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September 12, 2006

The Long Review: Pure Metal

Heavy metal is seen by its detractors as music for teenage white boys who don’t know any better and middle-aged white trash who should know better. Screw metal’s detractors; What do they know? The music is still kicking after all these years, and bands like Mastodon and High on Fire carry the tradition to new heights, as does Lamb of God, who are easily one of the best modern metal acts on the planet. Their new disc, Sacrament, is their most accessible yet, but if you think that means power ballads and party anthems, you’re mistaken; songs like “Again We Rise” and “Beating on Death’s Door” will cause pregnant women to spontaneously miscarry. Musicianship, rage and pinch harmonics are the key components with LOG; but what gives them that last little nudge over the cliff are the vocals: Randy Blythe is the best metal singer this side of Phil Anselmo. Plus, he’s a better lyricist.Still, the old men can lay down the law. To wit, Slayer, who’ve been rocking for Satan for nearly 25 years now and show no signs of stopping. Christ Illusion is the first new studio album to feature original drummer Dave Lombardo since 1990’s Seasons in the Abyss. They tried to release it on June 6 of this year (6/6/06) but missed the deadline. Regardless, the album is still plenty evil. The cover art utilizes Slayer’s trademark subtlety and taste, depicting a mutilated Christ figure replete with crown of thorns rising from a swampy pile of severed heads — the music buyers at Wal-Mart probably wept when they saw it. Of course, what really matters is the music, and Christ Illusion is a fine addition to the Slayer catalog. It’s not a masterpiece like Reign in Blood or Abyss, but it’s a good, solid slab of traditional thrash, as befitting the band’s classic lineup.It doesn’t get much more classic than Lemmy Kilmister and his crew, Motorhead. As with other bands that play no-frills rock (e.g., AC/DC, the Ramones), if you’ve heard one Motorhead album, you’ve practically heard them all, but that shouldn’t prevent anyone from picking up their latest. Called Kiss of Death, it picks up where 2004’s Inferno left off: balls-out rock ’n’ roll with everything louder than everything else. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, in other words, but there are still a few surprises: “God Was Never on Your Side” is a ballad — well, it features acoustic guitar, at least — and “Kingdom of the Worm” finds Lemmy utilizing an even more guttural vocal style than usual. Other standout tracks include “Sucker,” “Devil I Know” and “Living in the Past.”Speaking of living in the past, the album closes with “R.A.M.O.N.E.S,” a remake of a selection from their 1991 disc 1916. C’mon, Lemmy, you can do better than that.Contact the writer at leobeat@leoweekly.com