by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

God Forbid - Gone Forever
(Century Media)

In the two and a half years since God Forbid's Determination icebreaker, the melodic metalcore moshpail has expanded by about 20 credible bands. Thankfully, New Jersey's finest bionic pioneers kick, scratch and claw against becoming obsolete. Sure they keep it conservative (resentment at the band's modest success and less modest hype should be kept in check), brush-stroking all the necessary fields (In Flames riffs, roaring and singing, artful twin leads, breakdown-vibed grooves, tom-toms), but God Forbid manage to hold one of the front positions simply by writin' good and recordin' good. Produced by little-known Eric Rachel and mixed by Colin Richardson, Gone Forever is a plush, hi-fidelity feat of modern metal, epic often despite short tracks (and a short running time of 41 minutes), high art born from strife, for indeed the band was in danger of breaking up throughout the record's birth as well as all the crap touring through Dante's rings of hell a band this heavy has to endure. Gone Forever feels confidently like the work of metal seers, only perhaps Lamb Of God giving one this sense of a hard and hectic metal future to come. Fueling that exchange of confidence between noisemaker and fan, both bands are seers with a textbook knowledge of metal's past. Geek note: the release of Gone Forever was prefaced by the Better Days EP, five tracks, of which only the power-nu-speed hybrid of the title track would surface on the album proper.
Rating 9

ZZ Top - Chrome, Smoke & BBQ: The ZZ Top Box
(Warner Bros./Rhino)

Here's a thoroughly unique case where the completist-style box, The ZZ Top Sixpack from way back in '87 (the first six albums, complete), is actually not preferred to this new one, a standard cotton-picking with rarities. Why? Well, a sacrilege was performed and parts of that package received such a horrendous '80s production remix as to make it practically unlistenable. Here you get the usual celebration, most of each Warner album, along with cool packaging (I particularly like the corrugated tin roof), a booklet called "Menu" stuffed with rare photos, a solid liner essay and most preciously, a track by track band interview. As well, there's a goofy little flipbook featuring two of the band's celebrated MTV-golden synchros. Spiced and spliced throughout the discs, one finds rarities, something this chronically semi-working band unfortunately has few of. Best bit is the opening salvo of three tracks from the pre-ZZ Top album as The Moving Sidewalks, which was a fierce and highly capable psych blues act. As well, there's the early ZZ Top single Miller's Farm/Salt Lick which was even more so both psych and blues. Only Billy Gibbons (form ZZ Top) is part and parcel of these choice chestnuts. Elsewhere, we get the two Greatest Hits-only tracks, some remixes, a Spanish version of Francene and of course, all those hits from the bands many, many phases - from their status as hard rock's premiere blues ambassadors through novelty, through novelty mixed with synthesizers. Pity, these things rarely cross label lines, because it's my contention that Antenna, Rhythmeen, XXX and Mescalero crap all over Eliminator, Afterburner and Recycler from a height of several miles. Although credit goes to Warner for at least name-checking, and even recommending, these roiling and rocking, laid-back and groove-locking RCA albums.
Rating 8

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