In preparing to post this, I sadly read from Rob Halford’s Instagram about the death of Lemmy Kilmister and soon confirmed from Motörhead’s Instagram. Thank you, Lemmy, for your music and inspiration. You united many people across musical genres with one of the best rock and roll bands of all time.
Okay, now that this Christmas business has settled, I’m ready to share my scaled down list of recommended music released in this dying year of 2015. Since I’m generally glued to the past musically, you won’t find but one newer band. I’m proud to support these artists, most of whom have been persistent, without the level of acclaim or money seen by their peers.
Armored Saint – Win Hands Down
The mighty Saint unchained a rare new studio release, their fourth in 25 years, and crafted a musically varied and vocally powerful disc. The years since singer John Bush parted with Anthrax have been kind to Scott Ian’s crew, but Bush may have indirectly benefited from that business decision by recording some of the best vocals of his career. He sounds re-energized and youthful, with his band of true friends professionally, intricately, and enthusiastically marching along. I’d place Win Hands Down as one of Armored Saint’s finest recordings. A standout track, “Muscle Memory,” sounds as if Armored Saint collaborated with Alice In Chains and Pornograffitti-era Extreme. Such are the songs that they’re usually unpredictable.
A limited tour with Saxon supported this CD, with an Illinois date I missed, and hopefully introduced the band to a new generation.
War on Women – War on Women
I rarely listen to modern hardcore, especially after the peak of late-1980s NYHC when it tended to be tough guys playing monotonous metal under the hipper guise of punk. The used-up genre requires something in a band, if not directly identifiable, to seize my ear. War on Women has the speed, variation, and chops to command attention and strengthen the progressive world view lyrics of Shawna Potter. Think 1990s Riot Grrrl, Metallica, and 1980s Dischord punk, and that may closely describe their style.
I missed W.O.W. when they played Des Moines last summer, but will try again if they make it back.
Chastain – We Bleed Metal
Ohio’s shred master, David T. Chastain, has been recording solo and with multiple bands since the 1980s. He’s also one of my favorite metal guitarists. His most popular band, Chastain, feature wonderful and melodic guitar work and soaring vocals. Deserving special honors are the records For Those Who Dare, The 7th of Never, and The Voice of the Cult. David T. is like Eddie Van Halen, with undeniable skill and more crucially, songwriting talent. Leather Leone, with pipes akin to Ronnie James Dio, returned to lead vocals after 20 years for 2013’s Surrender To No One, and again on We Bleed Metal. The production and compositions are firm references to the golden age of metal, in which vocal range and skill had higher value.
Shows are rare for these vets, and financial support via merch and music will hopefully be great enough to result in more music.
Raven – ExtermiNation
I never much paid attention to the U.K.’s Raven, who were mowed down in popularity in the ’80s by NWOBHM contemporaries like Iron Maiden and Def Leppard and one-time labelmates Metallica and Anthrax. ExtermiNation’s album art first got my notice, then I listened and was surprised by the “athletic rock” group’s release 35 years after their debut. Yes, it’s cheesy, but delivers kicks and excitement in an age of serious, mechanical metal. I’ll be sorting through their catalog to make up for my hasty, early dismissal of Raven.
Raven recently toured The United States, but I only found out after it was over.
Nuclear Assault – Pounder
Nuclear Assault released this EP, their first new material since 2005, to coincide with their Final Assault tour. It does not surpass the harsh, wicked thrash of Survive, Game Over, or Handle With Care, but it’s still a welcomed gift from the important New York crossover band founded by Anthrax/S.O.D./Brutal Truth bassist Dan Lilker. The first 3 songs are pointed and fast, with a touch of sloppiness and low budget production that recalls their salad days.
As with Saint and W.O.W., I missed an opportunity to see Nuclear Assault last summer.
Anticipated releases in 2016 include Metal Church – XI, D.R.I. – EP, and Anthrax – For All Kings.