A look at "historical" releases


Machine Head – Burn My Eyes (1994)

Line-Up:
Robb  Flynn – Vocals, Guitar
Adam Duce – Bass
Logan Mader – Guitar
Chris Kontos - Drums

Cover:

Burn My Eyes Cover Art


1994. A time, where melancholy, dark and drowny songs were at its peak, and Metal was nowhere to be found in the mainstream media. Grunge had been recognized by MTV and had killed all things Metal within a short amount of time.

But there was resistance. Bands like Pantera and Machine Head introduced a new level of aggression and brutality to the Thrash Genre. They incorporated hardcore punk-vibes into their sound and spiced it up with more aggressive, screamed vocals.

Robb Flynn, having quit Forbidden and pursuing his own musical wishes, got together with his bandmates and created a now legendary Thrash release, entitled Burn My Eyes.

This record takes you on a journey through Robb Flynn’s experience on the streets in Oakland, CA, his relationship with drugs, personal struggle and a level of aggression that, at that time, had never been there before.

Be it the ferocious start of the record with now live-classics „Davidian“ and „Old“, the hip-hop-influenced „A thousand Lies“ or mid-tempo songs like „Death Church“ and „The Rage to Overcome“  the quality is at an ultimate high throughout the whole record.

Thrashers like „Blood for Blood“ and „Block“ satisfy the die-hard metal fans, and with „I’m your God Now“ (my personal favourite), there is already a sign of a balladesque song on the record, which would become a Machine Head trademark later on in their career. But don’t be intimated, „I’m Your God Now“ may start slow, but it develops into a brutal outburst towards the end of the song.

Burn My Eyes is still considered Machine Head’s best record among their fanbase. It isn’t only a must-have for MH-fans, but also for Thrash-fans.

No wonder that Burn My Eyes was Roadrunner Record's best selling record until Slipknot's self-titled debut.

But that doesn’t even matter, it was my introduction to really extreme music. I still remember thinking „damn they must be really pissed off“ when I first heared it. I was feeling so bad-ass, that I simply HAD to get back listening to it.


For your listening pleasure, some classics:


Machine Head - A Thousand Lies live @ Dynamo (1995)



Machine Head - Death Church live @ Burn My Eyes anniversary show, Philadelphia (2004)



Machine Head - Block live @ Brixton Academy (2004)








Opeth - Blackwater Park (2001)


Line-Up:
Mikael Âkerfeldt: Vocals, Guitars
Martin Mendez: Bass
Martin Lopez: Drums
Peter Lindgren: Guitars

Cover
Blackwater Park Cover by Travis Smith


Describing an Opeth album without the reader knowing of the record is probably one of the hardest things to do.

Why? Because Opeth always manage to not only create a record with 8-10 songs, but a whole atmosphere, an own small world, a journey through mastermind Âkerfeldt’s mind. This creation, in my case, left me begging for more.

So what do those „small worlds“ consist of? Harsh double-kick drumming with heavy riffs and guttural vocals seems like the given description of any given metal-record.
Opeth yet manage to incorporate bittersweet guitar melodies, clean guitar intermezzis, keyboard- and piano-parts, all seemingly held together by Mikael Âkerfeldt’s phenomenal and outstanding vocals. The feeling and atmosphere of the record is in large parts due to producer Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree).

Âkerfeldt is considered one of the best clean vocalists in the metal-genre.
Inner struggle and conflict always shine through his clean vocal patterns, yet they never sound cheesy. Within seconds though, he switches to the harsh guttural vocals which indicate but one word: Hate.
Akerfeldt is also one of the only vocalists who can pull his vocal duties off in a live-situation as well.

Yet, consisting of 8 songs, altogether lasting for more than an hour, Blackwater Park still seems tough for the listener.
But the almost compulsive compositions entitled „The Drapery Falls“, „Harvest“, „Dirge for November“ or the title track „Blackwater Park“ with their unexpected twists and turns, breaks and changes should be a blessing for all music-fans.

Blackwater Park marked Opeth’s commercial „breakthrough“ so to say, establishing their base for more experimental albums, later on incorporating 70s-prog-influences and even Krautrock.

For me, Blackwater Park is Opeth’s masterpiece. But not only that, I think that Steven Wilson’s production is the best i’ve ever heard so far.

The Drapery Falls live @ Royal Albert Hall



Bleak live @ The Roundhouse







Mastodon – Remission (2002)

Line-Up:
Guitars, Vocals: Brent Hinds
Bass, Vocals: Troy Sanders
Guitars: Bill Keliher
Drums: Brann Dailor

Cover:
Remission Cover

Opening with a fast-paced, rough and aggressive 2-Minute-Track, („Crusher-Destroyer“) this album was a starting point for 2 major things:

Firstly, the record „Remission“ was the beginning of Mastodon’s astonishing career, which probably hasn’t even reached its peak as of yet. Considering Mastodon’s creative output, which consists of a wild mixture of sludge, metal and prog rock, Mastodon’s position in the music industry becomes even more surprising.

Secondly, this record introduced me to the more progressive spectrum of music. Before that, I was basically listening to more or less straight-forward hardcore/punk/metal. Ultimately, „Remission“ managed to open my mind for Prog-bands, such as: Opeth, Tool or Baroness.

With „March of the Fire Ants“, the band already manages to surprise with only the second song. It features all trademarks of a great Mastodon song: Earth crushing sludgy-riffs, combined with extraordinary drumming (Brann’s drumming on this record is breathtaking), the nasal voice of Brent Hinds and outstanding melodies and harmonies heavily influenced by Rush and King Crimson serving as wonderful hooks.

Those ingredients keep the sometimes pretty lenghty songs interesting. („Ole Nessie“, „Trainwreck“, „Trilobite“). If you as a listener are willing, those songs can take you on a spiritual journey, away from your day-to-day life.

But the band also shows their more aggressive side on this record. Note: The band has stated, that they took their riffs and made them faster on purpose to sound more aggressive. This doesn’t take away the quality from the songs though. Songs like „Workhorse“ or „Burning Man“ showcase Mastodon’s ability to write great hooks within fast-paced rock/metal songs.

By combining both longer and shorter songs, „Remission“ probably is a lot more accessible than Masotodon’s latest output „Crack the Skye“. CtS  features only 7 songs, but takes 50 minutes, with one song lasting almost 14 minutes.

„Remission“ could also serve as your introduction to Prog – you only need to be open-minded. But you probably won’t regret it.









A look at „historical“ releases

War From A Harlots Mouth – MMX (2010)

Line-Up:
Vocals: Nico
Guitars: Simon
Drums: Paul
Guitars: Daniel
Bass: Filip

Cover:
MMX Cover


Berlin. Hardcore. Black Metal. Jazz!?

Starting with high-pitched screams and an intense blast-beat, this record leaves no doubt about its intention – to create a feeling of unpleasentness and awkwardness.

The berlin-based band provides a mixture of black metal („Insomnia“, ), hardcore and jazzy breaks („Sugarcoat“, „Sleep is the brother of Death“). This description alone sounds awkward enough. But War From A Harlots Mouth has matured. While their earlier records may have been a little bit too chaotic for some listeners (me excluded), they have established a more sophisticated songwriting.

This well-thought songwriting makes it possible for the band to not only show their immense talent but to also make the songs memorable. The use of 8-string-guitars adds to the level of creepyness which the record arouses.

„Spineless“ demonstrates the well-accented use of 8-string-guitars, and brilliant songwriting – starting off with a fast-paced riff and a blast-beat, the song quickly evolves into a more hardcore-based style, which is then torn apart by a jazz-interlude, only to return to the hardcore-style.

The lyric concept deals with individual problems and by that, creates a connection to problems of our society. Nico’s high-pitched screams emphasize the level of creepyness even more.

„Inferno III/IV“ demonstrates the band’s rejection of any „rules“ that would confine their music. The beginning is an adaptation of a composition of Franz Liszt.

If this information hasn’t convinced you to check out this great piece of art, maybe a video of the band’s tight live-performance will: (FYI: the band uses no click track live!)

To Age and Obsolete - War From A Harlots Mouth live @ Gasometer Wien




Cover Artwork (by Joshua Andrew Berlanger)








Hermann Hesse – „Der Steppenwolf“ (1927)

Hemann Hesse

Cover:
Original Cover


The novel „Steppenwolf“ was one the most influencial books I ever read. Hermann Hesse combined both autobiographical and fantastical elements in this, for me, eye-opening novel. The main protagonist „Harry Haller“ is basically an alter ego of Hermann Hesse.
Harry Haller has an almost schizophrenic personality: He has an open, outoing folksy side to him, but, in deep contrast to this side of his personality, he also has a critical, lonesome „wolf-like“ side to him.
Those two sides influence each other in many ways and make Harry Haller torn inside, culminating in many depressive phases.

This „wolf-like“ side described in this novel is very similar to my own personality. „Der Steppenwolf“ was the first novel by Hermann Hesse that I read. After that I read a lot of his books and it is safe to say that Hermann Hesse is, and always will be, my favorite writer. Every novel he wrote has had a certain influence on my life.

For what I always hated and detested and cursed above all things was this contentment, this healthiness and comfort, this carefully preserved optimism of the middle classes, this fat and prosperous brood of mediocrity.“
Hermann Hesse – „der Steppenwolf“

This is a quote from the book „Der Steppenwolf“ – it describes Harry Haller’s critique of everything that the mediocre, egocentric western society has to offer – the general useless information which is given to us, and only seeks to make us consume more and more.
The middle-class of western civilization created an egoistic society, where people only care about themselves and whatever happens now – and not about their future, or different cultures/countries.
This critique, at the time I read the novel, had opened my eyes. It made me think more about our society and the place that I want to/refuse to occupy in it. Furthermore, it is an autobiographic element of the book, which has made me admire Hermann Hesse even more.

Without taking anything away from the story: Harry Haller, with the help of other protagonists, makes an interesting progression: He finds out, that, through humour, he is able to deal with the modern western society, which he despises so much.

The novel ends in a very bizarre, obscure way, which again emphasizes Hermann Hesse’s outstanding writing talent.

Without any doubt, „Der Steppenwolf“ is not only a great piece of art, but also a must-read for Freethinkers.




System of A Down – System of A Down (1999)


Line-Up:
Vocals: Serj Tankian
Guitars: Daron Malakian
Bass: Shavorsh „Shavo“ Odadjian
Drums: John Dolmayan

Cover:
System of A Down - System of A Down


With a simple, yet unique and mind-boggling guitar-riff,  Daron Malakian prepares the listener for the next 40 minutes, which would eventually be the starting-point of an internatioal career, leading to a huge fan-base, sold-out tours and #1 billboard-records, which has become very seldom nowadays.
System of A Down - The A supposedly stands for „America“, and is based on a poem written by Daron Malakian, entitled „Victims of A Down“ – provide the essence of what a Freethinker really needs: A high-energetic mixture of heavy, power-chord-based, drum-driven parts („Suite-Pee,“ „Know“, „ Sugar“)
 with melodic, almost melancholy aspects  („Suggestions“, „Spiders“).
System of A Down, consisting of musicians with armenian origin, took traditional crossover-ingredients from Rage Against the Machine and the Dead Kennedys, mixed it with the heavy-ness of Slayer and topped their new creation with almost The-Cure semmingly melancholy.
The armenian heritage of the band is also reflected in eastern sounding solos, drum-parts as well as the lyrical concept of the record „(P.L.U.C.K.“ – Politically, lying, unholy, cowardly killers – focusing on the armenian genocide), which only adds to the already unique sound of SOAD.
SOAD managed to accentuate the differences of those ingredients , by changing the speed and the feeling of a song almost shamelessly , in a more intense way than it has been done ever before
This new cration, often entitled „Alternative Metal“, although it undoubtedly is Crossover, is very much driven by the brilliant lyrical and vocal performance of Serj Tankian, one of today’s most famous singers in the heavy-spectre of music. Serj manages to get a certain sense of authenticy, credibility yet also anger across, which has left me in awe the first time I heard this record.
But the one thing, which a lot of people often seem to forget, which has made SOAD one of my favourite bands at that time, is, that they, aside from the political themes they focus on, incorporate a wierd sense of humor in their lyrics („Sugar“, „Peephole“).
SOAD’s selt-titled is a reference-album for their success and highly recommended for Freethinkers!


"Sugar" - live @ Big Day Out Festival 2002




"Suggestions" live @ Rock am Ring Festival 2002




Heaven Shall Burn – Antigone (2004)

Line-Up:
Vocals: Marcus Bischoff
Guitars: Maik Weichert
Guitars: Patrick Schleitzer
Bass: Eric Bischoff
Drums: Matthias Voigt

Cover:

Words, these words of freedom;
A bequest, never to be silenced.

Those are the lyrics that kick off the now live-standard and fan-favourite „The Weapon they Fear“, as well as this, at it’s time, groundbraking record.
But these words also managed to initiate Heaven Shall Burn’s constant rise of popularity and success.
By creating a hasty mixture, consisting of traditional swedish death-metal-sounding guitars and drums and the, at that that time, relatively new hardcore-attitude, Heaven Shall Burn accomplished what a lot of bands always strife, but often fail to achieve: create a trademark sound.
Extreme brutal parts („Voice of the Voiceless“, „Architects of the Apocalypse“) are loosened up by great melodies and almost epic-seemingly structures („Numbing the Pain“, „The Dream is Dead“) – but this record also set-off yet another HSB trademark – instrumental parts written by the icelandic multiinstrumentalist Ólafur Arnalds („Echoes“, „Risandi Von“, „Deyjandi Von“) which not only take the listener on a notional, melancholy journey, but also manage to prescind the lyrical context of this record.
Heaven Shall Burn are known for being mostly vegan and straight-edge, which of course, also contributed to the lyrical concept of the album, indicated in the title „Antigone“ (taken from greek mythology), including the Victor-Jara murder as well as general integrity and political activism.
The lyrical concept is screamed, whispered and growled towards the listener by Marcos Bischoff, whose performance is outstanding and has yet to be reached within the genre, where Heaven Shall Burn dwells.
„Antigone“ was the start-up for the career of a band that has successfully mangaged attacking and taking over the leading position of extreme metal bands in germany and is in the process of taking their music to the next level, by taking over the whole mainland europe.
If you are a fan of Melodic Death Metal/Metalcore and don’t already know this record – you’re in for a treat!

The Weapon they Fear - Official Video





Voice of the Voiceless live @ Summer Breeze Festival 2008




















A look at "historical" releases

Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Line-Up:
Vocals: Zack de la Rocha
Guitars: Tom Morello
Bass: Tim Commerford
Drums: Brad Wilk

Cover:
Starting off in a slow build-up riff to the now world-famous songs „Bombtrack“ and Killing in the Name this album is exactly what not only the title of the band but also the songtitles imply: a ferocious, politically influenced record that manages to get a kind of anger and frustration across that has only seldom been reached before, or after.
Continuing with songs like „Take the Power Back“ and the more slowly, but also way more intense, „Settle for Nothing“, this album takes the listener on a political and personal ride that is almost hypnotizing.
The songs are based on the ultra-tight, now highly acclaimed, rhythm-section formed of drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford, accompanied by the brilliant and outstanding guitar-work of Tom Morello, and topped by the vocals from Zack de la Rocha which, whether screamed, whispered, rapped, or perfomed in spoken-word, always manage to set-off anger in a very authentic way – you can feel that those guys were not happy with the world they were living in.
No wonder this album managed to transform RATM from a locally known, L.A.-based, Crossover-band to one of the top-selling artists in the 90s.
The record delivers high-quality songs from start to finish, which are now a constant in every metal/hard-rock-bar around the globe: „Bullet in the Head“, „Know Your Enemy“ – you name it.
The album culminates in the brilliant song „Freedom“and leaves a listener begging for more – this album is not only a recommendation, it’s a MUST HAVE!

Bonus Video: The Track "Know Your Enemy" live from Reading Festival 1996.