Tag Archives: metal

The Music of 2017: Part One

The Best of the Not-2017 Discoveries

Noise Unit: Drill (released 1997)

Before we get to the actual releases of 2017, I will begin with this year’s discovery of a couple of bands who have put out albums that are truly great to my ears, and they come from two very different genres.  Both are old, well-established acts, but as far as I know only one is still active.  But boy – are they ever active.

The first is Noise Unit, an industrial electronica duo out of Vancouver, with links to Front Line Assembly and Delerium, who began back in 1989 with the album Grinding Into Emptiness.  As far as I can tell, their last one was 2005’s Voyeur.  I sampled a few things from Grinding into Emptiness, and Response Frequency, and Decoder, and they were good, interesting, but not attention-keepers.

Then I found Drill, released in 1997.  That was the game-changer.  What an album this is…the epitome of industrial electronica EBM, dense and intricate and as sophisticated as all hell; every time I play it I notice new things.  Melodic and addictive, definitely one of my best discoveries for a long time.

 

Pretty Maids: Pandemonium (released 2010)

And then there is Pretty Maids. Yeah well what can I say. The music we love the most digs into places in our psyche that other things don’t get to, and I have found that there is no predicting what that will be.  That Drill would work was not enormously surprising because I am not averse to the genre to begin with…but Pretty Maids surely was.  Established way back in the hair-metal heyday of the mid 1980s, at first glance they epitomize everything I don’t like about old-time classic hard rock and metal, and frankly their early albums don’t do much to change that perception.   But in 2010 something happened.  Well, Jacob Hansen, a new producer happened, and the resurrection of Pretty Maids makes Lazarus rising from the dead look like a parlor trick.

The last four Pretty Maids albums have rocketed to the top of my all-time album list; I started with their 2016 release Kingmaker and worked backwards from there, and then I hit 2010’s Pandemonium.

By jesus (as my dad would often say) this album might just be THE perfect melodic hard rock album. It has everything  — crunching heaviness, relentless energy, massive performances, even decent lyrics.  The vocal performance on this album is absolutely monstrous: Ronnie’s pipes must be made of cast iron. It don’t think there is a less-than-great song on this album (well, maybe “Cielo Drive”…),  but that title track…it doesn’t get much better than that.  By anyone.   Pandemonium astonishes me  – it fires every metal synapse in my brain every single time I play it, and I have played it almost daily since I stumbled on these guys.   Not just the discovery of the year — this album is the discovery of the goddamned decade, if not the century.

Pretty Maids — Kingmaker

Released: November 2016

Personnel:

  • Ronnie Atkins – vocals
  • Ken Hammer – guitars
  • Rene Shades – bass
  • Allan Tschicaja – drums

Guest:

Kim Olesen – keyboards

Tracklist:

  1. When God Took a Day Off
  2. Kingmaker
  3. Face the World
  4. Humanize Me
  5. Last Beauty on Earth
  6. Bull’s Eye
  7. King of the Right Here and Now
  8. Heaven’s Little Devil
  9. Civilized Monsters
  10. Sickening
  11. Is That What You Wanted (Look What You’ve Got)

I almost started this, um, review (excursus might be more to the point; bear with me), by calling my new obsession a “guilty pleasure” – but you know what?  Screw that.  I am not in the least embarrassed by stumbling on this stuff, and if you other folks fail to appreciate some of the best damned metal I have ever laid ears on, then that’s not my problem.  I’m just going to try to convince you otherwise.

I checked out Pretty Maids because a good friend is a passionate fan, and I am always interested in learning what greases my friends’ musical wheels.  Often the explorations don’t amount to much, but sometimes something sticks. And I am surprised, I will admit:  Pretty Maids is a glam rock/hard rock/metal outfit out of Denmark, who formed up way the hell back in 1981 and released their first album in 1984: in short they have been around for more than three decades and I had never heard of them.

Continue reading Pretty Maids — Kingmaker