Posts Tagged “Masterwork”

– April 15th, 2013 – Progressive sound revolutionists THE OCEAN today present “Bathyalpelagic III: Disequillibrated” from their anticipated forthcoming new masterwork, Pelagial . Easily their most profoundly sophisticated work to date, Pelagial is a true sonic journey written, recorded, mixed and to-be-performed-live as one single 53-minute piece of music

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Peaceville Records has posted a video clip online of Jonas and Per from Katatonia discussing the band’s forthcoming tours: the “Epic Kings & Idols” tour with Devin Townsend and Paradise Lost, and the “Dead Ends of Europe” tour with Alcest and Junius supporting. All dates & tickets can be found at this location. Peaceville also commented on the band’s upcoming “Dead End Kings” album:

“A continuation of 2009′s inspired & acclaimed Night is the New Day, Dead End Kings sees Katatonia conjure yet another milestone in audial melancholy & angst. The Katatonia of 2012 is more potent, focused and creatively impactful than ever before. Jonas Renkse and Anders Nyström – alongside guitarist Per Eriksson, bassist Niklas Sandin and drummer Daniel Liljekvist — are at the peak of their powers right now, and their brand new studio album Dead End Kings provides incontrovertible evidence of their unstoppable artistic momentum. A rich, adventurous and endlessly evocative masterwork that exhibits all the Swedish quintet’s established traits while absorbing countless fresh ideas into that monumental sonic brew, this is plainly the strongest and most beguiling album in the Katatonia catalogue to date. It also proves that sadness comes in many shades and that no one is safe from its cold allure.”

“Dead End Kings represents progression and taking things to the next level,” says Renkse. “The writing was a little more intense and spontaneous for this one. I think that’s the biggest difference. But it was made with the same mindset as the last few albums. It just had a little more fire involved. We don’t want to repeat ourselves. We are still hungry for new music.”

Katatonia’s forthcoming 9th album “Dead End Kings” hits stores in Europe on August 27th & North America on August 28th through Peaceville Records.

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U.K. atmospheric death/doom band Indesinence has completed work on the upcoming new album “Vessels Of Light And Decay.” Profound Lore Records commented on the release:

“‘Vessels Of Light And Decay,’ while only being the band’s second full-length in their decade-plus year career, shows the obsessiveness and fine attention to detail in which Indesinence employ when creating such vast, epic, ocean engulfing monstrous soundscapes. During the listening discourse of ‘Vessels Of Light And Decay’ one will witness how this work of deathly doom metal art evolves into a monolithic sonic monstrosity making them one of the UK’s most prominent death/doom bands today.

“Described by the band (who have ties and comradeship with bands such as Grave Miasma, Cruciamentum, Pantheist, Code, Esoteric, and Adorior) as ‘A full frontal assault of Celtic Frost, Swans, Demoncy, and Barclay James Harvest,’ ‘Vessels Of Light And Decay’ is a distinct and singular death/doom masterwork which will be realized as an important pillar of the genre. One that will carry on the tradition and foundations laid upon by such classic releases as ‘Lost Paradise,’ ‘Gothic,’ ‘Crestfallen,’ ‘Pentecost III,’ ‘The Thrash Of Naked Limbs,’ and ‘As The Flower Withers.’”

To be officially released September 18th in a thick hardcover digibook (this will be the only format the album will be available in, initially), the tracklisting for “Vessels Of Light And Decay” goes as follows:

1. Flux
2. Paradigms
3. Vanished Is The Haze
4. Communion
5. La Madrugada Eterna
6. Fade (Further Beyond)
7. Unveiled

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“The Rains Begin,” the debut music video from Barren Earth’s new masterwork, The Devil’s Resolve, is now complete and streaming online.

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Alice CooperWelcome 2 My Nightmare
2011 Universal Music Enterprises
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Uncle Alice is back, not that he ever left. This is still one of the most pliable entertainers still haunting the scene. Alice Cooper may not have been given immediate due for his more recent albums such as The Eyes of Alice Cooper, Dragontown, Dirty Diamonds and 2008’s groovy-freaky hedonism jaunt, Along Came a Spider, but the man’s legend has surreptitiously risen even more beneath the radar. Recently Alice Cooper has been bestowed with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and iconic bestowments from Kerrang! and the Revolver Golden God Awards. Alice remains a king of his domain and best of all, he continuously delivers what his subjects want.

Perhaps all of this just fanfare inspired Alice Cooper to attempt something that almost never fully works: a sequel to his own best-known body of work, Welcome to My Nightmare. It takes a lot of stones to take on the task of writing a connector piece to an album written almost 40 years ago. Yeah, get your head around that a second, if you will. Alice has been on the scene for that long, and while Queensryche found themselves nailed to the cross more often than not for Operation Mindcrime II, Uncle Alice will be a lock not to suffer the same fate with Welcome 2 My Nightmare.

It’s the respect for the original work, plus the respect for himself and his fans that allows us to give a cheerful thumbs-up to this project. The highest compliment we can pay to Welcome 2 My Nightmare is that this is its own beast. While there’s undertones of the seventies on “I Am Made of You,” “When Hell Comes Home” and “The Nightmare Returns,” songs with subliminal tubular bells haunting their chiming melodies, this album is thoroughly updated with a powerful punch and an elder statesman’s appreciation for what transcends the decades separating these bodies of work.

Alice Cooper best bridges his 1975 masterwork to modern life on “The Congregation,” a song with enough Love it to Death era and Gary Glitter struts poofed up to a loud retro kick The Black Keys are no doubt taking strong note of.

“Caffeine” is a slamming bit of rock agitation with a PT Barnum blow-up beneath the cagey humor. Here Uncle Alice gives us a bit of nyuk nyuk explanation as to why he and his alter-alter ego Steven are wracked by this ever-continuing cerebral melodrama. A bad caffeine trip. If you’ve ever drank enough cups of coffee in succession, the near-paralysis and catatonic head trips left at the end of that java onslaught will toy with your noodle. Said from this writer’s personal experience.

Now, are we to insinuate Alice Cooper has sold us a huckstering, nyeh-nyeh, fooled you rock opera, all plugged by the simplistic revelation that drinking too much coffee cooks you rightly? No, of course not. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is more the rock cartoon that Rob Zombie could’ve had with his Haunted World of El Superbeasto if the latter wasn’t more obsessed with tit humor every other frame. It takes a gifted artist to know that hillbilly shakes and oom-pah bandstanding are riotous ways to portray a brain bake, conveyed through “A Runaway Train” and “Last Man On Earth” respectively.

Then there’s the hilarious rock roast, “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever,” an intentionally nutty blast which is shrewder than you think. Consider this Alice’s torching of the original disco era in which he was forced to tinker with on some of his late seventies’ work, not to mention bits of the original Welcome to My Nightmare. It’s also an acknowledgement that today’s pop scene is lost in a disco revival and it well serves this new nightmare Alice Cooper is spinning for our consumption like the master showman he is. Alice’s clownish rapping on “Disco Bloodbath” is nearly as funny as the “disco is hell, that’s where we’re at” choruses. Only he could get away such lunacy, along with a hummable toe-tapper like “I’ll Bite Your Face Off” that has planted blues and country beneath twisted rock groove. Wait for the cadelabra-lit piano breakdown on that one. Riot. Nearly as much a riot as Alice’s hung ten surfing bird, “Ghouls Gone Wild.”

Also, only Alice Cooper could get away with bringing hip hop-pop megastar Ke$ha into his refined carnival of dementia. Their duet on “What Baby Wants” is sketchy on paper but ends up being a fun pop rock jerk-out, as catchy as anything else on Welcome 2 My Nightmare, and the hooks are out all over it.

Part of why this album works so much is due to the rogue’s gallery of musicians and collaborators Alice corrals. Cool enough he has past associates such as Dick Wagner, Michael Bruce, Steve Hunter, Dennis Dunaway and Neal Smith coming by for the party. Welcome 2 My Nightmare is graced with the presence of Bob Ezrin, overseer of the original Nightmare and without a doubt, the alignment of theory and mind pays off dividends once again. Cameos by Vince Gill, John 5 and Patterson Hood of the Drive By Truckers on top of Ke$ha only add to this album’s festivities. Always thinking in the moment, that Alice. No wonder Steven doesn’t stand a chance in his three-ring sanguinary world.

While nothing here rings ethereal-eternal like “Cold Ethyl,” “The Black Widow”, “Steven” and “Only Women Bleed,” Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a banging capsule of Alice’s long standing in the music industry and for good measure, he sends out a breathy love note to his fans with “Something to Remember Me By.” Written as if in 1975, this one has a pretty poison you just know has dastardly designs beneath the sweetness and effervesence. All implied, never stated, make sure you ask Uncle Alice to tip his top hat to make sure there’s nothing murderous beneath as he croons “Something to Remember Me By” to you.

Welcome 2 My Nightmare didn’t need to be stellar, but it did need to be worthy enough to carry its daunted title. It’s more than worthy; it’s a huge success and even more inspired than Along Came a Spider, which was damned fun in its own right. This is one is heavier in sound than Welcome to My Nightmare, while the latter is heavier in the classic sense. Put together, they’re yin and yan separated by generations. Uncle Alice seems proud the world cares so much about him, because his pride sounds off resplendently on this album.

Run, Steven, run…

Rating: ****

To Buy Welcome 2 My Nightmare, click here:

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As Judas Priest will be hitting the road this year for their reported final tour, it’s appropriate to wander back to their 1977 masterwork, Sin After Sin.

Sin After Sin was, at one time, an acquired taste in Priest’s catalog. While it remains one of their all-time heaviest and most polished recordings, most fans picked up with the band either via British Steel and Hell Bent For Leather or Screaming for Vengeance and Defenders of the Faith. Those albums are slicker, louder and filled with iconic heavy metal classics. Sin After Sin is iconic itself, but you really had to dig backwards when learning the history of metal in order to appreciate their grinding “Dissident Aggressor” (made popular by benefit of Slayer’s cover) and the banging “Sinner,” “Race With the Devil” and “Starbreaker.”

A bit more refined than the over-the-top bludgeoning and tunefulness of their later work, Sin After Sin is a portal into a heavy metal wonderland, in sound by “Last Rose of Summer” and visually by the album’s escapist artwork. I have a great fondness for a lot of the older, detailed paintings gracing Judas Priest’s albums, in particular for Sad Wings of Destiny, Rocka Rolla and the Hero Hero compilation. I’m most fond, however, of the minimalist copier paper trail to infinitum found on Point of Entry. As a writer, that triggers my neurons and sends them scampering in search of that elusive vanishing point.

Yet the Sin After Sin album cover may provoke the most imagination of any of Priest’s albums. I think of Heavy Metal the magazine, I think of Arthur’s fadeout in Excalibur and I think of lust and desire, depicted in the abstract forms found at the sepulchure’s portal on this cover. One must deal with temptation from both sides when approaching the tomb, which really strikes my fancy.

Seduction and damnation await all who enter, and yet the Sin After Sin cover makes you want to see more, particularly to see if there’s a payout to the suggested sex by the translucent girl parting her legs to the side. What’s she hiding between her thighs? Kind of reminds you of an installment of Den from the pages of Heavy Metal, yes? With the devil obscura towards panel left, you get the feeling there’s pain coming with the pleasure, woe be to your genitalia…

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RosettaA Determinism of Morality
2010 Translation Loss
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Rosetta may not be Isis, Neurosis or Pelican, but as of now they are scary close.

The Philly art metal unit has been building promise alongside peers such as Mouth of the Architect, Balboa (with whom Rosetta shared a cool split EP), Cult of Luna and Long Distance Calling. Rosetta’s 2007 output Lift/Wake was more of an announcement of this group’s capabilities than their brow-raising debut The Galilean Satellites. Yeah, there may be another alt rock Rosetta in Michigan, but at this point, Broad Street’s won the bragging rights.

Did anyone expect Rosetta to elevate themselves to the proportions they achieve on their latest album A Determinism of Morality? Seriously, Rosetta suddenly find themselves in a class equal to The Ocean and Red Sparowes this album is that good.

Would peeling the paint be declared an official art form, A Determination of Morality would lie somewhere between impressionism and expressionism. Their isolated fragments dotted, streaked and melded onto an aural escapist canvas, Rosetta has engineered an aerodynamic masterwork of ambient chaos.

Declaring a state of urgency with clambering drum flails by Bruce McMurtrie, Jr. which rolls and rolls and rolls on the opening number “Ayil,” Rosetta seizes their audience’s attention with massive shakes and throttles before wailing a sequence of ear-puncturing guitar tugs in a loud and shivery breakdown by J. Matthew Weed.

Weed brilliantly escorts rails of shoegazing guitar luminescence ala Kitchens of Distinction, My Bloody Valentine, Lush and Sonic Youth on “Je N’en Connais Pas la Fin” and other songs on A Determination of Morality before he and David Grossman stamp on their pedals and blast their immediate space to obliteration. Their tone-heavy anarchy is controlled by tranqulity as soothing heralds to the bombasts following their wake. When Rosetta amps up on this album, you freaking feel it.

“Blue Day for Croatoa” threads above a whisper upon a strong set of chord sequences and a sleek aura susurrating behind them. Rosetta barely turns up the urgency by the six minute mark yet never delivers a climax. Some may consider this a big-time cheat, but before the listener can cry foul, Rosetta thuds down a climax within the first tick of “Release” and never lets up the intensity minus a swervy stabilization to allot for clean vocal foils to Michael Armine’s customary woofing. In the final stanza of “Release,” Rosetta turns on the brutality switch yet it’s done in grandiose fashion you can’t help surrender to the emotive mood shift. A ballsy maneuver on Rosetta’s part to separate the songs with airs of tension and the suspicion of no payoff, but it works beautifully.

Rosetta plays within the precepts of drone, trance and ostinato and only on the ten-minute title song do they truly emulate Isis’ sculpture modes. Make no mistake, though; this band is pure alt at-heart, evidenced by the Cure and Siouxie-ish hypno-swoon during the opening of “Revolve.”

Jesus and Mary Chain and Cure sprinkles are found throughout the dreamy “Renew,” which soon erupts with gorgeous thunder, serving perfect justice to all of the delicate measures planted beforehand. Though you know the aggression is on its way, once Rosetta swings their clubs into action, they’re so freaking wonderful you want to scream skywards with rapture. Better yet, Rosetta halts the boom of “Renew” after its momentary arrival, leaving a rare gimme more hankering. Fret not space cadet, for you’re lifted, propelled and satiated in full on “A Determinism of Morality.”

If this was Dancing With the Stars, it’d be goddamned hard not to pull up that elusive 10 paddle.

Rating: ****1/2

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Suicidal TendenciesLive at the Olympic Auditorium
2010 Fontana Distribution
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Suicidal Tendencies never wholly received the grace of forgiveness bands such as D.R.I. and Broken Bones were extended as punk crossovers. While the latter bands were celebrated and championed by metal historians (in D.R.I.’s case, lovingly praised for inadvertently dubbing the word “crossover” via their first technically thrash album of the same name), Suicidal Tendencies were nailed to the cross for about-facing into their surf and slam modes during the late eighties.

Push to shove, the speed metal incarnation of Suicidal, which featured fan favorite shredder Rocky George and eventually future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, was actually the most proficient of all the crossover acts. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow…When I Can’t Even Smile Today remains Suicidal’s masterwork for their metallic era, even if that album cost the band a lot of cred in the eyes of the skate punks who nurtured the band with their loyalty.

After scoring big with Lights…Camera…Revolution, it was the adventurous and brazen The Art of Rebellion which found Mike Muir and company exposing themselves at the roots, yet they were promptly faced with the backs of their newly-won thrash horde, which joined not Suicidal’s army, but the ranks with the original punkers Suicidal first staked their reputations with.

Despite the peculiar and sometimes blazing career path Suicidal Tendencies found themselves upon, once you cut the cloth and tie on the swag, this is a punk band deep in its heart and soul. It’s taken a veritable collapse of favor and a lot industry dissing upon the shoulers of Muir (who went deep underground for a long time) for the name of Suicidal Tendencies to spoken reverentially again.

In this time, the lineup continues to be shaken up as Mike Muir remains the lone wolf prowling from the lineup recording Suicidal Tendencies’ quintessential 1983 self-titled album. The man with the most tenure in Suicidal beside Muir is rhythm guitarist Mike Clark, and here is where we find the group in their first-ever DVD Live at the Olympic Auditorium.

It took a special moment to lure Muir and his refurbished punk unit out of the shadows, hence this moment captured for posterity with an excitable Mike Muir slinking and cutting from side-to-side onstage as he’s always done in the midst of an area-loved and punk-hospitable venue witnessing its final moments.

Closing the doors of the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles with a stripped and dirtied punk version of Suicidal Tendencies is one for the history books. Considering Suicidal had long been banned from playing in L.A. (having been accused of being gangbangers even before such lingo was spun), you have to appreciate the irony of seeing them finish a chapter of the city’s underground.

It would’ve been truly fitting to have Louiche Mayorga, Grant Estes and Amery Smith help savor the butter, so to speak, however, give Muir’s 2005 stable a hand for putting on an appropriately rowdy and punk-oriented performance. Even when dipping into the metal catalog of Suicidal Tendencies with “Waking the Dead,” “Won’t Fall in Love Today” and “Pledge Your Allegiance,” there’s no flash or meaty chugs, only streamlined downpicking to accompany the flighty, whirlwind tempos replicant of the Suicidal Tendencies days.

Much of the set on Live at the Olympic Auditorium is corralled from the pivotal debut album via “I Shot Reagan,” “I Saw Your Mommy,” “Suicidal Failure,” “Subliminal,” “Two Sided Politics” and their manic fantastic calling card, “Institutionalized.” Added to the fun is “Possessed to Skate” and “War Inside My Head,” the two best cuts from Suicidal’s frequently-maligned Join the Army album from 1987.

As he’s done throughout his tenure leading Suicidal, Mike Muir chants, recites and proseltyzes in-between songs, but soon enough, Steve Bruner is slapping some mad bass to issue some random downhome funk, while Dean Pleasants scorches his frets as quickly as Dave Hidalgo (recently replaced by Eric Moore of Muir’s longtime side project Infectious Grooves) can beat down the skate rat tempos which forged this band from the beginning.

Though the track listing on the DVD case omits the always-hilarious “Send Me Your Money” from Lights…Camera…Revolution! it’s even funnier this time as the rhythm is deliberately scaled a click in some sections, upped in others, keeping it street instead of slick. Thus a polished metal jam from 1990 gets reinvented with a greasier punk tweak ala 1984.

Fans of Suicidal Tendencies from the start are going to feel a sense of relief watching Live at the Olympic Auditorium. For all they might’ve perceived to have suffered as Suicidal explored every opportunity for growth they could, this one’s shot right to the do-ragged domes of the old league. Though some may scoff at Muir for constantly jabbering about being punk, he does slip in an admission of guilt before his audience; without using the words, he’s labeling himself a former sellout who needed a cocooning phase to get real.

The behind-the-scenes story to this show is even more disruptive when you consider Muir found himself practically paralyzed before this concert transpired. Postponing back surgery, Muir’s capacity to roam all over the stage with 4000 fans in front of him and a gallery of photogs and fans poised directly behind the band is pretty damned inspirational. You have to cheer he gave his all for a noble cause in this matter…

Rating: ****

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2009 Relapse Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Voivod has long been a part of my music-listening DNA so it’s uncontrollable not to put a personal stamp on this review now that Infini is in all likelihood the final trip down their sonic vacuum tube.

Killing Technology was love at first hear back in the mid-eighties while Dimension Hatross became absolute obsession. The earlier Voivod albums War and Pain and Rrroooaaarrr were animalistic slabs of noise exploration within a thrash construct (a crackly vibe resurrected later on Phobos when Denis “Snake” Belanger had briefly drifted out of the band), yet there’s no doubt in most longtime metal fans’ minds Voivod were carving paths with their first four releases. By the time their less abrasive and far more progressive 1989 masterwork Nothingface came along the pike, one might’ve considered heavy metal forever altered. If you trace everything happening in metal since, you can see the point.

It was at this point in Voivod’s innovative career when I was writing a heavy metal and punk column in my college newspaper. From ’89 into 1990 I made it a crusade to expose Voivod to as many eyes and ears as possible, boldly declaring Voivod the band of the future. For my efforts, Voivod’s former label Mechanic lavished me with a motherload of a press kit, my very first shoulder-rubbing with the industry. I remember seeing Voivod headline over a quickly-rising Soundgarden and Faith No More, overall the second best show I’ve been witness to and still Voivod reigned supreme over their equally game openers. I also remember a local FM radio station playing Voivod’s cover of “Astronomy Domine” for a Smash or Trash segment, and considering the clientele this AOR station catered to, it still broke my heart to hear so many jughead “play it safe” listeners who thought Great White’s “Once Bitten Twice Shy” cover was not only their own song but a killer one at that slag Voivod to death. Those fools…

Though it would be until 2006 before I was able to interview Snake for Pit magazine as the remnants of Voivod had banded together to honor their fallen guitarist Denis “Piggy” D’Amour with Katorz, I never lost my love for the band. Yeah, they took many strange but interesting turns with Angel Rat, Negatron, Phobos, the oddball remix and live compilation Kronik and their self-titled “comeback” album from 2003 featuring “Jasonic” Jason Newsted amidst their ranks. Of course, The Outer Limits is perhaps Voivod’s most underrated album in their entire career, while it all comes to boil nicely in 2009 with the release of Infini, assumedly their final output.

The first spin of Infini for me was melancholic and emotional, I’ll have to admit, albeit it was a frequently breathtaking experience. It all has to do with the realization of finality knowing Voivod had purposefully divvied out Piggy’s recorded guitar tracks to create two posthumous celebrations of the late shredder’s contributions to metal. Katorz had a been joyful confrontation, knowing Snake, Jason Newsted and Michel “Away” Langevin were apt enough to build solid tunes around Piggy’s archived guitar parts.

Infini, however, is something far grander. Could anyone honestly expect an album whose principal sound generator is no longer with us to come out not only strong, but memorable, an easy contender for one of Voivod’s hallmarks? It couldn’t have been easy in either the case of Katorz or Infini to work without the physical presence of their rhythm engine, however Voivod has the grace on Infini to put Piggy out there front and center like the actual breathing superhuman of the six strings he was, using the steady headbobber “Deathproof” as an example.

Ever since making the controversial decision to walk from Metallica, Jason Newsted has restored a large bit of his street cred by hobknobbing with Voivod. You can see his attraction. From the get-go when Jean-Yves “Blacky” Theriault was still in the band, Voivod’s resonance has relied on bass-heavy projection to assist with their cybernetic air duct cadence. Theriault was nearly superhuman himself as one of the few remotely able to keep up with Piggy’s blinding and constantly interchanging guitar lines, which is why Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross and Nothingface are three of the genre’s most eloquent albums ever recorded.

As Voivod has slowed considerably over time, the capacity of Newsted’s methodic and personable bass (criminally bleached over many times by his former comrades) has been a no-brainer character to reviving them. It’s not necessarily the name, but the punctuation Newsted brings to the table. Infini may be Piggy’s salutory farewell, but undoubtedly it’s a signature album for Newsted as well, who is loud with a vengeance on “Pyramidome,” “God Phones,” “From the Cave” and “Global Warning.” Never to the point of drowning Piggy’s leads, however, which is why Infini is a tremendous success.

With Newsted manning the production console, Infini sounds contemporary, straightforward and heavy, heavy, heavy. Very little prog shows up on Infini, instead directly pinpointing the grooves Piggy injected into his hard drive, albeit “Pyramidome” comes close to the progressive overtones of Nothingface and Angel Rat. Largely, Infini hums on the backbone of Piggy’s distinctive, lofty chords (which many guitarists have gone on record stating they’re damn near impossible to replicate), plus it pulses with Newsted’s focused undercurrents, Away’s busy drum fills and Snake’s gravelly pipes.

As Snake penned the lyrics to Infini, he’s more content with growling his words through the album than attempting to hit the higher cleans, which sometimes foiled him on the self-titled album. “Morpheus” is one of his leaner moments on the mike, which will bring longtime fans a large feeling of warmth, even as the song escalates in tempo and Snake does likewise with his octaves. Piggy’s solo on “Morpheus” is utterly cosmic as the tune stays on an uptempo soar.

“God Phones” confidently hails Infini into being with Piggy’s isolated riffs before stamping forward behind him as the leader he was. Ditto for the subsequent track “From the Cave,” one of the more traditional-sounding Voivod songs bearing shades of Dimension Hatross and Nothingface with Piggy running amok on his solo and the bridges. Perhaps the surprise cut of Infini is “Earthache,” surprising only because of its dirty clout and tougher than nails rhythm. Piggy’s intro to the headbanging, sometimes garage-oriented “Treasure Chase” could show Queens of the Stone Age a few tricks, particularly in the way Piggy and his bandmates texture their tune atop its gleeful wave.

Whether they know it or not, Voivod gets revenge (at least in this writer’s eyes, anyway, considered the aforementioned Smash or Trash story) with “Krap Radio” while “A Room With a V.U.” resurrects their unwavering affinity for Pink Floyd. As in the past, Voivod sends Infini on a brisk note with the grungy and hammering “Volcano.” Though not as in-your-face as Voivod’s other fast tracks in the latter part of their existence, “Volcano” rides way high on Piggy’s wristing and da-da-daaaaa note sequences, leaving an indelible impression you’ve been treated to a glorious and appropriate farewell.

The second spin of Infini for me bore far less personal stakes–other than to determine how high to rate this thing. It’s safe to say once you’ve accepted Infini as Piggy’s curtain call, its value skyrockets not just because of his inspirational efforts to leave so much of himself behind before passing away, but because Voivod as a whole come off adrenalized by association. Infini is all about Piggy to be sure, but it’s a monster group effort no one would dare accuse of being a cash-in. When everyone in their mother is trying to rope duckets off the death of Michael Jackson, Infini reminds us some people have their hearts in the right place.

Rating: ****1/2

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SubhumansThe Day the Country Died reissue
2008 Southern Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

And now we come to the album birthed not only from the continued threat of nuclear holocaust which lingered over the heads of those living in 1982 through the late eighties, but also a punk rock homage to George Orwell’s dystopian masterwork 1984.

There’s a reason The Day the Country Died is the Subhumans’ angriest body of work, despite continued flagrance tolling through their future work. 16 songs of pure hostility written in a mere five days, The Day the Country Died would’ve been considered borderline nihilistic in more naive times. This is largely due in part to the hardcore aggression the Subhumans utilized on this album, their fiercest to-date. Recorded in 1982 and released the following year, seldom few albums raged at both the speed and the pot-boiled anger as Dick Lucas and company sieved into The Day the Country Died.

Confrontational to say the least, we can nevertheless recognize The Day the Country Died as a scathing protest album borne of the Cold War era. If you thought The Exploited’s Troops of Tomorrow was in-your-face, the Subhumans threw down even harder with The Day the Country Died, particularly with the repeated teletype message of “Think” layered like wallpaper behind the album’s lyrics.

Though Dick Lucas was one of the publicly-spectacled punk rockers of the original punk movement, there was hardly anything dweebish about the mordacious esprit he conveyed behind songs like “”Nothing I Can Do,” “All Gone Dead,” Ashtray Dirt,” “No” and “Mickey Mouse is Dead.”

If there was ever an album for Generation X to encapsulate the constant trepidation swarming overtop our heads with combative superpower ego trips representing a potentially deadly manifest destiny, then The Day the City Died is certainly that album. No, it doesn’t have the pop yumminess of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and it doesn’t skank and swerve in idyllic fashion like English Beat (though the Subhumans would eventually dicker in that direction soon after this album). It doesn’t gallop with a warrior’s charge like their NWOBHM countrymen Saxon; if anything, the Subhumans would’ve preferred to trip the horse’s legs from beneath the proverbial knights and run to the hills with their cutlery lest further violence and bloodshed be inflicted.

With bookend cacophony representing the fearsome sound of a predicted atomic fallout, The Day the Country Died savagely drives its anti-war message home with disarming boisterousness. It’s designed to prick your ears into submissive paranoia, all to set you up for the hammering messages on “All Gone Dead,” “New Age,” “Dying World,” “I Don’t Wanna Die” and “Black and White.”

The Subhumans splinter glass shards at the end of their Orwellian nod “Big Brother,” having posited their irked query “And somebody told me ‘Big Brother’s watching you, and somebody else aid ‘You know it’s not true.’ Who do you believe?” The glass shatter is thus a demonstrative exclamation point. As Lucas relays the riveting narration of being put away for questioning “Big Brother,” he next expounds the thought of being locked in a cage for being a free-thinking body in an age of suppressed censorship on the following song “New Age.”

Lucas wails his resistance to joining the file and rank social directives (instigated by the government, naturally) which are sure to lead to his hypothesized demise on “I Don’t Wanna Die” only to sneer impudently on “No” about his lack of faith in the state and the church, in particular a system that “thrives on ignorance.”

Grabbing hold of the reins of pop culture on “Mickey Mouse is Dead” and “Zyklon-B-Movie” as vehicles to issue his litany of mind control via television, Lucas rounds out The Day the Country Died with a brutal finale beginning with the raucous gang-spewed “‘Til the Pigs Come Round” (which begins with a pretty funny flubbed take) then a breakup with a girlfriend with further ramifications of isolation on “No More Gigs.”

The Day the Country Died drops its final bomb with a white noise detonation at the end with the ratchety and suspenseful “Black and White,” the final message of governmental control being responsible for mankind’s doom. It’s hard not to be affected by what the Subhumans left as an imprint for future punk records. The tinny and drum-clumped sound defining British and American hardcore is one aspect, but the theme of manipulation and exploitation by sovereign powers is the bigger stamp the Subhumans left upon the scene.

It’s likewise difficult not to be stirred whether you’re punk or not to hear the inflammatory statement “U.K. – a disunited kingdom, enquiries – but no solutions, faceless – empty illusions, reasons – are always pushed aside, remember – the day the country died…” The right wing would hardly be moved to say much other than to dismiss this all as “leftist propaganda,” but you know how Dick and the boys would respond accordingly…

Rating: ****1/2

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