It’s still fairly early in 2011, but already this year and during the second half of last year, we’ve seen a number of metal musicians taking steps to better themselves and their lives by gaining control over their addictions to drugs and alcohol, and helping their bands to become in the process. Most notable among these stories are Crowbar mainman Kirk Windstein’s trip through AA last summer and DevilDriver bassist Jonathan Miller entering rehab back in December. Both Crowbar and DevilDriver have come back better than ever in 2011, the latest tales of redemption and victory to come from the metal world. It looks as if Children of Bodom will soon join the ranks of these groups, too. In the latest issue of Terrorizer magazine, frontman Alexi Laiho reveals just how bad his alcohol struggles had become during the band’s touring stints in 2008 and 2009, and how hard he fought to overcome his constant abuse.
Laiho’s self-improvement has clearly done wonders for the band, as evidenced on their new album out today. Taking back the throne as lords of Finnish metal, Children of Bodom has once again proven just how impressive they can be at times. A number of other impressive bands have great releases out today, and all of them are worth checking out. But Children of Bodom has made a very bold statement with this newest release, one that the entire metal community will take heed to.
Children of Bodom, Relentless, Reckless Forever (Spinefarm)
Since 2000’s album Follow the Reaper, one of the trademarks of Bodom’s sound has been the trade-off solos between Laiho and keyboardist Janne Wirman. These are present in abundance on Relentless, Reckless Forever, and if one thing is clear, it’s that Laiho has reinvigorated his guitar playing in recent months. The guitar solos on this album sound amazing, compared to the somewhat lackluster showing on Blooddrunk. All in all, Bodom fans will be delighted to see Laiho back in form as one of the most skilled guitarists in the world.
Destruction, Day of Reckoning (Nuclear Blast)
Last year, drummer Marc Reign left Destruction, after nine years and three studio albums with the band. His performances on Inventor of Evil and D.E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N. were especially enjoyable, and he will be missed. However, his replacement Wawrzyniec “Vaaver” Dramowicz (try saying THAT five times fast) immediately makes a solid first impression with his performance on Day of Reckoning. He plays excellent fills and keeps perfect time with Schmier. Vaaver’s play helps to make Day of Reckoning another in a series of excellent “back to roots” albums for Destruction.
The Human Abstract, Digital Veil (eOne)
Digital Veil marks two major lineup changes for The Human Abstract. First, founding guitarist A.J. Minette returns after spending three years away from the band furthering his music education. Second, former From First to Last vocalist Travis Richter makes his recording debut as the band’s new vocalist, replacing former singer Nathan Ells. Digital Veil allegedly is a chance for The Human Abstract to return to their roots in progressive metalcore, akin to the sounds of Protest the Hero and Between the Buried and Me. Early reviews indicate that this album is highly successful in that venture.
Jag Panzer, The Scourge of the Light (SPV/Steamhammer)
The Scourge of the Light will be Jag Panzer’s first album without Chris Broderick since 1997’s The Fourth Judgement, a span of over a decade that surprisingly only includes four albums (not counting the 2004 remastered release of Chain of Command). Yes, it has been seven years since a new Jag Panzer album was released, and three since Broderick’s departure to join Megadeth. What has Jag Panzer been doing with their time, you ask? Writing, recording, touring, and getting re-acquainted with Broderick’s replacement, Christian Lasegue, who was part of Jag Panzer in the mid-80s also.
Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Adrift (Exile on Mainstream/AFM)
There are few bigger names in doom metal than Scott Weinrich. As a member of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, Place of Skulls, and most recently Shrinebuilder, Wino has done more to advance and spread doom metal than almost anyone. His solo project is no exception, as showcased on his 2009 solo debut Punctuated Equilibrium. His sophomore release Adrift may be significantly quieter, as it is mostly an acoustic album, but the intensity still permeates this disc. The soul-stirring emotion on this album is a side of Wino that is rarely ever seen, and it makes the songs all the more interesting and revealing to listen to.
Trust Company, Dreaming in Black and White (eOne)
With the exception of die-hard wrestling fans, most people forgot about Trust Company during their hiatus from 2005 to 2007. However, the reunion of their original lineup in 2007 caused quite a stir, as many fans grew excited for new material projected to be released in 2008. This new material is only being released now, though, and since then, original bassist Josh Moates has been replaced by Eric Salter, who was subsequently replaced by current bassist Wes Cobb. Despite the rotating chair of bassists, this album should give longtime Trust Company fans plenty of new material to play during their own wrestling matches.
Demon Hunter, Death: A Destination [3-CD Collection] (Solid State)
I’m beginning to see a trend out of Solid State Records that is both understandable and worrisome at the same time. Back in November, we got two of these 3-CD collections from Haste the Day and Norma Jean, covering their early catalogues of releases. Now we get one for Demon Hunter, as their 2002 self-titled album, 2004’s Summer of Darkness, and 2005’s The Triptych get grouped into one big package for fans that don’t have these older albums. While I don’t mind seeing these collections get released as a method for listeners to gain exposure to their older work, I feel that it detracts from the full album experience to not give listeners the original artwork and liner notes for each of these albums. Of course, I use the same argument as justification for my personal distaste for digital albums, and pretty soon digital sales may be the only way for us to buy music, so I don’t suppose my reasoning is really getting anywhere, is it?
Also being released this week:
Rival Schools, Pedals (Photo Finish)
Benedictum, Dominion (Frontiers)
Dornenreich, Flammentriebe (Prophecy)
Condemned?, Condemned2Death (Nuclear Blast)
Long Distance Calling, Long Distance Calling (Superball)
Next Week: Another week of overload descends on us, and extreme metal fans can rejoice at the underground brutality clawing its way onto the shelves. Be ready for a week devoted to the heavy!
Author’s Note: I’d like to apologize for three errors made in recent weeks that I’ve only discovered now in my research. First, I made a glaring omission on February 8th by failing to include the new album The Wörld is Yours by Motörhead, due to confusion between the US and UK release dates. Second, on the same day, I announced the release of the album Stand Up & Fight by Turisas, which is actually being released today. Again, this was due to confusion between the European and US release dates. Finally, in last week’s column, I announced the new album Abandonment by Betrayal. That album has since been delayed until April 26th. I am deeply sorry for these mistakes and hope that they did not cause a great deal of confusion for anyone else.