Satanic Warmaster, Nachzehrer (Werewolf/Northern Heritage)

“In times of strife a fire burns / Warmaster returns.” Such is the chorus of “Warmaster Returns,” an appropriate track since this is the first studio full-length from Nazgul (or Mr. Satanic Tyrant Werwolf) in five years.

I wish I had a lyric sheet for every black metal record. Without it, I would have no clue what Nazgul is singing but with it in front of me, everything makes sense all of a sudden. And his vocals aren’t even close to being the most undecipherable in black metal.

One thing I realize by reading black metal lyrics is that most of these artists can really write some great lyrics and tell stories like no others. A lot of the music can be very simplistic, but many of the lyrics are incredibly complicated – unfortunately, most people (myself included) never have a fucking clue what’s being spewed at us.

But when I hear creative black metal I take notice and it’s nice hear to understand things, so that instead of just commenting that the circus like keyboard intro and punky rhythms of “Beastial Darkness” are pretty damn cool, I can actually say lyrics like, “In the night and in your eyes/A dread draped in swirling fur/Ghostly tails that follow/A myriad of feral gestalts/The terror of the dark age/That sleeps in warrior’s heart/Resurges from our blood’s memory/To invoke our life’s quintessence” are quite though provoking.  I know nothing like that would ever come out of my mouth if I was ever to write a song. I’m not even sure I know what a “myriad of ferel gestalts” means anyway – but it’s still fucking awesome.

Would I enjoy this album as much if I didn’t have the lyric sheet in front of me though? Absolutely. “Rotting Raven’s Blood” is actually more of a doom track than black metal and is a fantastic slow groover, even with the howl of the raven in between verses (which just has to me Nazgul making the noise himself as no bird could sound that silly). The moving strings and keys of the dark album closer “Utug-Hul” offer a terrific somber ending to strife-filled album.

Overall, It’s nice to see Werwolf focus on his own solo stuff again rather than the 12,000 other bands he’s a part of. Most of these songs showed up on a “best of” compilation earlier in the year as raw demos (the idea of a “best of” for Satanic Warmaster is ludicrous to begin with but then half the songs are new demos?) so listening to this will get you the still raw but better produced studio versions.

Tub Ring, Secret Handshakes (The End)

When I listen to Tub Ring, I realize how much my tastes have changed over the years. Back in college when I was the music director at our campus station reviewing literally hundreds of albums every week I used to rip “chaotic bullshit.” Tub Ring started after my time, so I don’t remember them, but I do recall getting discs from groups like Mindless Self Indulgence and Dog Fashion Disco and laughing at them. While I still hate Dog Fashion Disco, once my metal fix kicked in full bore, I learned to really the former band. Tub Ring probably would have fallen under that chaotic label many years ago for me but now “eclectic” seems like a better word.

It’s no coincidence I mentioned the bands above as Tub Ring has been associated with them for years, but in reality from the first listen I immediately thought about Mindless Self Indugence. Tub Ring isn’t quite as wild as them seemingly preferring a slight bit more structure to their recorded music. They could be compared to Mr. Bungle a bit as they do go off on some crazy tangents now and again.

The most rockin’ song on the disc would be the lead track “Stop This (NOW!)” (following “Get Help (NOW!)” on their previous disc) which has a ton of energy and handclaps to bring it all together. “Gold Finger” is another pretty wild song with the pop element added in via “Oooh Oooh Oooohh’s” this time around. And you can’t ignore the fact that they cover “Flash” – Queen’s theme to Flash Gordon. Definitely an interesting choice in covers. Overall, it’s a pretty solid record for those willing to try something a little eclectic.

There is one question that arises from listening to this album though – at what point do you cross the line lyrically? I mean, I’m not the most PC person myself and I listen to vulgar Cannibal Corpse lyrics, but there’s something that bothers me about the song “I Shot Your Faggot Horse, Bitch”. Throughout the weeks where I’ve been listening to this album, this song keeps popping up in my head because of the title which is repeated quite a bit in the chorus. Maybe it bothers me because calling a horse gay is pretty ludicrous or maybe it’s the angry tone of the overall song that makes it even worse but does it cross the line and take away from an otherwise really interesting record? I just don’t know but it’s been stuck in my head for weeks.

Buy a copy of Secret Handshakes and try it out.

Sahg, Sahg III (Regain)

Back in 2006 someone handed me the debut record from Sahg and I remember putting in writing someplace that this band would be the next big thing (now, if only I could back that up with the actual piece) but now in 2010 I was shocked to even hear they were still together.

Sahg I was a sprawling epic slab of stoner doom that made me excited to listen to it. It wasn’t anything unique but it was killer and had the potential to be run to rock radio. Now maybe the rest of the world is more up on these guys today, but Sahg has never really done much of anything in the US.

If you look at their myspace page, you get the mass hype over the first album, one paragraph about the mediocre second album which was less wild and moved towards a smooth radio rock sound and then the blurb starts comparing the new approach to songwriting like Metallica and Slayer and them bringing progressive elements to the table like Mastodon. And really, this is what’s stabbing me in the gut about the record. Approach the record how you want, but tossing out the names Metallica, Slayer and Mastodon when you sound nothing like any of them takes some big balls. I wish some of those big brass ones would appear in the damn music though.

Sahg III is average stoner rock at best with only a few highlights here and there. Buried at the end of the disc are “Burden” and “Denier” – the two most exciting tracks on the record. With both of these tracks you can feel the energy in both the vocals and the guitars whereas on the six-and-a-half minute “Mother’s Revenge” they sound totally uninspired until around the six minute mark, which makes a good :30 interlude there. The biggest problem is that there is virtually nothing on the disc that I haven’t heard from a hundred other stoner/doom bands which means it needs something special to stand out and that’s really nowhere to be found. That doesn’t necessarily make this a bad record but really just kind of pointless. Until Sahg finds the right direction to move in again, stick with the first album instead.

Think I’m wrong? Then go get some Sahg for yourself.

Murderdolls, Women and Children Last (Roadrunner)

Wow, what a difference eight years makes. Yep, it’s been eight long years since we first were introduced to the Murderdolls which are essentially Wednesday 13 and Slipknot’s Joey Jordison.

Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls had a definite old school horror punk feel and was compared to the Misfits in their heyday. Unfortunately, the album was the project of guys who had never played together before and ended up letting a lot of people down.

That was 2002 and I have to admit I was shocked when the Murderdolls showed up on the release schedule again with Women and Children Last. While there are some vintage punk tracks like “Summertime Suicide”, the album not only feels more current, but the songs are much tighter. It’s way too long at 15 songs, but most are near the 3:00 mark so the album tends to move quickly.

On the first record there weren’t enough great songs to balance out the clunkers but that’s not the case with this release. “Bored To Death” is catchy as hell. “Blood Stained Valentine” has a definite Motley Crue feel to it (of course it does since the riffs are provided by Mick Mars) and first single, “My Dark Place Alone” has a ridiculously killer sleezy riff. “Pieces of You” contains some of my favorite lyrics on the album. I saw that title and immediately thought ballad forgetting of course that horror is a prevailing theme for the group and then got this punky track with lyrics like “we can play operation/and mutilate pieces of you” and “I’ll decapitate/and next I’ll amputate all the/things that I hate/but there won’t be anything left of you.” (And see, these lyrics don’t bother me at all – refer to Tub Ring review if you have no idea why I wrote that.) All of this leads to a surprisingly great album which is even better because I wasn’t even expecting a good one.

The Murderdolls want your money!

Denouncement Pyre, World Cremation (Hells Headbangers)

While Satanic Warmaster was a darker and doomier black metal, Denouncement Pyre is the face- ripping blast-beat cousin.

As with Warmaster, Denouncement Pyre aren’t just straight repetitive black metal. While not the most unique band in the world, they do push past the norm of the genre and offer some some pretty great melodic chainsaw buzzing in their guitar work.

“Salvation, the fading light” is the most melodic track on the album with the main riff really shining through and carrying the track. “A Banner Drenched in Blood” follows that track up with an absolutely fast and furious ear-bleeder with a brutally fast solo in the middle. “Invination of Poison” is dark and has a mesmerizing quality to it to close out the album in nice form. And I’ve just talked about the last three songs on the disc, which means it gets better as it goes along.

World Cremation is good enough that it once again makes me want to dig up some more black metal and keep giving it more of a shot. So even just for that it’s gets some high horns up.

World Cremation is on Amazon. Buy it.

Sons of Liberty, Brush-Fires of the Mind (Century Media)

I wish I could just simply post all the tracks to this record and force you to listen to it because it’s one of those rare records that speaks for itself. Unfortunately, I don’t think Century Media would like that very much and I can’t force you to do anything (I’m working on that). So the challenge here is how to do the speaking for the record and I have to admit, this one stopped me in my tracks.

I feel I have to break this down into three distinct sections: Background, music and lyrics.

Background: Sons of Liberty is the one man project of Jon Schaffer, the guitarist for Iced Earth and Demons & Wizards. It’s the first project where he’s played pretty much everything on the disc including the programmed drums and taken the lead vocal duties. The album was released for free download in 2009, but Century Media put it out recently on disc.

Music: Musically this is a pretty straight forward heavy metal record. It doesn’t have the sprawling epic soloing work of Iced Earth, nor the power choruses or interludes that have brought down the last couple Iced Earth records. It does have melodic power chords and extremely structured almost generic rhythms at least when comparing the twists and turns in other records of his. It comes across as a simple fist pumper, that is if you can deal with the…

…Lyrics: This is where it gets tough. The lyrics on this album are all about a new world order conspiracy theory and it’s one of the most blatantly political records I’ve ever heard. Shaffer shoves his theories down your throat without any attempt to cover up his opinions. I’m not big into politics and I won’t get into any sort of debate here about them as I know that I can’t offer solid arguments one way or another. However, when I first started listening to the album I didn’t think any lyrical content would really bother me but it started to wear on me by the end.

Between the political quotes from Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln, the protest speeches, clips from George W. Bush and the constant talk of lies, corruption and the loss of freedom present in each and every song on the disc, it wore me down to the point where I just had to stop listening to music all together and it took literally two days for me to write this up. So I guess despite that fact that I don’t have strong views about any political items at all, I clearly don’t subscribe to Schaffer’s view of what’s going on.

So in the end it’s pretty simple after all – if you don’t give a shit about lyrics, or you agree with his views, then it’s a pretty damn solid record. But if his message doesn’t gel with you then it will probably piss you off something fierce. If nothing else, this is most polarizing record this side of the last three Ministry albums.

Fight for your liberty, um, by purchasing a Sons of Liberty album!