Thanks But No Thanks, The Contortionist

When the Contortionist released their first full-length record, Exoplanet, in 2010, they were one of the most exciting things to come out in the realm of progressive metal for a long time. Where the genre so easily verged into tired cliches or overused tropes, as in the later releases of bands like Dream Theater and Between the Buried and Me, the Contortionist had the right mix of heavy-ass death metal and progressive tendencies.

Now it's 2014 and their third album Language is hitting the stores and online distributors. However, after hearing the first two singles, I'm about ready to throw in the towel on this band. This has all been done before, and better.

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Crowbar at Fitzgerald's, 10/10/2014

Photos by Nathan Smith
Crowbar, Revocation, Havok, Fit For an Autopsy, Armed for Apocalypse
October 10, 2014

The last night of a long tour can be a tough gig. Oftentimes, the musicians arrive in town broken down and tired, their eyes already glazing over with visions of home. Maybe the men of Crowbar were feeling their age a tad when they rolled into Fitzgerald's on Friday, but when you've got to headline a stacked bill in front of a blackened horde expecting the burliest mosh of the year, there ain't much choice but to deliver the goods.

And deliver they did, with plenty of help from their friends. California sludge troupe Armed for Apocalypse warmed up the early birds, and by the time New Jersey deathcore upstarts Fit for an Autopsy blasted their last beat, the floor at Fitz was pretty well full of large metalheads ready to tear into each other for real. They wouldn't have to wait long for the chance. Denver's thrashing maniacs Havok hit the stage next with a whipping set of speed metal tailor-made for aggressive moshing.

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Revocation's Riff Factories Just Can't Stop Shredding

Categories: Metalocalypse

Brett Bamberger, left, with Revocation
Revocation is not a band that likes to keep its fans waiting. A little more than a year after the release of their last album -- a self-titled monster that propelled the Boston-based technical death-metal wizards onto the Billboard charts for the first time -- they're back again with another. Next week, the band drops Deathless, its fifth full-length and the first for the venerable label Metal Blade. And folks, it's a ripper.

Like its predecessor, Deathless threatens at times to bury the listener in a furious blizzard of notes. Led by the punishingly precise riffage of guitarists Dave Davidson and Dan Gargiulo, the new record is a comprehensive slab of brutal death metal and intricate thrash, stitched together with the same grace and fluidity displayed by Davidson's fellow Berklee College of Music grads in Dream Theater. It's complex enough to wow metal nerds, yet plenty heavy enough to tickle the meatheads.

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Guess the Fake Death-Metal Band Names!

Categories: Metalocalypse

Well, it's just about that time of year again: the time when it turns dark and cold and everything that's good and green and living in Houston begins to wither and decay. Not due to the weather, obviously -- we ain't got but one season in this town. No, that creeping rot that you can smell faintly in the air comes not from autumn, but from the impending, annual arrival of Building Temples From Death Fest, the sickest, reeking death-metal congress yet known to our state.

These aren't "melodic" death metal bands, folks. There will be no deathcore. Building Temples From Death Fest (which would be, uh, BTFDF) plays host only to the truest of the true believers. Headlined by the brutal old-schoolers Internal Bleeding, this will be a day's worth of the metal that you still have to hide from your mom -- especially if you're an adult. The evil practitioners on display from noon 'til close at Fitz on Saturday still relish the genre's power to offend, pumping out ear-shattering thunder dripping with gruesome art and obscene lyrics.

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The Brief, Bizarre Wave of Good Synth-Metal Bands

Photo by Joe Dilworth
Enter Shikari
Earlier this year, I wrote about the wave of dubstep metal that is ruining everything. That might have led some readers to believe that I'm fundamentally against the idea of mixing synthesizers and other electronics into metal, but that is absolutely not true.

The problem with dubstep metal is that it's horribly executed, but the concept itself could be successful. Back in the day, a lot of bands actually used synthesizers to great effect in a brief wave that unfortunately ended way too soon. These five managed to get it right.

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Goatwhore at Fitzgeralds, 9/15/2014

Photos by Nathan Smith
Goatwhore, Venomous Maximus, Demoniacal Genuflection, Legion
September 15, 2014

Of all the days of the week, none are less metal than Mondays. The domain of alarm clocks and rent payments, Monday must necessarily be the sworn enemy of middle fingers and Jager shots. Nobody applies KISS makeup on a Monday. No one has ever gotten a skull tattoo on a Monday. If you're listening to heavy metal on a Monday, it's only because you listen to heavy metal every day.

It was these everyday-metal types who showed up to Fitzgerald's on Monday night, with not a part-timer in sight. The black-clad die-hards came to see Goatwhore, the long-running New Orleans headbangers who draw upon the entire, vast universe of metal to arrive at a sound forged in the rank heat of the Gulf Coast. But they were also treated to a fairly stacked bill of local talent on a night when, by all rights, they should have been at home in bed. And they weren't about to just stand around and clap politely.

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Overkill Schools Us on Classic East Coast Thrash-Metal

eOne Music
Overkill today: Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth, Derek "The Skull" Tailer, Dave Linsk, D.D. Verni, and Ron Lipnicki.

As the screamin' front man for New Jersey thrash-metal legends Over Kill since the group's formation, Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth has seen, experienced, and learned a lot in three and a half decades. So what is the one piece of advice that his 2014 self might offer the 1980 Blitz?

"Give up the fucking cigarettes, man. Throw them away!" he laughs heartily. "I smoked for 35 years and was chained to the things. I'd have a nicotine patch on while chewing nicotine gum with a Marlboro hanging out of my mouth! But I've been tobacco free for two years, and I wish I'd done it sooner."

That Ellsworth's voice is in fine, fine condition (and that he can hit those super high notes) is much in evidence on the band's newest effort, White Devil Armory (eOne Records).

While not a concept album, the 11 tracks are essentially short stories featuring a character known as the Armorist. Ellsworth's lyrics take him on a journey of war, cage-fighting, medical emergencies, devils, politics and religion, all set to brutal double bass drums, deep bass notes and shredding guitar solos.

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Meet Joe Cocchi, Metalcore Craft Brewer

eOne Music
Within the Ruins; Tin Bridge Brewing co-founder Joe Cocchi is second from left
So far 2014 has been a big year for technical metalcore band Within the Ruins. Back in July, the Massachusetts quartet released their fourth full-length studio album, Phenomena, perhaps their most accomplished work to date. According to guitarist Joe Cocchi, it was also their their fastest and easiest to record.

But Cocchi has also been hard at work on his side project. Whereas most musicians keep their extracurricular pursuits within the realm of music, booking their own DJ gigs or experimenting with atypical genres, Cocchi threw himself headlong into the world of craft beer when his company, Tin Bridge Brewing, launched this year.

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Why Ride the Lightning Is Metallica's Most Influential Album

Categories: Metalocalypse

Metallica's seminal second album, Ride the Lightning, turned 30 years old this year, which I think is amazing. To be honest, I don't keep up much with anniversaries and such; I celebrated St. Anger's 10th anniversary last year because it was funny to me, but to quote "For Whom the Bell Tolls," time marches on. I don't think much of it.

However, amid all the retrospectives regarding Ride the Lightning's big anniversary, one thing has stood out to me: the album's lasting influence, perhaps greater now than ever before. I could go on and on about the album and Metallica, but it's all been said before. What of where Ride the Lightning stands in the public consciousness in 2014?

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The Horror Never Ends for Warbeast's Bruce Corbitt

Thumbnail image for Warbeast-band-11.jpg
Bruce Corbitt of Warbeast
Texas metal singer Bruce Corbitt's career has seen some wicked ups and downs over the last 30 years, from signing record deals and taking on high-profile tours to being fired unceremoniously and watching bandmates pass away in front of his eyes. It hasn't been a lifestyle fit for the faint of heart. But if there's anything useful that low-budget slasher flicks have taught us, it's that a certifiable creature of the night like Corbitt always comes back for one last slice.

So do yourself a favor and watch your throat tomorrow night, because Corbitt will be back in town again at Acadia Bar & Grill with his band Warbeast, the ferocious Dallas-area thrashers who have become a favorite of Gulf Coast metal god Philip Anselmo. The former Pantera front man signed Warbeast to his Housecore Records imprint and released their aptly titled sophomore album Destroy last year before taking them on the road with his sludge supergroup Down.

Now, Warbeast is working on a worthy follow-up to Destroy's heavy, old-school thrash attack. Tomorrow's show is the only one on the band's books until October as they prepare to hole up, bear down and grind out another thick stack of riffs.

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