Slayer, Lamb of God, and Behemoth: The Metal Tour of the Summer?

As Metalheads stare down our first summer with President Code Orange in office, our second straight summer without a Mayhem Festival, and our third straight summer without an Uproar Festival (the latter of which…good riddance), we got a big piece of news this past weekend. A piece of news that gives Summer ’17 a bit more meaning than just another three warm months where it’s easier to get laid. This past weekend, a must-see tour was announced: Lamb of God, Behemoth, and Slayer will be hitting the road together.

I can hardly contain my fucking excitement. Somewhere in America there’s a concert promoter who deserves a serious promotion (see what I did there?). This is the kind of lineup where the powers at be could get away with Ticket Price Rape. Not only does this lineup consist of three of Metal’s indisputable giants, but it’s also a) three of Metal’s indisputable giants of the LIVE arena, and b) it brings together three distinct fanbases that strike the perfect balance in terms of overlapping enough as to avoid polarizing the audience, but being different enough to draw headbangers from all walks of life.

I suppose in terms of pure album sales, Behemoth’s going to have to perform first, which is a bit depressing in the way that watching Megadeth go second on the Big Four was. Behemoth – whose last album The Satanist has already worked its way up into my favorite Extreme Metal albums of ALL TIME – are the one band I’ve yet to see live, so catching their set will be priority numero uno. As for Slayer, I haven’t caught a show since the 2010 American Carnage tour, where they played Seasons in the Abyss in its entirety, so I’m due for some thrashin’ about in the pit to a more well-rounded set. And Lamb of God….I saw them last spring and they fucking destroyed – provided they’ve tweaked their setlist a bit, I’ll be just as stoked to see them this time around.

Start saving your money NOW. Spend a sober weekend away from the bar, break up with your girlfriend right before her birthday….do whatever it takes to set aside the cash, ‘cause this is NOT a show you will want to miss. And if you’re somehow inexcusably behind the eightball on any these three bands, familiarize yourself with their catalogues – not only will your concert experience be greatly enhanced, but so will your overall quality of life.

Supposedly, the tour dates will be announced later this week. SEE YOU IN THE PIT!

Megadeth’s “Dystopia” Single

Yesterday Megadeth released the title track and single number three from their upcoming fifteenth (!) studio album Dystopia, due out January 22nd.

Interestingly enough, after the near-universal panning that 2013’s Supercollider received from fans and critics alike, Megadeth have once again found themselves in the underdog position with album number fifteen, one in which they have tended to thrive throughout their career. And with the three singles unveiled thus far, the band is certainly showing a lot of promise. First the thrashy “Fatal Illusion” (which I wrote about here) and “The Threat is Real”, and now “Dystopia”.

To my ears, “Dystopia” is the strongest of all three, but perhaps most notably, it’s the most tuneful. See there’s a period in Megadeth’s career – the one metalheads tirelessly and (mostly unjustly) rail against – in which their brand of metal became more song-centric. It began with Countdown to Extinction and progressed through Youthanasia and Cryptic Writings (both of which I earn minority status by holding in high esteem), before crashing and burning with Risk. But here’s the catch: despite much of the Thrash being absent in Megadeth’s mid-90s output, Mustaine’s songwriting was exceptional. The well-crafted hooks – whether on vocals or guitar, mind you – are light years beyond the capacities of most bands of the Thrash persuasion. But with the breakneck pace and sneering confrontation of Megadeth’s early years missing, it’s understandable why these albums didn’t fare too well. In reality, what truly needs to happen for a stellar Megadeth release is a fusion of the aforementioned song construction with balls-to-the-wall, guitar-driven speed metal. And “Dystopia” might be the closest we’ve gotten to a sonic manifestation of this dream in quite some time.

The track opens with a mid-tempo groove and a simplistic, ear candy guitar melody a la Youthanasia. From there, hasty yet modestly concise verses allow the guitars to take center stage, the long solo section after the second chorus being Exhibit A. In general, “Dystopia” is peppered with the most exciting guitar solos that have been on a Megadeth track in God knows how long. Let’s be honest, Kiko Loureiro SMOKES every Megadeth guitarist since Marty Friedman. I don’t care what you think. Like what the actual fuck is he doing with those octaves at 1:43??? I really hope an official songbook comes out for Dystopia so I can give some of these mind-blowing licks a spin.

But “Hangar 18”-style extended leads aside, Mustaine and Co. still bring the riffs. The winding groove after the solo section is classic Megadeth before the song is given a dramatic send off with an dopamine-pumping dual guitar harmony that crescendos beautifully to wrap everything up.

A Megadeth diehard, I’ve been in a state of “eager anticipation” since the announcement of Dystopia back in October. But the title track, which balances out the energy of “Fatal Illusion” and “The Threat Is Real” perfectly – clueing us in to what has the potential to be an excellent, well-rounded release – has allowed me to say I’m “excited” now for reasons other than just being a fucking stan. January 22nd, I’m ready for you!

UPDATE: Full Dystopia review here

The Top 40 Albums of 2015

While they are certainly a headache to some people, I fucking love doing these year end lists. Perhaps because each year this is my one piece of writing that guarantees unadulterated positivity. No complaints. No bashing. No suicide jokes. Just celebration, plain and simple. And with 2015, our ears have yet another astronomically pleasurable year to celebrate. I worked harder on this list than I have on any of my assignments in sixteen plus years of academia, with countless hours of listening and painful deliberation poured in. If you are reading this, no it’s not too late (see what I did there Drake?) to discover any gems that you might have missed the boat on!



YouTube Top 15 Part 1

YouTube Top 15 Part 2

YouTube Top 15 Part 3

*Denotes a Top 15 album

Mr. Wonderful – Action Bronson: On his major label debut, Action Bronson came through with loads of personality, charisma, and a good sense of humor over some refreshingly original production. Chance the Rapper definitely makes a case for verse of the year with his hilarious guest bars on “Baby Blue”.

At.Long.Last.A$AP – A$AP Rocky: Its spacey “cloud rap” vibes make it enticing, and Rocky’s undeniable lyrical skill keeps it compelling

Inanimate Objects – Atlas Genius: One of the best of 2015 in the Indie Pop/Indie Electronica category.

Long Live – Atreyu: After a five-year hiatus, this comeback release combines the best of all eras of the band, resulting in their best album since The Curse. Here is a full review.

Psycadelik Thoughtz – B.o.B: After the double flusher that was 2013’s Underground Luxury, this under-the-radar project from B.o.B. thrives in its minimal-fucks-given experimentation, particularly in the Pop-Rap realm.

*Abysmal – The Black Dahlia Murder: Their albums all blend together a little for me so it’d be too rash for me to call this the best Black Dahlia Murder album to date, but my God if this isn’t one of the best Death Metal albums of the last few years.

*Venom – Bullet for My Valentine: A near-flawless return to classic Bullet! I was flabbergasted at how much I enjoyed this album. Here is a full review.

*That’s the Spirit – Bring Me the Horizon: A hater from day one, I am profoundly disturbed by my love of this album. Whether or not integrity is at the heart of this band’s radical stylistic transition remains to be seen, but it’s difficult not to be drawn to the raw emotion that radiates from each song.

*Emotion – Carly Rae Jepsen: Not only the Pop album of the year, but perhaps of the last few years. 80’s Pop hasn’t been this well represented on a major commercial release in some time.

*The Anthropocene Extinction – Cattle Decapitation: The finest piece of Extreme Metal released this year. Travis Ryan continues to saunter ahead of the pack vocally.

I Worship Chaos – Children of Bodom: I continue to insist that they have yet to make a bad album regardless, but I Worship Chaos, the band’s ninth, certainly sits in the upper half of Children of Bodom’s discography.

New Bermuda – Deafheaven: Achieving innovation at any level in Metal in 2015 is a challenge, yet Deafheaven manage to be completely singular with New Bermuda, their third album.

*Surf – Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: “Fun” is the only adequate way to describe Surf. The numerous cameos, the warm horn sounds, and Chance the Rapper’s one-of-a-kind bars (on nine tracks) don’t hurt either.

Compton – Dr. Dre: Like the two Dr. Dre albums that have preceded it, a murderer’s row of all-star posse cuts and pristine production. Especially stoked to see the underrated Jon Connor get some shine on here.

If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late – Drake: Though his crooning has served him well on projects past, less wuss and more aggression were a great fit for Drake on this surprise mixtape.

I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside – Earl Sweatshirt: Earl squeezes a remarkable amount of cynical insights into 30 minutes on his second full-length.

In Times – Enslaved: They continue to prove themselves masters of Extreme Metal.

*Mr. Misunderstood – Eric Church: This surprise LP from Country Rock’s finest is, at its core, exceptionally moving. Here is a full review.

Sol Invictus – Faith No More: Who the fuck thought that a) we would ever see this, and b) it would be so damn good!

 *Meliora – Ghost: An average first album, a sophomore slump, and an outstanding third album; what a fascinating trajectory. Ghost really came into their own on all fronts with Meliora. “Cirice” in particular is a must-listen. Psyched to see it get a Grammy nod.

The Book of Souls – Iron Maiden: Just mind blowing that one of Metal’s elder statesmen are still churning out material on par with their classic stuff. Competes for best album of 21st century Maiden

90059 – Jay Rock: Jay Rock meets impossibly high expectations on 90059 by sticking to his strengths and keeping the project at a slim but forceful 11 songs.

B4.DA.$$ – Joey Bada$$: Newly 20 years old upon this debut release, I expect we’re gonna see a lot more of Joey in the coming years. His talent and his throwback lyrical style will always have a welcome place in Hip-Hop.

*To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar: Undisputed Album of the Year. No praises to sing here that haven’t already been sung.

 My Garden – Kat Dahlia: My future wife. Though the singles are still this album’s strongest material, each track moves you in a unique way.

 *VII: Sturm Und Drang – Lamb of God: Randy’s jail stint and manslaughter case resulted in the most lyrically focused and ferocious Lamb of God record I have ever heard.

 Tetsuo and Youth – Lupe Fiasco: Though I have stood by Lupe through each project, I can’t argue with people who call Tetsuo and Youth “light years ahead of all post-2007 Lupe”.

 GO:OD AM – Mac Miller: The first Mac Miller project worthy of the tag “essential Hip Hop listening”. He dropped the hyper-lyrical psychedelic persona and focused solely on good songs. Here is a full review.

 *Adventure – Madeon: Without a doubt THE party album of 2015. I’m not a connoisseur by any stretch of the word, but I have never been as enthralled with an EDM album as I am with Adventure.

The Pale Emperor – Marilyn Manson: I’m a huge Manson fan, so to see him hit an artistic peak like this late into his career is thrilling. Perfect blend of Industrial, Grunge, and a dose of Metal.

Metal Allegiance – Metal Allegiance: What really should’ve been called “Metal All-Stars” comes through as a pure celebration of anything and everything METAL.

 *Pagans in Vegas – Metric: This band continues to be my favorite in the Alternative Pop world. Three gems in a row now – they can’t be stopped!

Drones – Muse: In the band’s best since Black Holes and Revelations, they succeed immensely at a straight-ahead rock record, thanks in part to production from the legendary Mutt Lange.

*Ire – Parkway Drive: The stylistic risks taken by these Aussies on their fifth album paid off tremendously. This is the type of album Melodic Metalcore needed in 2015.

The Ride Magestic – Soilwork: (Biggie voice) *Here’s another one. And a, and a, and another one*

*Hand.Cannot.Erase – Steven Wilson: Prog master Steven Wilson makes albums so dense that conceptually, they take years to fully grasp. What is relatively easy to grasp, however, is the musical brilliance displayed throughout. Guthrie Govan’s guitar playing is a particular highlight on what certainly veers into “masterpiece” territory.

Currents – Tame Impala: I just finally heard this for the first time this month, so there will be no elaboration on this one. But my God is Kevin Parker a freakish talent.

Cauterize – Tremonti: Mark Tremonti’s solo band – in addition to Alter Bridge – is making some of the only Hard Rock that is musically interesting. “Providence” and “Flying Monkeys” stand toe-to-toe with Alter Bridge’s best material. Here is a full review.

Silence in the Snow – Trivium: I love when bands take risks. Silence in the Snow was a fucking risk and a half. While there are occasional misses, its aesthetic prevails. Not to mention, Matt Heafy turns in his best vocal performance to date.

*Blurryface – Twenty One Pilots: Alternative Rap? Alternative Rock? Pop? Electro-Pop? This fucking thing completely defies categorization, and that’s what makes it an utter joy to listen to from beginning to end. That and some of the best melodies that 2015 had to offer.

Hot Streak – The Winery Dogs: The Winery Dogs are perhaps – ironically – the most musically talented group in the Rock world aside from Dream Theater. Richie Kotzen’s songwriting and soloing make me want to just fucking quit.


Megadeth’s “Fatal Illusion” Single

In the Megadeth world, the last year or so has been a PR whirlwind. There was the failed reunion of the Rust in Peace lineup, the sudden departure of guitarist Chris Broderick and drummer Shawn Drover, the exciting replacement drummer no one saw coming in Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, and a whole lot of sensationalized Blabbermouth headlines. In all fairness, it’s publicity like this that keeps a band relevant after releasing an album that was truly a skid mark on their legendary discography. Being the Megadeth diehard that I am, Super Collider remains the only album by the band that I cannot listen to (yep, Risk included – without Megadeth’s name on it, there’s some decent alternative rock hidden in there). The only thing that could’ve possibly ignited my interest in Super Collider’s follow-up was if the band recruited one of my favorite drummers and potentially my favorite guitar player of all-time…. wait a second, those would be Megadeth’s brand new members, the aforementioned Chris Adler and Angra’s Kiko Loureiro! Based on this alone, Megadeth’s instant jump in my mind from “washed up” to “I can’t wait for their new album” makes me feel like such a wishy washy hypocrite.

This past Thursday, Megadeth’s fifteenth album became public knowledge, with the title, release date, track list, and some truly awesome cover art all revealed, along with the premiere of first single “Fatal Illusion”. The album will be called Dystopia, and won’t be out until January 22nd of next year. I’m not sure whether to be charmed by Universal’s traditional album roll out or concerned by such a resistance to industry change. Either way, we now have the first Megadeth song since June 2013, and I couldn’t have been more curious to hear it.

“Fatal Illusion” is – at a minimum– the best Megadeth song since 2009’s Endgame. After a well-executed intro that allows the song to gradually build, we’re greeted by one of the meatiest bass tones I have ever heard, as David Ellefson introduces the main riff “Peace Sells” style. After that, it’s everything that makes Megadeth great, and everything Super Collider was missing. The song’s powerful main riff is amplified by Chris Adler’s hard-hitting double bass, which segues into a catchy verse groove straight out of the Rust in Peace playbook. Kiko Loureiro and Dave Mustaine sprinkle some indulgent lead playing throughout, adding some spice to the song’s structure. By the time the band erupts into the breakneck bridge section, “Fatal Illusion” has already sold itself. Megadeth are not fucking around this time.

Sonically, “Fatal Illusion” is along the lines of United Abominations and Endgame – the production strikes a successful balance between polish and edge. In addition to Ellefson’s stunning bass tone, the guitars and drums sound like Megadeth again, as opposed to the muddiness of Super Collider and its predecessor, Th1rt3en. Perhaps the biggest critical headache on Super Collider was Dave Mustaine’s lazy, painfully corny lyrical content, but “Fatal Illusion” makes significant strides in this department, despite the backseat role lyrics often assume in Megadeth. If you ask me, “It’s a fatal illusion that evil never dies” is pretty fucking badass.

With “Fatal Illusion”, Megadeth have made quite the statement. Super Collider is already disappearing from the rear view mirror, and the band’s new lineup gives the metal community – young and old – something to be truly excited about. I’m eagerly anticipating Dystopia’s January 22nd release. Well, either that or its inevitable leak.