Incoming: new music! Better yet, new music that is worth your time.
Rodrigo y Gabriela – Mettal (EP) – 3 tracks / 18 minutes
Rarely are EPs included here but these three covers of 20th century metal classics are amazing and illustrate the duo’s thrash roots.
Metallica. Slayer. Megadeth. Hard to imagine a more “80s & 90s metal” grouping than that, and R&G give some of their finest songs the acoustic instrumental treatment to mind-blowing effect on this Record Store Day exclusive release. These two have been making beautiful music together for nearly two decades, with a unique brand of intense flamenco-tinged guitar prowess that includes out of this world finger picking and guitar body percussion.
Although their self-titled 2006 album included a breathtaking version of Metallica’s “Orion”, they’ve largely kept it to originals throughout their career. Not so on this short but incredibly sweet effort, which includes “Battery”, “Seasons in the Abyss”, and “Holy Wars”. This is a must listen for anyone, frankly – but especially for metalheads, who will find themselves singing along to these new and exciting renditions of old favorites.
Key Tracks: Since there are only three, how ‘bout all of them…
Spotify album link: https://open.spotify.com/album/5vcvEvxMGJmBTnzWVRztyH?si=snYiDSypSGWww4C-eRnG8g
Eminem – Music to be Murdered By
Marshall is back, still pissed off at his haters, and more than ready to willfully offend. On “Premonition-Intro” (my favorite track) he simultaneously acknowledges his incredible early work and inability to live up to it and shits on the naysayers: “Lately instead of us being credited for longevity and being able to keep up for this long at this level, we get told we’ll never be what we were, bitch if I‘m half as good as I was I’m still twice as good as you’ll ever be”.
Unfortunately too many of these songs revolve around other artists, with Eminem providing a verse or two at impressive but sometimes grating bullet-train speed. On the songs that actually feature Em on the majority of the vocals, there is some goodness to be found. “Darkness” is either a gloomy introspection on the depression and mental illness that leads to mass shootings or cheap sensationalism of last year’s tragedy in Vegas (and countless others), depending on your viewpoint.
While there are high points and some worthwhile tracks (see the arena-ready Encore-era beat and stellar vocals from Skylar Grey on “Leaving Heaven” or the almost playful by comparison “Farewell”), there is also far too much bloat and shtick for this to be considered a consistent record. Fans will find some gems, as I did, but there isn’t anything here that qualifies as his best work, which just goes back to his original point on the aforementioned intro.
Anti-Flag – 20/20 Vision
The pop-punk vets are back with some pissed off Trump protest jams that are a true sign of the times. Their 15th studio album (by my count, anyway) is hit and miss, but certainly has a few solid tracks. The leadoff jam “Hate Conquers All” begins with a clip of The Donald longing for the good old days when protesters would be bloodied and thus learn their lessons before the music charges into the best three minutes on the album. “Christian Nationalist” confronts the neo-fascist movement and its perversion of religious values, while “The Disease” is about as catchy as anything this raucous I’ve heard in a while.
Kiwi Jr. – Football Money
These Toronto dudes are onto something here, I can feel it. No, this isn’t a great album top to bottom (although the album cover is), but it finds them loose and having fun as they lament having to find the balance between rocking out and being a company man (you know, being responsible and having steady employment). “Salary Man” is a fantastic take on this theme, with tales of getting to sleep late (on a park bench) and then heading into work with bloodshot eyes and a sore head, saying good morning to the bosses. The title track is a drum-heavy romp that includes this classic line: “They pay me to hit homeruns, they don’t pay me to stand in the sun”.
Cool Ghouls – Live ’19 (Live)
“Sittin’ on some grass, drinkin’ beer. The beer is in the bottle, bottle in the bag”. So goes “Brown Bag”, my favorite selection from this collection of live Cool Ghouls shows recorded last year. I like this band because on their studio efforts they aren’t afraid to get psychedelic and a little odd, but most of this live album is ho-hum. Fans of the band will certainly enjoy hearing the lads doing their thing, but for anyone else I’ll refer you to their eponymous debut, which is still my favorite album of theirs.