Nine Circles ov…My Metal “Retreat”

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Man cannot live on metal alone.

“Blasphemy!” you may cry, but true…at least in this dude’s case.  The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of stress and activity as I turned another year older, paid another bill, worked another late night, blah blah blah.  It gets to a point sometimes when you just need to clear your head and take a little time for yourself.  Not to mention that after a while when you’re digesting promo after promo you run the danger of not giving the music the attention it warrants.  And you start to look for shortcuts.  “Well,” you tell yourself, “I heard the first four songs, I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to really change my mind about this thing.” Or worse, you start just leaning more and more on the materials in the press release: “Oh! A cross of Joan Baez and Incantation?  But with drone elements?  I’ll say a mix of Joni Mitchell and Malevolent Creation with, uh….fuck it, drone elements.”

You know what I’m taking about.  For me, it’s a matter of disconnecting in order to reconnect.  And there’s been plenty of music I’ve been discovering over the past few months that have helped me to reconnect with what it is I love about loud noises.  So for this edition of Nine Circles ov… I want to share a few of the records that have been recharging the batteries and re-calibrating the heavy sensors.  Let’s dig in.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…Power Metal That Eased Me Into Liking Power Metal (Again)

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I find it fascinating that power metal still doesn’t get the fair shake it deserves from the metal community.  The same folks who mock and ridicule bands for dressing up like superheroes in their videos or writing about dragons or Lord of the Rings are the same folks who worship bands who revel in dressing up and running around in the forest in wizard hats or, come to think of it, also write about the Lord of the Rings (or at least derive their name from it). Yet, despite these similar touch points in silliness power metal still has a stigma attached to it, one I admit to having for a time as I became engrossed in the more extreme aspects of metal.

What’s the point, besides my linking to that awesomely ridiculous Immortal video?  It’s that there’s plenty to love in power metal, and the claims of cheese and pomp are no more valid than they are in any other genre in the scene.  For this edition of Nine Circles ov… I wanted to take a look at a few of the bands and albums that brought me back into the fold – many of them introduced to me by former 9C scribe and power metal champion Frank.  So think of these as gateway bands: we’re not going full-on Gloryhammer yet (although Gloryhammer is awesome); the emphasis is on heaviness, aggression and, ultimately, power ¹.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…Vintersorg

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Andreas Hedlund, aka Vintersorg, aka Mr. V (if you believe his Wikipedia page) was a prime component of my re-entry into extreme metal.  After falling in with Opeth’s Morningrise I wasn’t sure where to head next, so I went to the record store and maxed out my credit card randomly picking up a bunch of CDs I thought looked cool.  The first one I listened to was Empiricism by Borknagar, and while my response to the music was lukewarm (more an issue with the production than the actual songwriting) the vocals hooked me immediately.  As fate would have it one of the other CDs I picked up was Vintersorg’s Cosmic Genesis, and listening to that I began to get the sense of just how much versatility and talent this guy had.

So much versatility and talent it’s taken at least seven different bands to contain him so for this week’s Nine Circles ov… let’s dive into some of the music created by, driven buy, or enhanced by the man some (I don’t know who) know as Mr. V.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…MANOWAR!

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Everyone who knows me, or knows of me, is well aware of my insane love for Manowar. For over twenty years the self-described “Kings of Metal” have made me raise my fist in the air and sing every word of their glorious tunes. They were my introduction to heavy metal. No matter how I’m feeling on a certain day, I can put on one of their many releases and it puts an instant smile on my face. To me, Manowar IS metal. Whether it’s loincloths, ass-less chaps, or tight leather, the look and attitude of this iconic band will always be my go-to in the world of loud tuneage.

Throughout the years I’ve made countless lists of my favorite songs, albums, solos, etc. So when I was asked to contribute a list for Nine Circles I immediately said yes. How could I not? It’s Manowar! Instead of just a random nine songs I wanted to choose ones that have influenced my life. There is a reason why the warrior on the album covers has no face. It is the face of us all, a mirror to reflect each human being battling the war of every day life. So without further delay, I am honored to present this Nine Circles ov… covering nine Manowar songs that have helped me fight through life’s constant battles.   Continue reading

Nine Circles ov…80s Glam/Hair “Metal” Albums That Rock

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Look, let’s cut to the chase: if you grew up in a certain time period, it was impossible to get away from the spandex, the hairspray, the fishnet and the misogynistic lyrics. Glam and hair “metal” ruled MTV, ruled rock radio, and ruled the fashions of teenagers everywhere. It also served as a gateway for thousands of kids that would later move into deeper and darker waters. So congratulations if you only listened to “cool” music as a kid – you were either born much later than I was (early 70s), or you were one of the burnouts behind the gym smoking and listening to Slayer. In both cases congratulations: you’ll probably live longer than me in the one instance, and in the other know I secretly coveted your cool shirts and was enthralled by the music, though it’d be a few years before I bought it.

For this edition of Nine Circles ov… I tried to stay away from obvious answers and obvious classics. So you won’t see Mötley Crüe’s Too Fast For Love or Twisted Sister’s Under the Blade (feel free to fight me on those). You won’t see glammed up 80s entries from bands who rocked hard in the 70s like Scorpions and Kiss. And you certainly won’t see all the great speed and thrash bands that still kill to this day. I went under the bed and pulled out the shoebox of cassettes, dusted them off with my tiger striped bandanna and found a few gems that resonate with me 30 years later. So raise a lighter and let’s have some fun.   Continue reading