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As a person who prefers Mark Tornillo era Accept to Udo Dirkschneider era Accept I often look forwards to a new release from the German legends of heavy metal. There's something about Tornillo's unique style that sounds like he's got Brian Johnson stuck in his oesophagus and can't quite cough him out. Likewise, I am continually impressed by both Wolf Hoffman's and Uwe Lulis' guitar work and how they continue to sound fresh and invigorated on most releases and pleasingly Too Mean To Die is full of that vigour and energy. For a band who have now some sixteen full-length records to their name, Accept have still been able to sound relevant in the world of metal some 45 years after they first adopted the moniker of the band name.
Sadly, that relevance shows signs of slipping this time around and it is safe to say that Too Mean To Die is an awkward listen, certainly on the lyrical front at the very least. For the first time Accept are sounding their age. The bulk of the lyrical content on the album sounds clunky and forced if not at times completely ill-conceived. Writing a song about social media and the ills of it in general just makes the band come across as moaning old men (a title often courted by myself in all honesty but even have my limits) and so Overnight Sensation is a huge stumbling block just three tracks in. The anthemic chorus just feels cringey and makes me want to hit the skip button immediately.
It isn't just on the aforementioned track the band fall short either. Throughout the album you get more dip than hit and as a result there's a sense of the band meandering through the record occasionally uncovering something interesting but at the same time falling short (usually on the lyrical front). It plays like a Judas Priest album only without any prowess on the lyric writing front. Instead you have a strong instrumental foundation but are constantly recoiling over what sound like very amateurish vocals and lyrics ("but we understand, the Undertaker is a busy man" - erm really?) that invade most tracks.
Hoffman and Lulis (not sure what Shouse even does here in all honesty) do their best with their energetic string work, firing off leads and licks to try and impress the positives of the album but they are fighting a losing battle for me as I am so turned off that I can't see past the poor lyrical content. With an album cover that promised so much, the electric bite of Accept appears to be fading badly in 2021.
Another band with which I have been unacquainted until now and yet another decent French black metal outfit. Our gallic cousins really do produce a lot of the better and more interesting modern black metal bands, I have to admit. Peste Noire, certainly on the evidence of this release, favour the lo-fi approach, albeit not as lo-fi as the commentary around this album would have you believe - the album does have some production values and I've certainly heard worse (or is that better?). The vocals are of the desperately shrieking type, reminiscent of those employed by some of the more demented depressive black metal outfits, that tap into something primal and horrifying in the human psyche, although this certainly is no DSBM album. Bizarrely and somewhat atypically for most black metal, there are a significant number of guitar solos on the album that may have come straight from the Gary Moore songbook which, in addition to the deranged vocals, contribute to the strangeness of the record and the sensation that things are not really what they are expected to be.
From all that I've read about the band there are members who seem to have some quite reprehensible views, a common pitfall for followers of black metal unfortunately and I guess that may colour how some people may receive the music. Putting all that aside, this is certainly a bit of a curveball as far as orthodox black metal goes and, for me personally, not a completely successful one - those solos for example just stick out like a sore thumb. Decent but no classic and I'm not sure if I would return to it that often, although the odd track like Spleen holds a lot of appeal for me.
One of the main reasons I love modern black metal is that despite all the cookie-cutter copyists and plagiarists there are still bands that manage to surprise me. I was familiar with Ireland's Altar of Plagues via their 2011 album Mammal, which was a good record but didn't leave any especially lingering memory for me and hadn't really forced it's way into my list of top BM albums. So anyway, now we come to 2013's Teethed Glory and Injury which has most definitely registered itself into my black metal consciousness. I'm not sure I can do the album justice with a review, but I'l have a crack at it. Teethed Glory and Injury is most assuredly a black metal album, in fact more specifically an atmospheric black metal album, but it is also much more than that. Into it's blackened body the band weave various other influences such as industrial metal, atmospheric sludge and post-metal that results in a most progressive sounding record. I have also seen it labelled as avant-garde metal and while I can definitely understand why, I think it is too accessible and coherent to be so tagged.
The cover art seems to perfectly sum up the mood and atmosphere, a desperate and frustrated aura pervades the whole album. This is not the beautifully flowing atmo-black of Saor or Panopticon, this is a jagged, broken affair that doesn't extol the glory of the natural world, but seethes and rages against the world of man, the industrial interjections disturbing the flow of the more natural sounds of the black metal musings to a seemingly intended effect. This isn't the album's only trick though, there are tracks that draw on atmospheric sludge and post-metal to add another layer of despair and isolation. Whereas a lot of atmospheric black metal is airy and expansive, the muddier, sludgy production of this makes for a more claustrophobic and debilitating experience than your average WiiTR clone.
The musicianship is great and I think I must make mention of the depth of the bass tone and the ubiquitousness of Johnny King's drumming that sounds so natural, despite the variety of the tracks. The guitar work and vocals are both suitably intense and the electronics are deployed to devastating effect.
The band split-up after the release of this album and I can understand why. Following this album up would be a thankless task indeed and, after seemingly pouring their hearts and souls into this, meant that as a band they had nowhere else to go. Talk about going on the top of your game!
I can still very vividly remember the first time I experienced the stunning intensity of New Jersey mathcore exponents The Dillinger Escape Plan. It was some time in the mid-2000’s & I was completely immersed in the techno scene after having grown tired of metal & taking a break from it completely around 1998. My brother Ben had come over to my apartment for a visit & he’d come armed with a collection of tracks he’d been wanting to show me in order to highlight the best work the metal scene had to offer at the time. I’m not sure if he was hoping to lure me back to metal or not but I have to admit that I wasn’t terribly open to returning at that stage. I did however have a strong interest in seeing what I was missing &, of all of the material that he showed me that night, one track stood out from the rest fairly comfortably & would stay with me for all of the years that have followed. The psychotic blast of energy that is The Dillinger Escape Plan’s “43% Burnt” completely blew my mind that night with its unbridled ferocity, over-the-top complexity & sheer ambition. It certainly didn’t fall into my musical comfort zone but it did manage to leave me questioning if the metal scene still had some fresh new ideas for me after all. I’d eventually return to metal in 2009 & made a point of familiarizing myself with the Dillinger back catalogue with extreme priority.
In general, I’ve enjoyed everything The Dillinger Escape Plan have put out without ever really feeling that I could fully relate to their sound enough to claim any individual release as a genuine classic for me personally. I’m not entirely sure why that’s the case as I’ve managed to overcome that obstacle with several other mathcore exponents but with Dillinger I inevitably find myself to be very impressed but can never seem to find a higher rating than 4/5 & that’s still the case with 2013’s classic fifth album “One Of Us Is The Killer”. It’s a different record to anything they’d produced previously without ever seeming to alienate the band’s existing fanbase. The technical complexity factor is as spasmatic as ever with the band experimenting with some incredibly off-beat & mind-bending rhythms but there’s somehow a greater level of accessibility at the same time. The incorporation of some strong melodic hooks on songs like the title track & “Nothing’s Funny” will likely see the well-informed listener reaching for comparisons with alternative metal legends Faith No More, particularly the vocal performance of Greg Puciato who seems to have been heavily influenced by the off-the-wall yet incredibly capable vocal stylings of Mike Patton. He's an enormous talent really. I can't possibly imagine how shredded his vocal chords must be after recording an album like this one as he truly screams his fucking lungs out across a large part of the run time but he also proves himself to have a great understanding of musicality & melody when he chooses to explore it.
If you really look at Dillinger’s delivery closely here you’ll find that the band’s sound is built on hardcore more than it is on metal. There’s an uncompromising urgency & aggression about everything they do that keeps the listener on the edge of their seat at all times. The incredible intricacy in their rhythms is both their strength & their enemy in my opinion as not only does it ensure that I’m always interested & engaged but it also sees me often struggling to find a groove that sees me banging my head like I want to do when listening to good metal. In a way I think this sees a lot of Dillinger’s material simply washing over me in a wave of vitriolic electricity without seeing as much of it sticking as I’d like & this is never made more clearly apparent than when they finally get the balance just right. The final two tracks on “One Of Us Is The Killer” (album highlight “Crossburner” & “The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons”) are absolutely killer & fall very much into this category. To be honest, I think the key reason I feel that way is because they have simpler, heavier metal riffs interspersed between the chaos & this gives this old metalhead a little more meat on the bones of Dillinger’s spasmatic hardcore sound. It’s strange that they left those two tracks till right at the end but this isn’t to say that there’s anything like a weak song or even a half-decent filler track amongst this lot. It’s all high quality stuff but it’s only the final climax that sees me fully letting go & succumbing to The Dillinger Escape Plan’s incredibly detailed plan of escape.
Overall, I think “One Of Us Is The Killer” is another very strong DEP record. It’s pretty incredible that they managed to maintain their screaming intensity & ridiculous technicality whilst simultaneously infusing their sound with an additional layer of accessibility but it’s paid off for them big-time here. Is it their best release? Perhaps… but it’s hard to compare their records as they’re all so similar in terms of quality. If pushed though, I’d suggest that I’d take this album over a record like “Irony Is A Dead Scene” which seems to be extremely highly regarded these days. Dillinger represented a breath of fresh air for a scene over-flowing with followers & I’m not sure that we’ve found anyone to fill that gap since their unfortunate departure. I’ll always have the fondest memories of experiencing this material in a live environment as there simply isn’t anything to compare to the violence & excitement of a Dillinger live show.
For fans of The Callous Daoboys, Botch & Rolo Tomassi.
The album that fulfills all the hysterical paranoia of parent's fears of drugs influencing their offspring's minds and causing them to turn to more drugs, sex, satanism, even more drugs and insanity - Reefer Madness brought to life. I'm sure it gives Jus Osborne a warm feeling inside to think what a record like this must do to the sensibilities of the so-called moral arbiters of the world and their hypocritical outrage must be like nectar to him.
Musically Dopethrone takes the template for stoner doom laid down by Sleep, slows it down then makes it exponentially heavier and lyrically more outrageous to produce the gold standard against which other stoner doom albums are measured. The tracks are all thick and miasmic like a smoke-saturated trip through a narcotically altered dreamscape, super-heavy jams that derive from some kind of psychedelic black hole where time is slowed, perceptions are altered and the music's thundering, hypnotic riffs take control, forcing the listener's head to nod, body to sway and mind to roam.
Electric Wizard are a band who revel in and glorify the partaking of narcotic substances, so are probably not for you if you subscribe to the straight edge, just say no philosophy of the morally superior. Personally it's been a long time since I was involved in any kind of drug scene, but a blast of Dopethrone is all it takes to relive those heady days of bongs, booze and b-movies. This album is a true counterculture classic and an album any stoner (or ex-stoner) metalhead should return to regularly for a required fix.