Record Swap: Joe Vs. Randall Thor
Greetings and welcome back to Record Swap. Today we pit Nerdcrusher Supreme Joe Thrashnkill against Voice in the Dark Rand al’Thor. Will the dragons or the muscles emerge victorious? The rules are simple. No research. No foreknowledge. No mercy. — W.
Joe’s Assignment: The Lord Weird Slough Feg – Traveller (2003)
Genre wise, I’m not quite sure how to classify this. It bridges the gap between heavy metal, power metal, doom, and at times even a wee bit of folk. Whatever it is, it’s one of my all time favorite albums, and I find it impossible to believe that anyone who appreciates heavy metal in the classic vein of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Thin Lizzy wouldn’t have a field day with this. The vocals are simultaneously epic/soaring, yet never cheesy despite this album being about an old 70s sci-fi pen and paper RPG. The band flies through incredible time-signature, tempo, and rhythm changes that flow seemlessly and perfectly together, never once jolting the listener out of the experience. The lyrics tell the story brilliantly and have captured my imagination completely for months on end as I search the internet for clues about this obscure, strange universe lost to so many. The guitar solos and harmonies flourish brightly like comets erupting in the atmosphere of faraway worlds, and the bass dances elegantly like material ejected from a black hole. Half the album is filled with masterful drum fills, and every single impressive achievement from the rhythm section is enhanced dramatically by the ultra creative drumming. You can put on any song on this album, and I will not find it possible to keep my head from windmilling and my voice from shouting along the marvelous and terrible tale of the Doctor’s mad plans. I literally just put Addendum Galactus on while I wrote this, and had to pause earlier to destroy my neck. As far as I’m concerned, no sci-fi based metal album has ever, and may ever, touch upon what this album achieved. WE NOW CONTROL YOUR MIND! —Randall Thor
Some albums are like a plain woman that slowly enchants you. It didn’t seem like anything special at first, but her average looks become gorgeous, her laugh heart-melting. The more time you spend with her, the more you love her. And some albums hit you like a beautiful woman. At first glance you’re head over heels, positive that it’s meant to be; you and her forever. You dive in head first, eager to absorb every bit of it. And soon… Soon you realize there just isn’t much there. Her charming quirks quickly become profoundly annoying. Her pretty exterior has lost all luster. You realize that, beyond that initial attraction, you have no business being with her. For me, Traveller is the latter. The more time I spend with this record, the more I dislike it.
After my first spin of the record, my early assessment was that Traveller was Pretty Sweet. When I first heard the opening riff of “The Spinward Marches”, I was sure it would be love. Throwback metal with some killer duel-guitar work? How could I not jam on this? Galloping triplets and ballsy lead lines propel me through “High Passage/Low Passage” and lead to the album’s best moment, “Asteroid Belts”. In a brief 2:23, the band exudes the best musical moments of Thin Lizzy AND Iron Maiden. “Professor’s Theme” begins promisingly, though the chorus sticks out as slightly off to my ears.
“Vargr Moon” takes me back to jam town, however briefly. When the vocals enter the picture my jam hits half-mast. It’s very clear that the vocalist is trying to sing me a complicated tale with all kinds of science-y shit and maaaaaaan I really don’t wanna hear it. I don’t know what the story of Traveller is, nor do I care. The problem is that our singer is trying to jam too many complicated lyrics into the song. For every cool line like “I feel the X-Rays on my <pitch shift>cerebral cortex</pitch shift>”, there are a dozen awkward couplets that drag the entire package down. There’s mention of professors, and aliens, and master races, so I assume this album is about X-Men or some shit. There’s nothing here that makes me want to learn more about the story behind the lyrics. Unfortunately, the vocals are featured so prominently on this record that I cannot turn off my brain and ignore the lyrics (like, say, every other record on Earth).
You cannot avoid the vocals on this record. The singer’s over-enunciated faux-English accent is high in the mix, so you WILL hear every overwrought lyric the band can awkwardly cram into a contorted arrangement. Guh, that accent, you guys. I cheated on this Record Swap assignment just so I could look at the band’s Wiki page to verify that, yes, that accent is fake as hell. After about 10 spins, “Gene-ocide” and “The Final Gambit” are especially galling.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We could have had something. This really could have worked out, had the band simplified vocal arrangements, thrown out the English posturing, and cut the space D&D storyline. Randall tried his best to play matchmaker and, unfortunately, I want to see other records.
I’m sowwy Randall : ( – Joe
Randall’s Assignment: Warhound – Next Level (2014)
Randall Thor is our resident power metal
pervert enthusiast. He loves soaring vocals, orchestral arrangements, and ancient tales of dragon ribaldry. With these things in mind, I decided to assign him a hardcore record filled to the brim with ignorant bravado and crushing breakdowns. I first heard Warhound back in 2011 with “Colder Than Ever“, a cut from their demo of the same name. That shit fueled more deadlifts than Celltech, son. The band gained greater acclaim, but they would soon enrage every idiot on the Internet with the sound of 2013’s “Next Level Demonstration” (also, they kinda alienated a ton of people by posting about the Illuminati and reptilians and shit on social media for a while). Their new sound, punctuated by constantly shifting rhythms, absurdly brutal vocals, and a distinct hip hop influence, would result in the band’s finest work yet. Next Level, their 2nd LP, was recorded at Bricktop Studios and dropped without much fanfare late last year. That’s a shame because this album is so heavy it could be used for a cargo ship anchor. This record was meant for pit warriors, so surely it’ll be up our Power Metal Warrior’s alley. Right? Right?? — Joe
Much like receiving a gift from a
dear friend grievous enemy, I approached Warhound with great wariness. What horrible terrors could possibly await me in a land far away from the sun and magic that I dwell in? As I began my journey into the Next Level, I felt myself began to change. The Onslaught had begun, and I first felt revulsion towards the huge riffs, pummeling drums, and chaotic vocals. “What hell is this!?” I cried, but no one could hear my exclamations amongst the pandemonium of the Warhound’s desolate gray lands. Slowly the madness crept in me, and I Abandoned any hope of returning home. I suddenly began craving a solid workout and a severely cut up tank top. I vowed to myself to never skip leg day. I howled against what light still pierced the dismal clouds, and I came across a lone warehouse surounded by barbed wire fencing among a grave sea of pavement and gravel. As I entered, I knew what I must do. I surrendered. The Hook was deep in my soul, and I caved to the benighted musings of the harrowing noise that penetrated deep into my skull. Like a debauched Patrick Swayze, I stomped and spin kicked for what seemed to be years in that clandestine location. I don’t know when I left, or how I returned home. I only knew that I had to be at the gym in an hour.
I personally like to believe that some albums represent their genre in a way that anyone who does not normally listen to it can still enjoy and appreciate it. Next Level does this for hardcore (or whatever this is) for me. Extremely rarely do I find myself listening to this style of music, but after a few tracks I was dying laughing with joy at how absurdly brutal and relentless this thing was. The vocals took me a few tracks to grow accustomed to, but after a bit I was captivated by the syncopated delivery. The occasional low growl adds a great harmony to the vehement shouting. The downtuned guitars/bass are ridiculous and incredibly fun. They constantly transition effortlessly between huge slow breakdowns and faster monster riffs. Often times the album hits a doom riff the size of Everest, just to topple the mountain on top of you as another breakdown smashes the mountain into great boulders. And the drums? Oh man the drums. This album would be significantly weakened without the excellent talent displayed throughout the entire album. Despite the slower tempos that dominates this album, the drums punish and drag the entire process forward. At times, the drums play odd rhythms that perfectly complement the music, and at other times they romp right in sync with the rest of the band, emphasizing the breakdown or riff. In addition, there is a ton of cymbal play that push the music to excellence.
Despite being a pretty straightforward album style-wise, there is still plenty of diversity to be found here. Some tracks, like Onslaught, Next Level, and Abadon, bring the straight ignorant mosh jams right to your face. Halfway through, we are treated tracks like Filter and Full Circle, which hit death/doom territory while never losing the violence and anger of the rest of the album. Gia breaks up the formula a bit with an underwater style “chill” track before slamming back into the pit with Web. Warrior Call drops another mega breakdown on us, then, like the aftermath of a 20 car pile up, we hear the mad noise of [untitled] guide us by the hand into perhaps the best and biggest track here, Monster. Monster takes everything I loved about Warhound so far and takes it to the Next Level (HUEHUEHUE). Huge riffs, desparate guitar leads over belaborous breakdowns, low/high scream harmonies; they all lead to one final massive breakdown thicker than a black hole.
I had a load of fun with this album, and would recommend it to anyone into heavy music. To my unlearned ears, it seems a masterpiece of its style. On first listen I appreciated it for its sheer ridiculousness, but on repeated listens have come to appreciate it for it’s own merits in songwriting, structure, tone, and unstoppable ferocity. Check it out if you haven’t already! Or don’t, see you in the pit posers. – Randall
It looks like Joe spunkick Randall Thor into a catatonic euphoria, but he tripped on a 12-sided die in the process and broke his coccyx. Thankfully, we’re all the better for witnessing it. Want to get involved in Record Swap? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.