August In Metal, Part I: Master, Doro and Loudness
Master’s first full album was released in 1990. Twenty-two years later, The New Elite marks their 11th full length in a career that is nothing sort of consistent. While the now legendary front man Paul Speckmann has never released that “perfect” record, the entire Master catalog is worth a listen and it never fails to excite the masses when they bring out a new release. The thing that makes Master a great band is that they’ve never stopped bringing it full force. In 1990 they destroyed your senses with fierce death metal riffs that were completely relevant to the era and they do the same in 2012. Even some of the best bands in the world often have a misstep somewhere along the way but that hasn’t happened with these dudes.
Now of course Master is a death metal band but I need to call this extreme metal instead because The New Elite sounds, tastes and smells like thrash to me but it’s considered death metal (once again proving that metal has too many fucking genres). It doesn’t really matter which way I hear it though because in the end everyone is going to hear the same riffs that I do. Brutal first, melodic second, technical third. Songs like “Remove the Knife” and “Redirect the Evil” have both masterful speed and groovy riffs throughout and are a great example why Master are an extreme band that so many people can get into. While I wouldn’t consider this metal for beginners, if you are just finding your way in the genre you could do worse than starting with something in their catalog, even this record. Everything is extreme without being weird. Speckmann lets out some fierce growls but you can actually understand the lyrics and these are tunes that both an Obituary fan and a Slayer fan could equally enjoy.
Although only 45 minutes long, the one thing stopping The New Elite from being that sought after masterpiece is that by the end I had sort of zoned out. I was listening intently for the first eight or nine songs (of 11) but the rest of the way I sort of lost track of the record and it blurred together a bit. Consistency can sometimes bring that though; eleven tracks that are killer but have the exact same vibe from start to finish. But I’ll take it because being really good is still better then sucking any day.
Any release from the Queen of metal is pretty exciting these days. Like her or hate her, Doro Pesch has never slowed down from her days with Warlock to her solo career that began back in 1989. And she’s never changed. She still rocks out traditional heavy metal with the best of them. And the thing I have always respected about Doro is that while she’s undeniably hot she’s never used sex to get ahead. She’s relied on being a fantastic musician and singer and has tremendous respect all over the world for that.
The biggest problem with playing pretty much the same style for a couple decades is that there’s a point where either the music is dated the first time it hits your ears or the artist pretty much becomes a parody of themselves (see: Def Leppard). I really don’t think either of these have occurred with Doro. Sure, at least in the US, traditional heavy metal isn’t exactly what radio is looking for but I’m sure Germany eats this up. And her music is consistently good and sticks to what she does best, rockin’, rockin’ and seriously rockin’ some more.
This compilation is a whopping 32 tracks of album cuts, b-sides and other tunes put together by Doro with AFM. I love the parenthetical on this disc, A Fine Selection of Doro Classics. While most of these aren’t technically “classic” Doro tunes they at least only admit that it’s “fine,” not greatest hits or the most awesome thing ever because it’s not. Since it’s on AFM, it’s a comp. of those years which only began with 2004′s Classic Diamonds which consisted of some re-recorded versions of Doro solo tunes and Warlock tracks. So this is really only her works from 2004 to the present day, so it’s not a career retrospective which would really be nice. Therefore, it seems highly unnecessary for this to include 32 tracks. But Doro doesn’t do anything small, so it fits her personality well. And the music of course isn’t bad at all. I don’t like the sequencing much as it’s not in any sort of chronological order and the numerous ballads and really throw a jolting wrench into some furiously rocking tunes. But it’s all worth it when you get #28, her fantastic cover of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law.”
It’s already out in Germany and charted, though it doesn’t seem to be essential for countries that have consistently followed her over the years. For the US, it’s a perfectly fine re-introduction to a rockin’ chick that quite possibly wasn’t on your radar for years even though you should really go back and check out some Warlock albums as well.
Staying with the theme comes another group that has stuck with its roots over the years in Loudness. Those readers from the U.S. might remember them for their string of fantastic traditional/glam/hair metal albums in the late ’80s, like Lightning Strikes and Hurricane Eyes. These guys formed in Japan in 1980 and have never stopped making music, they’ve had numerous vocalists, including an American dude (but have been back with their original vocalist Minoru Niihara for more than a decade) and their founding drummer died in 2008 of Liver failure but overall they keep trekking on. I know they were young when they started but even if they were 20 years old, 30 + years later that makes them older than dirt in the metal world.
Here’s been the hardest thing for me as a long time fan of the group. You can’t get their music in the US. Even on iTunes you can only get some of the earlier material. Most of their music has only been released in Asia which is a shame because much of it is very good. I mean, Lightning Strikes was one of the best hair metal albums of the time back in 1986 but unfortunately, they made what seems now like a total sell out move and hired Connecticut born Michael Vescera for two records to help them break into the US. While both 1989′s Soldier of Fortune and 1991′s On the Prowl turned out pretty well thanks to the skill of the musicians, the experiment was a failure and if they’ve seen another record come out in the US, I’m unsure what it is. I’ve tracked down records like Spiritual Canoe which contains a song with the unfortunate title of “Climaxxx” and 1997′s Ghetto Machine and was pleasantly impressed. But I’ve missed these guys otherwise.
So here comes Eve To Dawn, released in September of 2011 to Japanese audiences and finally someone must have decided the album was good enough to push them again to US soil. Funny too, is that one week after the release of this, a real new album is coming out in Japan, called 126.96.36.199. But Eve To Dawn is going to have to do for now and it’s totally worth your time and money to check out these masters as work.
Thirty years later these guys have not softened up one bit, in fact this album is harder and more rockin’ than most of the traditional metal out there right now from any country. Akira Takasaki is an absolute guitar beast combining both power, speed and catchiness as he’s always done, into fierce riffage. The music is both headbanging and even slightly innovative, which is rare in what is essentially a pretty dead genre (at least in the US). “The Power of Truth” builds off the instrumental intro and offer up a total mosher right up front, while “Hang Tough” features some of the fastest riffs on the record. And I’m loving “Pandora” which is mid-tempo and led by some great bass work while losing none of the heaviness of the disc and the final track, “Crazy! Crazy! Crazy!” which is kind of funky, like an old Extreme type sound with great lyrics like:
“Tell me, what ya doing here? / But you don’t seem to care / This ain’t your property, get the fuck outta here! / Go back where you belong / You’ve stayed here way too long / Get out of here, outta my fuckin’ yard! / Stop bragging like a bitch / You’re a mite and makes me itch / If you’re not paying the rent, get the fuck outta here”
I went into this with the expectations of saying this is a nice throwback to the hair metal days of the ’80s but in reality it’s also a great record today for anyone that wants to rock the fuck out. This is going on my potential best of 2012 list for sure.
Albums currently on the potential best of 2012 list:
Baroness, Yellow & Green
Christian Mistress, Possession
Denial of God, Death and the Beyond
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Jorn, Bring Heavy Rock To the Land
Loudness, Eve To Dawn
Mongrels Cross, The Sins of Aquarius
OSI, Fire Make Thunder
Satanic Bloodspraying, At the Mercy of Satan
Terrorizer, Hordes of Chaos
Ufomammut, Oro: Opus Primum
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light