That time Genghis said...
Album of the Month - June
  • Diamond Head
    Diamond Head
    Dissonance Productions
Video of the Month - June
  • The Theater Equation [Blu-ray]
    The Theater Equation [Blu-ray]
    by Ayreon
  • Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal
    Mean Deviation: Four Decades of Progressive Heavy Metal
    by Jeff Wagner

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

Astra - Broken Balance

Holy shit, this may be album of the year right here, folks. Italy does it again with some amazing progmetal goodness.I couldn't be more clear on my love of progressive metal as a distinct and vital subgenre of heavy metal. And one of the reasons is that, when done well, it provides such excitement in its seemingly endless rhythmic permutations. It's the flip side of something like Bachman Turner Overdrive's Taking Care Of Business "with that incredibly simplistic drumbeat that even basic amoeba can keep time to." [Thank you, Dennis Miller]

Case in point, just when you think you've heard it all along comes a band like Italy's Astra. Centered around keyboard virtuoso Emanuele Casali (DGM, of course), the band got their start as a Dream Theater tribute band. And it shows in their ability to craft mature, complex - but, more importantly, listenable - progmetal tunes that both impress and entertain. There's no shortage of amazing musicianship here with blistering melodic solos from Casali, who is also listed in the credits as playing guitar, along with Silvio D'onorio De Meo. For all I know Silvio is just playing rhythym - in which case Casali is a fucking monster in the vein of the venerable double-duty Tony MacAlpine.

In any case, progmetal fans will no doubt be impressed with the music on Astra's third studio album, Broken Balance, replete with intense riffage and topped with smooth, harmonized vocals that wrap everything up into a complete package of some of the best music I've heard in a while. You'll find elements of Queensrÿche, Symphony X and Dream Theater with a nice touch of dirt à la Haji's Kitchen.

The Bottom Line: Astra is making some great progressive metal that pays homage to the best of the subgenre while offering their own unique sound. This is easily a contender for album of the year. Keep it up, guys!

Tracks To Make You Want To Start An Air Guitar Band: Hole In The Silence, Sunrise To Sunset, Broken Balance, Faithless, Break Me Down, and You Make Me Better

- Genghis really needed this album right about now...


Below - Across The Dark River

Man, I hope this dude made sure to pack plenty of under-wear. Get it? He's going to the under-world? Nothin'? Ahh, you guys suck.Sweden has long been the home of some of heaviest, darkest metal around, but a lot of doom metal tends to end up as so much droning with little regard to melody. Enter Below who seek to right that wrong with their debut album, Across The Dark River.

Moulded by great bands like early-era Black Sabbath, Below proves that the riff is king in the land of doom, and that good songs begin and end with a catchy riff upon which you build epic metal. Sounding like a cross between Ronnie James Dio and Zak Stevens, vocalist Zeb, clearly in his element, has the powerful voice you want in the midst of this intrepid death march.

Last year they released an EP that received enough buzz to catch the attention of major labels which eventually landed them in the studio of legendary King Diamond guitarist Andy LaRocque who stated "This is one of the heaviest bands I have worked with in the studio for a very long time". The results speak for themselves and fans of old school doom riffery like Candlemass and the Sabs should be very pleased indeed.

The Bottom Line: Fans of doom metal yearning for the days when the riff was a foundation for a song rather than an afterthought should check out Below's impressive debut. So, get your mind right, slap on those headphones, and fucking crank it.

Tracks To Be Listened To On A Cool Spring Night With The Windows Open: Bid You Farewell, Portal, and Mare Of The Night

- Genghis remembers fondly the days of listening to big console stereo systems...


Gun Barrel - Damage Dancer

You might be tempted to say "this band is just a G&R ripoff", but when's the last time G&R sounded this good?It's been nearly 30 years since Guns and Roses hit the scene and very few bands have managed to capture that kind of raw, hard rock power with any sort of sincerity, much less efficacy. But then you run across a band like Gun Barrel, brandishing their latest studio album Damage Dancer, to try to change your mind. These German boys get pretty damn close to evoking the ballsy, bluesy feel of a bar band that's ready to explode onto the audience as much as rock them.

Formed back in 1998, this quartet has been slowly, quietly making a big name for themselves by the tried and true practice of paying their dues, and it shows on album with no fancy studio gimmicks, just classic sweat and swagger captured in 12 high energy tracks.

Guitarist Rolf Tanzius does a nice job of delivering dirty but tight riffs over the solid backbeat of Tomcat Kintgen (bass) and Toni Pinciroli (drums) while singer Patrick Sühl's alley cat wail wraps it all up with a bow for a potent package of heavy rock and roll right off the Sunset Strip. If only Axl and Slash still had this kind of rocket sauce.

The Bottom Line: Gun Barrel do an amazing job of delivering the feel of being at the Whisky A Go Go circa the mid 80s, and while that time may be past, it's great to know that someone can still rock like that when the originators of the style couldn't do it anymore if they tried.

- Genghis would love to see these dudes tear up a joint live...


Podcast #172: Metalvision

Freeze, don't move! Varga's back and we talk shop with drummer Dan Fila.What would you do if you had access to a 24-hour metal channel? Would you lock in 24/7 or would it even matter? There's a serious lack of real metal on TV, so do you think a cable channel purely dedicated to music we love non-stop would succeed or fail? Join Genghis & Ragman as they discuss the viability of a channel that puts the M back in MTV. Next, the boys round up Varga drummer Dan Fila for a heart to heart as he discusses the return of Varga as well as their latest release, Enter the Metal.

DVD of the Show: Dio - Live in Bulgaria

Beer of the Show: Pretzel, Rapsberry, and Chocolate Ale (Rogue Brewery/Voodoo Doughtnut)
Appearance: 3.5
Aroma: 3.0
Palate: 2.5
Taste: 3.5
Overall: 3.5
"A surprisingly balanced blend of chocolate, buttery pretzels, and tart but sweet raspberries make for a really nice dessert beer."

Featured Tracks: Brainstorm - Entering Solitude; Dio - Jesus, Mary and the Holy Ghost; Tracy G - Red House; Steel Panther - The Shocker; The Dudes of Wrath - Shocker; Varga - Freeze, Don't Move, Plane Crash, Gamera, and Words

Ragman's Classic of the Show: Gypsy Rose - Love Me or Leave Me

Genghis' Classic of the Show: Faith No More - Epic

Genghis' Pick of the Show: Sahg - Blizzardborne

Ragman's Pick of the Show: Red Dragon Cartel - Fall From the Sky

Ragman has some catching up to do...

Podcast #172: Metalvision


North - Metanoia (EP)

Tired of all the other atmospheric post-sludge bands out there? Well, check out North! Seriously, they're good.Okay, you know how I go on about how cool it is that metal has so many varied subgenres, but it's a little daunting on the review end of things when you have to try to keep all of them straight, let me tell you. Don't get me wrong, I love discovering so much new amazing music, but there are genres out there based on evolutions of other genres I've never even heard of.

Billed as "atmospheric, post-sludge [me - see what I mean?] metal sorcerers", Arizona-based trio North have put out an EP, Metanoia, as something of a breather after their critically-acclaimed full-length The Great Silence. Having not heard The Great Silence, I hope it's more like this latest effort as being indicative of their sound because I love their masterful blending of shoe-gazing guitar ambience, the cathartic wailings of metalcore, and the rumbling psychedelic doom metal I've come to appreciate; what could easily devolve into a screaming wall of sound is tempered nicely with melodicism - something that all too often goes out the window in the subgenre.

The Bottom Line: North is one of the latest bands to mix slow, atmospheric textures with booming, heavy riffs for something that's just greateer than the sum of its parts. Don't ask how or why they do it, just dig it already.

- Genghis seriously can't handle these subgenres growing at a geometric rate...