That time Genghis said...
Album of the Month - March
  • Bite!
    by Animal Drive
Video of the Month - March
  • Made In Milan [Blu-ray]
    Made In Milan [Blu-ray]
    starring L.A. Guns
  • Metal: The Definitive Guide
    Metal: The Definitive Guide
    by Garry Sharpe-Young

CD of the Month
  • Mudvayne
    by Mudvayne
  • Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground New Edition
    Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground New Edition
    by Michael Moynihan, Didrik Soderlind
  • Retribution
    by Shadows Fall
  • Brutal Legend
    Brutal Legend
    Electronic Arts

Harem Scarem - United

The Hog Town heroes are back with another amazing album of killer melodic hard rock. Beauty!If you're not a fan of Harem Scarem, you're just not a fan of world-class, melodic hard rock. Cuz that's what the Canadian band has been putting out for closing in on 30 years now. Their 14th (discounting the Mood Swings 20th anniversary remake) studio album, United, is out now and it is everything fans could want.

One of the knocks you hear about melodic hard rock is that it's basically pop music with distortion. But there's an art to crafting songs with catchy riffs and lush choruses that don't all sound the same. And right out of the gate the dynamic duo of singer Harry Hess and guitarist Pete Lesperance (I'm betting they prefer not to be called "Hessperance") give a master class in such discipline with the anthemic title track. This is the stuff. From there it's what you expect from the genre vets: flashy guitar solos and fills, lush harmonized vocals, all within exhilarating melodies that just plain rock. This kind of music is made for live settings, where the energy a huge crowd bolsters the feeling of a rousing musical event to remember. Here's hoping for a US tour in the near future. If you get the chance, go. You will not be disappointed.

The Bottom Line: Melodic hard rock is an evergreen subgenre. There's always a faction of music fans that like their catchy pop songs to have some crunchy bite to them, especially with a heaping helping of melodic shred thrown in for the fretheads. Harem Scarem has been crushing that formula for decades and their latest album is both mature and outright fun at the same time. Score!

Tracks To Sing Out Loud In Your Car: United, Here Today Gone Tomorrow, One of Life's Mysteries, Bite The Bullet

- Genghis would do terrible things to see this amazing group live...


Miss May I - Shadows Inside

Miss May I is back to inspire the nation. DO NOT touch the lion!Ever since I heard Miss May I's Relentless Chaos off of their sophomore album Monument I've been a fan of their melodic metalcore sound. And their progress continues its positive trajectory with their latest offering, Shadows Inside. Having started when the Ohio quintet's members were still in high school, their connection has evolved considerably, making it possible to compose songs that touch on sophisticated subject matter while also thrashing hard. And the latest effort is a testament to that relationship.

Right off the bat, the title track kicks in the door with a thrashy attack that gives way to an anthemic chorus that's sure to light up live audiences on tour. My Desctruction surprises with a nice Metallica-style, nylon-stringed, quasi-classical intro that segues nicely into a melodeath riff reminiscient of classic In Flames - though I have to say it ends just as things really get going. But songs like this make for a good example of how Miss May I blends different subgenres into a compelling hybrid sound that lifts it above the traditional metalcore sound to highly listenable results. Swallow Your Teeth is another great anthemic tune sure to get fists pumping and crowds moving, particularly considering its self-assertive ("I won't be your prey!") lyrics and the current cultural climate. Such thematic content is par for the course with Miss May I, but it's a testament to their artistic sophistication that the aggression comes out in the music rather than with violent imagery, as aptly demonstrated on Lost In The Grey's monster riffing underneath a chorus of "We are greater than this / We are stronger than before / There's no locking us in / We're not hopeless anymore". Horns up to that.

The Bottom Line: Miss May I continues to transcend their categorization as a mere metalcore band by incorporating other styles into a more compelling, satisfyingly heavy sound to support their lyrical themes of rising above the mire of today's human condition through hope and perserverance rather than blind rage. Turns out optimism is a helluva drug.

- Genghis is feeling pretty good right about now...


Nova Collective - The Further Side

Okay, one could argue that this album cover is rather 90s-era Magna Carta or Laser's Edge, but that's cool.When you're basically a Trioscapes/Haken supergroup, how can I not go full on jam mode? Cuz that's the case with Nova Collective, who's debut album The Further Side showcases the enormous skills each individual posseses while also blending together into a sublime prog/jazz stew I can't ever get enough of. Dig, if you will, a picture...

The opening track Dancing Machines sets the mood early on by presenting each instrumentalist as they come in one at a time to add to the beat. This is when you know what kind of band you're dealing with. As in "Holy shit, this is one of those killer jazzmetal groups" like the aforementioned Trioscapes. And the second track Cascades is a fantastic example of the deft touch this caliber of musicians can bring to a frenetic groove with Pete Jones' shimmering keys contrasted against some sweet fuzzy phrasing. This is the kind of stuff I sometimes forget I love until I hear that sweet drum/bass groove from Matt Lynch and Dan Briggs, respectively. It's a visceral reaction that is impossible for my neck and feet to ignore as I get into the groove, air guitaring my silly ass off. Math majors will appreciate the call and response riffing of Ripped Apart And Reassembled, while the more heavy-minded will find their chunk in the closer The Further Side. It's all here, man - including some beautiful shredding from guitarist Richard Henshall on State Of Flux. This band has more talent going on in 48 minutes than most performances you'll come across.

The Bottom Line: Nova Collective is your run-of-the-mill bad-ass jazzmetal prog band that performs as a fluid, cohesive musical unit in order to blow your mind. Fans of this subgenre know what they're in for and will love it. 'Nuff said.

Tracks To Make You Look At Your Guitar In Shame: Cascades, State Of Flux, The Further Side

- Genghis will now begin waiting on his porch for this band to come to town...


Oni - Ironshore

When you go to fam's house and he's all like "Check out my water feature, bro!"Looks like Ontario is coming up in the metal world. Metal bad-asses Oni are poised to take shit by storm with the release of their full-length debut Ironshore. Rooted in modern progressive metal à la Between The Buried And Me or Protest The Hero, Jake Oni (vocals) and company strive to rise above the genre conventions by making each song individual and meaningful apart from the others, and this is one impressive debut, let me tell you.

The first single off the album, Eternal Recurrence, provides a handy snapshot of the band's skill set. Thrilling unison runs, a thunderous backbeat (courtesy of Oni's bassist, Chase Bryant, and drummer, Joe Greulich), and even the addition of a Xylo-synth player in Johnny D - something you may have to see to believe. Meanwhile tracks like Spawn And Feed provide a salient example of the band's penchant for mixing sophisticated phrasing with brutal riffs. It's like prog for black metalheads. Thankfully, tracks like The Science give singer Jake Oni the chance showcase his skillz.

Producer Josh Wilbur (Gojira and Lamb Of God) pulls the strings behind the scenes to pull it all together, even bringing Randy Blythe along for some guest vocalizations on The Only Cure. It all comes together in the most satisfying way, marrying progmetal's erudite pyrotechnics with black metal's visceral energy. This is some good shit.

The Bottom Line: Having only been around as a band for about 3 years, Oni is a force to be reckoned with in terms of technique and chunk™, amirite? Get out there and see this band. NOW!

- Genghis is crossing his fingers these cats come rock Houston's collective ass...


Ancient Ascendant - Raise The Torch

I must say, I do enjoy some hand-drawn album cover art. Yessir.You don't often think of Britain when you think of black or death metal, but you're in for a pleasant (?) surprise with the lads in Ancient Ascendant, whose third album Raise The Torch is an impressive mix of many different metal styles in a cohesive new hybrid. Blimey.

After a brooding intro (Reawakening), things kick into full gear with Our Way. The gutteral vocalizations of death metal are prominent, but over the 70s style guitar riffs in the chorus it takes on a cool vibe rather than the usual menace that pervades the genre; imagine a Scandanavian Black Sabbath, not bent on scowling through corpse paint, but drinking and smoking weed. It's perhaps a little confusing at first. I mean the album's [John] Baizley-esque cover art and the band's medeval logo say death or doom metal, but then you hear the hand claps in the chorus of Scaling The Gods like it's a lost Monkees tune.

Don't get me wrong; I love it. The future of metal at this point is largely based on new bands and their artful blending of seemingly disparate styles into new and entertaining hybrids - something much easier said than done. But these blokes pull it off quite handily without becoming self-parody. Don't expect the blazing solos of melodeath, but the groove here is genuine and highly enjoyable.

The Bottom Line: Ancient Ascendant may not be a household name, but their music is authentically heavy metal, going back to its British roots, while incorporating the aggression and energy of the Scandanavian innovations of black and death metal. Good stuff that.

- Genghis can dig some groovy tunes, 'specially now that summer's arriving...