Albums reviews – stuff I picked up 2nd half of 2020

Happy 2021, everyone! Wow, didn’t think we’d make it. I notice I hadn’t done much reviewing lately. Hey, I got something art-wise every weekday in December! Hopefully I can keep it going, I for sure have 2 comic strips a week through February (as I type this). In the meantime, I bought some albums last year and I will write briefly what I thought of them (spoiler: they’re all good).

LOCAL H – Lifers

I’ve enjoyed Local H since Here Comes The Zoo, which is still one of my favorite albums, and my favorite by them. Some of the albums since then have been hit or miss, with 12 Angry Months being the standout of some otherwise okay or better than okay, but not as consistent as the two mentioned here. Lifers is a little harder edged than recent albums. Scott Lucas is a great songwriter and manages to do something a lot of guitar & drum duo combos can’t do, which is make it sound like there’s more than him & a drummer pounding it out. They bring the heavy and I’m here for it.

CARCASS – Despicable

This is a four song EP that features “Under The Scalpel Blade,” which I think was the ‘single’ the band highlighted when a new full length was scheduled to be released this summer. Well, it wasn’t – they held off for next year because of this year’s pandemic, so they released the song with three other songs (of which I don’t know will appear on the upcoming album). They toured relentlessly for Surgical Steel, so this is a long time coming, and I guess we can wait another six months or so, so it’s nice we get a taste plus a few other neat thrashy Carcass songs. I’m also sure these are probably extra bits they were going to hold off for a digipak or similar EP like last time and then you end up shelling out for a “complete” album plus the bonus tracks but whatever, I’ll take it. Carcass is a pretty special band for me. Surgical Steel was a retroactive bridge they wrote to feel like something between Necroticism and Heartwork, and it was, but I know they have other tastes and they expanded their thrash ways to attempt something more mainstream at some point before breaking up, so it’d be nice to hear what they really think was the next actual step in that progression. That’d still be living in the past, either way: here, they just make more Carcass music, and it’s still great. Bill Steer of Carcass had another band, Firebird, a very bluesy 70’s type rock band, with the standout album being “No. 3,” if you can find a copy, recommended!

GWAR – Scumdogs Of The Universe (remix/remaster)

GWAR has been a source of great entertainment and relief during this quarantine (GWARantine?). They’ve made a monthly 30-45 minute variety show on their youtube channel, featuring skits and interviews, that they all write and star in, even outside of their monster musician alteregos. That’s sort of the full-on performance that GWAR gives the fans. Can’t imagine Metallica pretending to be newscasters or failed Santa wannabes so we can have a few minutes of bad jokes. They also did a live set of their entire Scumdogs album, including some of the former stage performers who hadn’t been in the touring group for a long time, in honor of the album’s 30 year anniversary, which they also remixed & remastered. Often a remix is JUST for a remaster, and you can’t tell a difference. OR the band got their hands on the master tapes and wanted to make changes that someone rightfully told them “no” in the first place. I don’t want to cite any examples. The Scumdogs 30th anniversary remaster really feels like a different mix and better album, with some tones popping vibrantly for what probably sounded like a confusing metal/hard rock album back then. Previous listens, I’d skip around a lot depending on the mood: am I listening for the joke songs (“Sick Of You”) or am I here to rock out (“Salaminizer”)? Now there’s a consistent mix that allows me to stay tuned through the album (with my favorite being “Horror Of Yig”).

SEPULTURA – Quadra

I sort of lost interest in this group after “Nation” which feels like a million years ago. They had long abandoned the thrash/death metal approach between Arise and Chaos AD, going with simpler riffs and more groove. But in the last decade they’ve really doubled down on that thrash, especially on albums like “Kairos” and “The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart,” and Quadra continues with that. Just some extra beefy and harsh guitar and drum and vocal attacks. There’s probably a fandom that splits with the band, where without the Cavalera brothers this band isn’t the same. I think there’s a new heart powering this band, while the talent was always there.

PICKING UP SOME OLDER ALBUMS

Like Sepultura, there’s a few artists that I haven’t really kept up with, or just didn’t buy albums from while using streaming services to listen to things while working. There’s a TON of metal bands I just lost interest in over the years, and getting to work at home without being interrupted or having regular office chatter allows me to backtrack and see what I’ve been missing, if I’ve in fact been missing it. In  most case, I haven’t. But I had to check out what Anneke van Giersbergen has been up to, as I have spun her albums with The Gathering over and over and over and I love and missed her voice. She’s done several projects under her own name as well as guest appearances or larger collaborations with bands or other solo artists. I’ve added some songs here and there to my eclectic playlist but I finally shelled out for “Air,” which is also under the group name “Agua de Annique.” Of the projects and albums she’s released, this one is the closest to the later Gathering albums she was on, which isn’t a knock on her other albums, it’s just my preference. But I’ll be checking out her material more in the next months. The Gathering’s “How To Measure A Planet” is one that I had dove deep into and absorbed into my bloodstream, so I need to do the same with “Air,” which I’m super enjoying at the moment – mostly for the song “Witnesses.” She has a new album coming out this year.

I don’t know how it was recommended to me, but I bought Rodan’s only studio album, “Rusty,” and wow. This came out a long time ago and maybe I wasn’t into this kind of tunage at the time or with no one to recommend something like this to me because it wasn’t Metallica and I only wanted to hear Metallica, who knows. I think now because someone knows I love Pelican and have been enjoying ISIS (the BAND ISIS, c’mon) it was recommended to me and it’s rough and all over the place and I love it. I can’t tell you what happens in it, but at the same time, that’s kind of what’s great about it. It’s just always full of surprises.

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