March Albums: Singles Reviews for Judas Priest, The Sword, and Primordial

Judas Priest – “Firepower” & “Lightning Strike”
Recent Rock and Roll Hall of of Fame snub Judas Priest still has it. That Halford snarl and sharp inflection at the end of a line. His incredible range. The pure riffing power of Tipton and Faulkner’s duel guitars. The thundering drums of Travis. Both singles are a powerful showing from the nearly 50 year old group, especially “Lightning Strike.” With the classic Priest sound we’ve come to know and love, these two singles are a return to top form in comparison to 2014’s singles from Redeemer of Souls (“March of the Damned” and “Dragonaut”).

Firepower is out March 9th. Tipton’s recent sad news that he’s stepping back from the tour due to his health means we’ll see producer Andy Sneap tour in Tipton’s stead.

 

The Sword – “Deadly Nightshade” & “Twilight Sunrise”
The Austin, Texas based quartet continue their evolution towards the blues rock traditions of their Texan ancestors ZZ Top. “Deadly Nightshade” and “Twilight Sunrise” are good, but expected. It’s sometimes hard to tell with singles, but it sounds like this release might be a more consistent, less experimental album than 2015’s High Country. As a long-time fan, I left the High and Low Country releases feeling disappointed and underwhelmed. With each album they stray more from their Sabbath-style doom sound of their first two albums, but I’ll definitely check out Used Future releasing on March 23.

 

Primordial – “To Hell or the Hangman” and “Stolen Years”
“To Hell or the Hangman,” full of dramatic tension, tells the story of a father who has to hang his own son. “Stolen Years” is a strange sort of ballad. Primordial are no stranger to hauntingly slow songs. But this song has a different kind of dirgeful sound – the guitar springs a hopeful melody of a new morning and rebirth, while the lyrics remind us of the limitation of this strange cosmic gift of life and sentience. Both singles are incredible. Exile Among the Ruins is out March 30.

 

What’s Your Heavy Metal Evolution?

As a lover of all things on the rock spectrum from folk to black metal, I’ve had 25+ years to enjoy as many riffs, solos, and lyrics as humanly possible. A fellow metal head friend recently asked me about my metal evolution.

To preface, I was exposed to rock from birth. My childhood memories of listening to AC/DC, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, The Police, and awful 80 glam metal. None of that is on this list because I didn’t choose it. It was just a part of my formative years which shaped my path to heavier music..

Because I’m pairing this post with my Spotify playlist, Tool won’t be here. The summer between 8th and 9th grade, I listened to a Tool mixed tape of mostly Aenema and Undertow songs that wrecked my world.

Muse – Muscle Museum
I was in the 7th grade the first time I heard this song and was coming off of a summer of listening to pop radio nonsense. I hear this song on the radio, completely captivated by the driving bass and falsetto vocals. The next time I heard the song, I recorded it on a tape and listened to it on repeat until I knew every word and every note. I abandoned pop radio. It was nothing but classic and alternative rock and nu-metal (I know, I know – a fad we should have all seen at the time).

Deftones – Birthmark
This band was my introduction into screaming vocals and pure rage. The album overall has an incredible rhythm and grind with grooving bass and drums. Marino’s vocal style of clean, screaming, and rapping vocals was my gateway to much heavier and angrier music.

In Flames – Gyroscope
Holy harmonies; growls where I could sort of make out the words; weirdly talking Anders in Jotun (what an opener)! The Pagany, Renaissance quality of the melodies introduced me to Scandinavia, viking lore, and exposed me to other genres of metal.

The Sword – The Frost Giant’s Daughter
The booming drum intro, the out of control and continuous cymbal crashes, the chunky, sludgy riffs, and fantasy lyrics – this song has everything. It was my introduction to new songs that sound deceivingly old. It’s frequently said of The Sword, “They sound like old Black Sabbath” which launched my obsession with Sabbath’s first four albums (Black Sabbath – A Bit of Finger / Sleeping Village / Warning featured in the playlist below because what’s a metal playlist without some Sabbath?), and tons of other doom, stoner, and sludge metal bands. I was stuck in the 70s at this point, so this was also my jumping off point for 70s Prog-rock.

Opeth – Deliverance
My first but not last Opeth album. I was an Opeth late bloomer, what can I say? No less dedicated, just late to the party. This song (shit – this whole album) was the culmination of my musical evolution as it represents a shift in where I found my music. Most of my music came from the radio or recommendations from fellow metallers. Deliverance was a turning point where I discovered my own bands. I can’t point to any reason or person for why it popped up on my radar. All I know is I was in 13.5 minutes of heaven the first time I heard Deliverance. Everything I’d loved and been obsessed with came together in one song: heavy blues based rock, prog time signatures and compositions, growls and beautifully clean lyrics, gloomy and dark lyrical themes, and an outro that doesn’t quit.

So what’s your metal evolution? Post a few tracks that summarize how your hard rock and heavy metal tastes expanded.