This Week in Badass is going to take a look at all the killer music that has reached my ears in the 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. Bands are bolded the first time they are mentioned if you want to scroll through to see if there’s someone you like.

For months now I have been counting down the days until my most anticipated record of 2011 came out – Conjure and Command (badass’ness: 7/11), the 4th record from Toxic Holocaust. It was released on July 19th to little fanfare and I’ve been listening to it ever since. Maybe it’s because I think all of the other TH records are brilliant and I was expecting way too much time around but I’m left terribly dissapointed by this one.

Conjure and Command is the first record that Joel Grind hasn’t recorded all by himself, instead having Philthy Gnaast on bass and Nikki Rage on drums. Based on the fact that this is the only album I don’t like from them, I have to also think this has something to do with it. That’s not to say either of these guys aren’t good musicians but it’s no longer completely Joel’s sound you hear on this disc.

The record does have some fantastic moments like the two minute opener, “Judgement Awaits You” and the totally blistering “Bitch.” But then there’s “Nowhere To Run” which is heavy as hell but almost has a power metal feel to it (as does “The Liars are Burning”) and that’s just not what I’m expecting out of a group that has mixed thrash and black metal so damn perfectly in the past. Following that track is “I Am Disease” which is flat out slow for the first half of the tune before becoming kind of groovy. Again, really not expecting any type of grooviness here. Maybe these types of tunes will grow on me over time but the first half dozen listens or so leave me underwhelmed. My words may not seem to quite gel with the 7/11 that I gave the record but when each of the first three get a 10 or 11, a seven is a grand disappointment. Now I’m sure my expectations have lowered though so I’m sure the next release will once again be a blistering masterpiece.

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In the world of “not as bizarre as one might think by looking at the artwork” comes Chapter I (badass’ness: 8/11), the debut from Germany’s Ave Maria. With a truly odd looking album cover and billed as psychedelic black metal, I was expecting some avant garde pile of poorly produced noise but instead got an album that is more straightforward than could be anticipated.

The whole thing is definitely rooted in blackness and has some spacey-quiet moments throughout that sort of push the walls of the black metal sound out a bit. But there’s also a lot of rock riffs involved in these tunes as well. A good example of this is in “Shining Toxic” (download) where there’s just a blistering wall of blackened noise at the surface but underneath there’s a guitar riff that is almost toe-tapping (the fucking horror of them). “The Cloven Psalmody” gives off a little more of that trance-like vibe at the start before giving way to another wall of sound that knocks you on your ass.

If the band views themselves at trippy and psychedelic, then I think it’s gotta be expected that they are only going to get more “out there” with future records, but right now they aren’t as crazy as you might read about them. However, they do seem to be extremely creative with their sound and willing to push outside the typical black metal sound, so Chapter I could be the start of something good.

Moving on to two of the four releases coming out on Metal Blade on August 2nd, let’s start with Battlecross (badass’ness: 10/11). If you live in Michigan you might recognize Pursuit of Honor even though it’s their “debut” record. Last year they released Push Pull Destroy on their own and got a decent following in the Michigan area. Before the album was released though, their singer left and Kyle Gunther came in and just destroyed it. That album wasn’t heard by many (myself included – though I’ve listened to it on youtube in the recent days) but still caught the ear of someone at Metal Blade.

The band doesn’t sell this disc any longer it seems and of course it’s being almost erased from history since even on their own website they are calling Pursuit of Honor, the debut album. But that’s okay, since other than an additional instrumental at the end, the track list is the same (third track “Aiden” was renamed “Kaleb”). Details are sketchy but it seems they went back into the studio and rerecorded the tracks with the new vocalist and got some real good production out of Metal Blade (or a fantastic remastering) to create a fucking dynamic record.

Battlecross is a fantastic old school thrash metal band with slight technical elements to blend the brutality with some creativity. Immediately there are some things that stand out about these guys – fantastic soloing, virtually perfect vocals and bass work that you can not only pick out but truly enhances the experience. A track like “Better Off Dead” really showcases all of these things awesomely as Gunther growls on this tune better than any other on the disc and the riffs have that great mid-90s feel while not just being all about speed, rather showcasing the technical talent of the dual guitarists. But it’s “Push Pull Destroy” that’s really the centerpiece of this record. The opening falsetto scream combined with the killer first riff makes an impact almost immediately and totally sets the tone for a fucking badass record. Battlecross is a name you should be on the lookout for in the future. If this group doesn’t make it then there’s no hope for American thrash.

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And if old school is what works for you, then Metal Blade is about to release remastered versions of Damnation Alley (badass’ness: 8/11) and Be My Slave, (badass’ness: 9/11) the first EP and LP from the pretty legendary heavy metal band, Bitch. Bitch never really amounted to much but if you’re a fan of ’80s metal you should know the name at least. And that’s because of lead singer Betsy Bitch, who was all hips, tits and big hair and if you aren’t familiar I say that not to mock or offend but because that’s what the group was known for. Betsy and her rack clad in bondage gear singing tongue-in-cheek tunes about dirty sex was the entire group.

If you haven’t heard anything from them, it might seem simply like a very early version of the shit that goes on today – you know, 10,000 shitty ass metal bands with a hot chick fronting them simply because they can get on the cover of Revolver. But the weird thing about Bitch was that the ugly dudes behind her were pretty damn good. In fact, Be My Slave is a pretty great slab of traditional heavy metal with some killer riffs and brilliant vocals. And the bondage angle didn’t even work for them as in 1988 they became Betsy and made a more slicked up ’80s metal record (which went less than nowhere).

I would have to assume that the people that bought these records back in ’82 or ’83 were horny dudes with a chubb and once the novelty wore off they simply moved on to something better. Fuck, reading the lyrics right now are giving me a half chubb at least so I can’t imagine what it was like living through this (I was only 7 at the time). For an example, check out the lyrics to “Leather Bound”…

“The whip is my toy, handcuffs are your joy / You hold me down and I´m screaming for more / Don´t let me up, ´cause it´s just what I asked for / I´m gonna do it to you, you´re gonna do it to me / We´re gonna do it together / We´re all leather, leatherbound.”

Anyway, S&M aside the reissue (they are both on one disc) sounds extremely good and finally brings these two records the production they deserve and this time you should be buying this because the music’s really fucking killer.

“Leather Bound”
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About the Author

Dave Steed

Dave Steed is all about music; 80's and metal to be exact. His iPod will shuffle from Culture Club to Slayer and he won't blink an eye. He's never heard Astral Weeks but thinks "Dazzey Duks" by Duice is the bomb. It's an odd little corner of the world he lives in.

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