin and distant. But it has some memorable songs, particularly "Ice Cold Man" with Napalm Death's Lee Dorrian guesting. It sounds more like Soundgarden than Napalm Death, but that's a good thing. In all, a decent effort that I could bear to play again.

Finally, Godless Savage Garden by Dimmu Borgir is an odd one. It's got a couple of re-recorded songs from a previous album, some live stuff and a ridiculous cover version of Accept's "Metal Heart". The live tracks are a blinding racket, worth listening to only for the opportunity to hear the "singer" pronounce the band's name. The studio tracks, however, are more disciplined and worth listening to. In fact, they energised me rather nicely and came closest to realising my aim of having some music to keep me awake and focused while working. That Accept cover is really really silly, though, especially the interpolation of one of the most appalling pieces of kitch found in the classical canon: Für Elise. I wonder if that was in the original. It's kept from going over the thin line between the clever and the stupid by the sheer apblomb with which it's delivered. I should probably have picked a later Dimmu Borgir album (indeed, I've got one album in MP3 format courtesy of head-banging buddy Danny), but the first five tracks on this one were quite enjoyable.

Comments (2)

Hey -

Lately my mid to late '90s metal bands of choice have been:

Entombed (Clandestine, To Ride/ShootStraight ...)
Carcass (Heartwork)
Napalm Death (Diatribes)
Static-X (Wisconsin Death Trip)

Also, the latest Fear Factory has been good to me, as has the first track off that Probot disc.

I'm partial to Death and Vo´vod.

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