Friday, April 29, 2011

The Gates of Slumber - The Wretch


The Gates of Slumber
The Wretch
Rise Above/Metal Blade

Like every other musical genre, heavy metal has been hybridized almost to death. Not that mixing styles isn’t a good thing – that’s where innovation comes from, after all. But sometimes you just wanna get heavy, play air guitar and feel your ribcage rattle. If you want a traditional doom-mongering, dinosaur-destroying, Sabbathian stomp, you won’t get much better than the Gates of Slumber. The Indianapolis trio hit a real peak with its last LP Hymns of Blood and Thunder, and if its new record The Wretch doesn’t quite scale the same heights, it’s still a strong showing. This band has always been about the riff – rumbling, crushing, heavy – but it never loses its deathgrip on melody, either. Few bands can be as unrelenting and still be as accessible as the G of S – spin Day of Farewell, Coven of Cain and To the Rack With Them for some seething singalong kicks. While the rhythm section keeps the lava flowing, it’s really singer/six-stringer Karl Simon’s show – his warm, amp-shaking licks and gruff but soulful vocals define each track like the devil’s dictionary. This is what you want when you want to headbang without guilt - plug The Wretch into your stereo, put on a black t-shirt and get those horns in the air.

- Michael Toland

Lo-Pan - Salvador


Lo-Pan
Salvador
Small Stone

Imagine if the mighty progressive metal band Tool dropped some of its artier affectations and decided to just blast it out. The men of Columbus, Ohio’s Lo-Pan dreamed the same dream, taking that band’s widescreen ambition and connecting it to unpretentious 70s hard rock and boogie on Salvador, the follow-up to its debut Sasquanaut. That doesn’t mean Lo-Pan is dumbing anything down, mind you – only that the quartet remembers what it’s like to just rock the fuck out. Equally as adept as knotty, head-spinning riffs like the ones that power El Dorado and Spartacus as with the straightforward crushers that heave Bird of Prey and Bleeding Out right in your face, the band keeps tight control over its tower of power, balancing might and melody as well as anyone in recent memory. It doesn’t hurt to have a singer as soaring and charismatic as Jeff Martin or a guitarist as expansive as Brian Fristoe, either. Power, intelligence, passion and finesse make Lo-Pan as far from a dull band as you can get.

- Michael Toland
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