Best of 2017: Zorn of Zornheym

Zorn (guitars), Zornheym
Zorn

Sweden’s extreme metallers Zornheym released their debut full length, Where Hatred Dwells and Darkness Reigns, back in September on Non Serviam Records. Epic and grandiose are just a couple of words that describe the nine tracks found on this symphonic metal album, it’s heavy and extreme in precisely the right places but the atmosphere is the real star here and the super crisp production helps drive the point home. Zorn (lead guitarist) sent us his picks from 2017, head inside to see what he chose.  Continue reading

Stage Dive: Favorite Metal Comeback Album?

Little bit late on this one, but hey! That’s what happens when you spend six hours editing and laying out a newsletter at work. (No word of a lie, that was my day today. Brains were mush by 2 PM.) Anyway, it’s Wednesday, so let’s get right to a new Stage Dive topic. We’ve got one that’s especially relevant this week, so let’s waste no further time. Our question is:

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE METAL COMEBACK ALBUM?

Def Leppard's "Hysteria" would have been an acceptable response if I'd asked for best POP comeback album. But nope, not the case.
Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” would have been my response if I’d asked for best POP comeback album. But nope, not the case.

I say “especially relevant” because as I type this, I’m listening to a rather excellent new album from UK industrial metal legends Godflesh–their first studio album in 13 years, and one that I’m very much looking forward to discussing on this week’s podcast. This, of course, is to say nothing of the fantastic comebacks we’ve already seen from Eyehategod and Behemoth this year, the forthcoming At the Gates record (itself a mere 19 years in the making) and the stellar returns we saw from Carcass and Gorguts last year. Seems like a great comeback records are all the rage, you guys!

But after a bit thinking a bit on this topic, I can really only answer this question one way. As much as I’ve enjoyed all of the above records–at least the ones that are available, anyway–my FAVORITE metal comeback album would have to be Iron Maiden‘s Brave New World.

iron-maiden-brave-new-world-album-cover

Technically, I guess this wasn’t so much a “comeback” album as a “return-to-form;” for better or worse, after vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith left the band in the early ’90s, Maiden decided to carry on with new Blaze Bayley and Janick Gers, respectively, rather than breaking up. I won’t pretend I’m old enough to have been around during the band’s ’80s heyday, or that I appreciated Dickinson and Smith’s return to the band nearly as much as anyone who was a fan back then. Hell, I wasn’t even listening to metal when this thing came out. But at the time I got into Maiden, this was their then-most-recent album, and thus the one I was drawn to after familiarizing myself with all the “Troopers” and “Wrathchilds” (“Wrathchildren?”) from their earlier discography.

And if I’m being honest…no, this thing isn’t perfect: “The Mercenary” is one of the stupidest Maiden songs ever; “Dream of Mirrors” is four or five minutes longer than it needed to be; I’ve never liked “The Nomad” as much as a lot of people; etc. etc. Is this the best comeback album a metal band’s ever put out? Hell no. But flaws and all, it’s my favorite. Why?

Because “The Wicker Man” is on a shortlist of Maiden’s best album opening tracks ever. Because “The Fallen Angel” is underrated as all hell and at the time was one of the band’s best pure rockers in several years. Because “Blood Brothers” is one of the prettiest, most moving metal tracks you’ll ever hear (even Gers’ solo is mint!). Because the tour supporting Brave New World yielded the band’s infamous Rock in Rio performance and DVD, which I watched religiously as an angsty middle schooler daring to be different. Plus, even if I can’t personally claim to have appreciated it at the time, can anyone deny the importance of the return of Dickinson and Smith to the fold?

Sorry, I’m not having it any other way. When you talk about comeback albums, Brave New World will always be the one I think of first. It’s not the best one we’ve ever seen, but it sure as hell isn’t one you can undermine lightly.

You know what to do now. Share yours in the comments and keep the discussion going!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.

Throwback Thursday: Happy birthday, incredibly polarizing Iron Maiden album!

It’s Thursday, so naturally, it’s time for another Throwback! Today marks the 19th birthday of a…shall we say divisive?…Iron Maiden album, so naturally, for this week’s #tbt, we’re going to go back and revisit it. Let’s take another look at 1995’s The X Factor:

Actually, I'm sorry I *literally* took a look at it. That cover is hideous.
Actually, I’m sorry I *literally* took a look at it. That cover is hideous.

By now, you all know the story behind The X Factor. Singer Bruce Dickinson had left the band two years earlier (and beaten them to a follow-up album with the release of Balls to Picasso in 1994) and been replaced by the well-meaning but unfortunately not-as-air-raid-siren-y Blaze Bayley, formerly of Wolfsbane. Steve Harris began upping the frequency of his slow bass intros from every fourth or fifth song to…what, two out of every three? Three out of four? (Regardless, this album marked the birth of Maiden’s “bass intro phase,” which the band is still really struggling to outgrow. Or not even trying to do so at all, perhaps.) And Bayley, try as he might to reach Dickinsonian heights (and, more importantly, pitch levels), simply didn’t cut it. There’s very audible strain in his voice as he struggles to sing out-of-register–which, to his and the band’s credit, he did a whole hell of a lot less on their next album, Virtual XI.

Either way, you can see why The X Factor is generally considered one of Maiden’s weaker efforts–along with the band’s last two albums with Dickinson, but minus Adrian Smith, to be fair. So much of what had made the band tick up to that point was gone, with inadequate replacements and an unclear sense of direction coming in their stead.

But that’s not to say that The X Factor is a complete loss. Against my better judgment, I still love the goofy lead single, “Man on the Edge,” and songs like “Sign of the Cross” and “Lord of the Flies” have bite as well. (Both have been performed live since Dickinson returned to the band, and he improves both quite considerably.) For this week’s clip, however, we’re going to revisit an oft-underrated gem from the middle of the album, “Blood on the World’s Hands.”

Bass intro? Check, and a bit of an over-long one at that. But still, once this thing gets going, it’s quite a treat. Cool melody in the main riff, an appropriate apocalyptic feel throughout, and one of Bayley’s strongest, most impassioned vocal performances on the entire album. Say what you will about the album as a whole–and believe me, I’m no great fan of it–but “Blood on the World’s Hands” stands up very well.

So that’ll do it for this week. Check back later today for our Quickies!

-Dan

Live. Love. Plow. Horns Up.