CD Review: “Constricting Rage of the Merciless” by Goatwhore

The album is relentlessly fast and coarse.

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Review by David Feltman

Criminally underrated and perhaps unfairly pigeonholed into the blackened death metal genre, Goatwhore is one of the most consistent and hardest working acts in extreme metal. Despite misfortune and multiple lineup changes, the band has managed to not only maintain its core, but also release a new album every two-to-three-years like clockwork while constantly touring.

While fans considered 2012’s Blood for the Master to be the band’s high point, Constricting Rage of the Merciless appears hell bent on one-upping its predecessor. The album is relentlessly fast and coarse, inviting comparison to Carcass’ recent Surgical Steel. The band’s sound is truly blackened in imagery only. The New Orleans natives cultivate a technical death metal style that is cross pollenated with all of the speed and shred of traditional thrash and the sleazy grooves of southern steel. Frontman Sammy Duet, of Acid Bath and Crowbar fame, has let his pedigree sound germinate with Goatwhore. Tracks like “Baring Teeth for Revolt” and “FBS” shift gears easily into Motorhead-esque grooves without losing momentum. Duet never shies away from shredding, dive-bombing guitar heroics on tracks like “Reanimating Sacrifice” and “Externalize This Hidden Savagery.” However, he shreds sparingly on the album, lightly seasoning the occasional track but never overpowering the other elements.

With the cult following the band has built in its tenure, Goatwhore could easily coast through tours on its existing back catalogue and/or idly turn out more of the same (cough*Cannibal Corpse*cough). But despite a nearly 20-year career, Goatwhore feels like a band just hitting its stride.

Goatwhore’s new album is brimming with energy, but to get the full gut pounding experience this is a band you should see live. Luckily, Goatwhore will be playing The Masquerade in Atlanta on 7/30/2014 with Morbid Angel.

CD Review: “Break The Silence” by VOX

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VOX-ALBUM-COVER-FOR-CD-2013SMALLERI’m a sucker for 80s hard rock and heavy metal. Had I been born a generation earlier, I’d likely be the long-haired guy in the crowd rockin‘ a sleeveless denim jacket covered in band patches and holding up the lighter I’d bought earlier in the night just for the purpose of giving “Winds Of Change” a proper salute. I suppose that’s what drew me to VOICES OF EXTREME’s (VOX, for short) newest album Break The Silence. This isn’t the first time the album has seen the light of day, originally being released in 2011 on the Metalville record label. However, it returns Nov. 1 under a new roof, Smash-Mouth Records, this time with two previously unreleased tracks for your added listening pleasure.

VOX is no stranger to the music scene. All of its members have had extensive experiences in which they’ve honed their brand of hard rock. Between the four of them, they’ve played with members of MEGADETH, ANTHRAX, THIN LIZZY, IRON MAIDEN, and YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, not to mention touring with other celebrated and talented groups. Coming off the tail of their debut album, Hypocrite from 2005, Break The Silence is filled with hard rockers and power ballads that are bound to please. Blending a healthy dose of 1980s metal with a distinctly modern crunch, the band manages to capture a spirit of years gone by without sounding dated. For instance, vocalist Don Chaffin reminds me of the SCORPIONS’ Klaus Meine and SYMPHONY X/ADRENALINE MOB’s Russell Allen, conveying the former’s tone with the latter’s ability to switch between smooth and gritty vocals seamlessly.

I’ll be honest, I’ve been listening to this album for nearly three weeks, and the entire first week I was unknowingly previewing the release with the tracklisting out of order. Much to the merit of the songs, however, it flowed surprisingly well in terms of mood – though it’s even better when heard the way it was intended. Beginning with the heavy hitter, “Damned”, the album navigates back and forth between grooving riffs and wide-open heart wrenchers. Tracks like “Tell Me What It Takes” and “More Than Anything” are perfect examples of 80s throwback ballads, with intimate verses and anthemic choruses. I can envision the music video now, each member playing by candlelight in an otherwise empty room, interspersed with clips of the band in front of a stadium filled with people who are all singing along and playing air guitar. Okay, that may be a bit too cheesy for these guys … Meanwhile, rockers like “Apocalypse” settle into a darker tone and steamroll over you. The inclusion of the two newest songs were a great idea – mainly because they’re fantastic – and really take the record to heights it wouldn’t have seen the first time around.

VOX’s Break The Silence was instantly to my liking. It managed to capture a spirit and style of music I grew up with and loved without making me feel nostalgic in the process. And while there are some production issues I noticed on my exploration of this release, they hardly put a dent in the quality of the songs. I can safely say that at least half of these tracks could be radio hits, which is a beautiful thing because not one of these songs sound the same. My favorite parts of the album, and where I feel the band really excels, are its ballads. Every one is powerful and moving, with each instrument getting the chance to open up, making just enough space for you to fall in. VOX has the talent and potential to take the world by storm and Break The Silence is a great record for doing so.

For more on VOX, visit:
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Puscifer – All Re-Mixed Up

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Album Review by Alex Moore

 

Since its revival several years ago after rising from the ashes of a Mr. Show sketch, Puscifer has, perhaps unfairly, been widely disregarded as Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan’s “other” project. While many found the electronic outfit’s debut album, “V” Is for Vagina, hit-and-miss at best, the group have come into their own over the past few years, particularly with the 2011 release of Puscifer’s most well-rounded album to date, Conditions of My Parole. Now, nearly two years after the record’s release, the group have released a track-for-track remix album, All Re-Mixed Up, featuring an array of guests from punk rockers Five Knives to Sir Mix-A-Lot. The result is a mixed bag, offering a few gems scattered amongst ultimately forgettable tracks.

 

One of the best tracks comes from Puscifer co-vocalist Carina Round. Her contribution, “Telling Ghosts (Giorgia O’Queef Mix),” is perhaps the most re-arranged and altered. Keenan’s lush vocals now take a backseat to the instrumentals, creating a haunting and atmospheric tone that give the song new life and tone. Josh Eustis’ additions offer some interesting ideas, but morph into something reminiscent of Daft Punk lite and drag on a bit too long. The same can unfortunately be said about Zac Rae and Aaron Harris’ offerings, which, while creative and complex, outstay their welcome. All Re-Mixed Up can’t be discussed without mentioning the collaboration with Sir Mix-A-Lot, as, on paper, there’s little reason the track should work. However, the rapper’s “Conditions of My Parole (F.U.B.A.R. Remix)” succeeds big time. The addition of extra guitars and change of tempo make the song an upbeat and fun album highlight alongside Carina Round’s ethereal piece.

 

While its execution is a bit sloppy and the record’s merit can and will be debated by preexisting fans, the very concept of All Re-Mixed Up fits perfectly with the band’s mission to act as a creative playground of experimentation. There is little middle ground here; tracks either completely bomb or succeed swimmingly. Ultimately, consumers may be better off previewing tracks before committing to a purchase. For those still on the fence about Puscifer, All Re-Mixed Up won’t change your mind. Your best bet may be to look elsewhere, perhaps even at the superior source material, Parole, itself.

Film Review: “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”

Wisely placing his name above the title, “Precious” director Lee Daniels no doubt has visions of little gold statues dancing before his eyes.

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Review by David Feltman

“I know the way.”

Wisely placing his name above the title, “Precious” director Lee Daniels no doubt has visions of little gold statues dancing before his eyes. And rightly so. Daniels’ quasi-biopic brings together a staggering list of Hollywood heavy hitters for a poignant piece of American history. “The Butler” may be Oscar bait, but it’s worthy Oscar bait.

Based on the true story of Eugene Allen, Forest Whittaker stars as Cecil Gaines, a White House butler that served through eight presidential administrations. From Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Regan (Alan Rickman), the story spans the entirety of the Civil Rights Era. Danny Strong’s script nimbly knits an engrossing family drama onto major historical backdrops. The result is occasionally saccharine, but only rarely so, as most of the emotional moments strike just the right chords.

The lighting and cinematography are beautifully executed. Daniels deftly fashions a montage sequence where Whittaker prepares dinner service for the president while his son fights to be served at a “Whites Only” lunch counter. The sequence utilizes symmetrical composition with parallel tracking shots, reinforcing the analogy between the two moments. Cinematographer Andrew Dunn captures the menace in the glow of an out-of-focus cross just as easily as he turns up the passion by silhouetting a kiss, making the visuals every bit as captivating as the story.

John Cusack’s prosthetic Nixon nose notwithstanding, the makeup effects are otherwise outstanding. Whittaker and his wife, played by Oprah Winfrey, gradually turn grey and tired, with every little wrinkle and bloodshot vein seamlessly applied. The film provides everything an Oscar hungry actor or actress could wish for, filled with meaty complex characters and an entire lifespan to flesh them out. It’s no wonder that even the smaller roles are occupied by names like Vanessa Redgrave and Terrence Howard. Award season is still several months away, but “The Butler” is going to be the picture to beat this year.