This Week in Badass: …In Which We Find Out How Much It Hurts

Written by Music, This Week in Badass

Is the new Sixx:A.M. CD badass? Or maybe you like some Mercyful Fate and Mastodon clones? Dave Steed gives you the lowdown on what’s badass this week in rock and metal.

This Week in Badass is going to take a look at all the killer music that has reached my ears in current week, whether it be music that was just released or items coming out in the near future. You might even get some vintage badass to get you through your weekend as well. Music will be ranked on the badass’ness scale — which of course goes to 11, the only true way to measure if something kicks ass. So throw your horns up and get ready to headbang along.

The big rock release this Tuesday was This Is Gonna Hurt (badass’ness: 6/11), the second studio record from Sixx:A.M. I’m a huge fan of the Crüe so I’m more than happy to give any of the members’ solo releases a listen, especially when they don’t belong to Tommy Lee. I’m a little disappointed in myself that I haven’t yet picked up the companion book to go along with the album but I’ll get to that.  The album though is exactly what you’d expect it to be, really nothing more and nothing less. It’s a catchy rock record, ready for major radio airplay, just like The Heroin Diaries (badass’ness: 7/11)  was, minus the dialog to tie the story line together.  There’s really nothing on the record that really feels like a Crüe outtake which is good and the first single “Lies of the Beautiful People” is pretty great.  “Sure Feels Right” is a #1 hit waiting to happen…for a country artist. Right now it has that laid back Uncle Kracker feel to it and would be right in the Tim McGraw wheelhouse. “Oh My God” is another track primed and ready to be a major hit – actually for these guys this time. It’s a mid-tempo anthem to stop ignoring the injustices and bullshit that goes on in this world. It’s like an Idol Gives Back song just waiting for the stage to perform it on.  Of course, if this said 3 Doors Down on it instead of Sixx:A.M. I’d probably be ripping it a new asshole right now for being way too generic and commercial but it doesn’t – it says Nikki Sixx.  And while his crying, “oh-woe-is-me” antics are getting slightly old at this point, he still knows how to write a rock tune.  Cheesy ballads like “Smile” and “Skin” need to go away but overall it’s a decent enough record to go out and get.

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The fifth album from the Gates of Slumber comes out next week on Rise Above records.  Titled The Wretch (badass’ness: 5/11) this album takes the group into the direction in which they started – heavy, lumbering doom.  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve always been a doom band but the last few records have had their fantasy themes and felt more epic metal than the downtrodden feel The Wretch gives off.  Lyrically it’s very different as it’s about the world letting us down and letting yourself down as well.  “Castle of the Devil” and “Coven of Cain” tell you where the lyrical content is going without listening to the tracks.  The heaviness is certainly present in a song like “Day of Farewell” which is based on a really killer riff, but it also has a guitar solo that wanders off without focus.  The darkness of the music certainly follows the lyrical content but even still, there just isn’t enough melody on the record to make this worth more than a passing listen.  Or maybe I’m just not in a dark enough place right now to enjoy it.

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On the other hand, Hate Eternal’s new album Phoenix Amongst the Ashes (badass’ness: 7/11) fixes the problems from their 2008 release – Fury & Flames (badass’ness: 3/11) – and puts them back on top as a death metal force to be reckoned with.  If you don’t know, the group – led by Erik Rutan – play brutal but technical death metal that usually can challenge a listener as much as pulverize them into submission.  Fury & Flames lacked a lot.  It had poor production and no cohesion within the tracks which made it a bit of a jumbled mess.  Now, while I’m not a huge fan of moments like the technical solo that opens up “The Art of Redemption,” most of the tracks flow well together and the tech-riffs compliment more than overwhelm.  The production is better as well. The vocals are further up front and the drums aren’t as muddy as the last record.  It’s not a masterpiece by any means as there are points, like in the title track, where the riffs just sort of blend together in a wall of noise. But it should certainly please fans of the band who disliked the last album.

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In addition to the Hate Eternal record, Metal Blade has another interesting release coming out on Tuesday by Swedish heavy metal group Portrait.  If you’re a metal fan like me you probably are looking at this album cover and thinking that Portrait is some metal band that you missed in the ’80s that are about to release their 20th record but that’s not the case. Though everything about Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae (badass’ness: 7/11) is completely vintage even down to their leather vest, chest-baring image, the group only released their first demo in 2006 and this marks only their second album.  The first album felt like Priest meets King Diamond but Crimen Laesae Majestatis Divinae is 100% Mercyful Fate all the way. Portrait wears their influence on their sleeve and certainly aren’t afraid to play it up either. I should hate the record as I never did like the Fate thanks to King Diamond’s falsetto. Most people think he’s one of the greatest metal singers of all time. I think he’s ear piercing.  Thankfully, no one can get to the King’s level of singing, though Portrait singer Per Karlsson tries with all his might. If this record had come out in 1985 as the follow up to Don’t Break the Oath (badass’ness: 7/11) , I don’t think anyone would have questioned its origins as a Mercyful Fate record.  Portrait would make a hell of a cover band but since no one is clamoring for a Mercyful Fate cover artist, original recordings that sound like a full blown tribute album will suffice.

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Now let’s switch gears to some sludge metal courtesy of MeteorCity artist, Olde Growth.  The self-titled debut (badass’ness: 7/11) came out in 2010 without a label but I guess word spread on these guys and now they are about to get a full label release to get their name out there.  Olde Growth varies between slow, murky sludge numbers and upbeat stoner riff fests. The vocals vary as well, sometimes screamed and other times sung cleanly. Despite production that makes the album sound somewhat like a demo and some parts that seems to be stuck in quicksand, the album shows a new band that clearly has some promise for the future to make some killer sludge records.

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MeteorCity is releasing another pretty cool one in the US next week too, in the form of the debut full length from New Keepers of the Water Towers, called The Calydonian Hunt (badass’ness: 8/11). The group has put out two EP’s in the last few years (which also makes this LP a little odd because it’s shorter than the first EP) which has helped them perfect their craft leading up to this record. I hate making the easy comparison but these Swedes defintitely have a Mastodon vibe going for them. Just like Mastodon has their themes going on their albums, even the titles of the first few give off the same vibe (2007’s Chronicles of the Massive Boar and 2008’s Chronicles of the Iceman, which I have not heard). The Calydonian Hunt has the same chugging riffs and some similar trippy prog-rock passages. The biggest difference between the two bands is that New Keepers don’t wander off into some spacey world and forget to come back for nine minutes. Most of the songs they create are four minutes or under including some instrumentals and interludes here and there. With the right promotion and a disc longer than 29 minutes, I see no reason why these guys couldn’t get somewhat near the level of success that Mastodon has.

Next week, it’s the return of ’80s hair metal!