Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff is the author of The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal, a 540 page, 600,000 word compendium comprising 3,700 heavy metal record reviews. Also included are rock lists, a glossary of terms, a concise listing of almost 500 9's and 10's, plus a roll-call of non-metal faves. New to this edition is an exclusive 19 track sampler CD from Century Media. The book is now in its second pressing. For more information contact martinp@hardradio.com


Fresh Metal

Metallica - S&M

The greatest pleasure for a metalhead listening to this is the shock one imagines registered on the foreheads of these classical performers as Metallica in full band mode show them why metal can't help but command one's attention while classical is a dying art form. I've always maintained that: stick a few power chords and some shredding in a TV ad or in a movie soundtrack, and people's ears prick up and zone in. The classical, show tune, jazz thing . . . you barely even notice it happening. S&M almost sounds like a set-up to prove that, Metallica gleefully pounding through their classics while exiled off on a dissonant distant planet, pop crossovercomposer Michael Kamen tries in vain to colourize these warm Metallica chestnuts with arcane texturing. He's also chopped at the tux 'n' tails by the fact that his San Francisco Symphony is mixed so far back that it sounds like a kid headbanging in his room while mom's crappy AM radio vaguely whines outside of metal's closed and comforting door. Hetfield further stacks the deck by encouraging crowd participation, causing visions of savages circling the wagons and killing all the lame music fans. All the while Kamen goes high art with his arrangements, often providing counter melodies that are so far from base that it sounds like two songs playing at once (remember when yer car radio had analog tuning), further eliciting this feeling of battle rather than collaboration. You know what would have meshed better? Metallica crossing the pond and adding vocals, guitar and sparing, selective drums to Apocalyptica arrangements. Anyway, besides a fairly vibrant Until It Sleeps and a smartly blended Call Of Ktulu, the most value-packed tracks are the two new ones, No Leaf Clover working well in this context and -Human being a hooky enough Load-type slow boiler, again, the symphony stuff just a mild irritant that, with practice, you can mentally block out. Note to Kamen: stick with the bland boomer easy listening diva stuff. Having your lame army of librarians duke it out with the majesty that is heavy metal reminds me of flabby CEO's buying designer Harleys: born to be mild.
Rating 5

Crowbar - Equilibrium

Continuing down the most excellent pathway of the under-rated Odd Fellows Rest, Kirk, Sammy and crew have inflicted a little more Trouble into their fire-the-brimstone doomskullery. As Sammy puts it, ãthe note density is upä, although really, Crowbar have stuck to their break-the-spoon pudding, still living the slo life as the perfect alloy of the lefties and righties within the Nola sound. And Kirk calls the record ãmore riffed-upä, another fitting and fine comment, much of this skirting the like-minded Cathedral, less deliberately backed-up hardcore, more ghoulish and gothic and Anglorified than this weird tattooed street-wise swamp monster thing they had going. There's dimension as well as atmospheric Type O dementia, Kirk widening his vocal performance, while still pounding and purging his psyche intimately, for all to witness, for some to take notice and use in their own world. Two tracks stick out: one is a cover of Gary Wright's Dreamweaver (here's where the Type O is plain, all too plain), a dismangled, mangy, sloghorse of a rendition that was admittedly, done while ripped. Second is a cobwebby piano dirge called To Touch The Hand Of God, which strays nary a hair from the band's hairshirt self-flail. But back in the metal zone, horrendously carved grooves accompany almost every track, courtesy new drummer Sid Montz, so there's a nice rock star Importance to accompany the new advanced riffery, the band no longer necessarily occupying modest niches, building on the departures of the last album into something more heavy metal universal than this bald-headed steroid gangery for which they once seemed fashioned.
Rating 8

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