I'm reviewing four albums in this installment because it's Volume 4. And because I fucking feel like it! Okay?
If you refer to David Bowie as a 'musical chameleon' you should be punched in the dick. Not because it isn't true, but because it's cliche. Try referring to someone else as that for once. How about Voivod? They started NWOBHM, went hardcore thrash, then straight metal, and for a few golden albums were an undescribably unique flavor of prog. There were a few dunderheaded albums with a replacement singer that are best not spoken of, but once founding member Snake returned to vocals and bass duties were taken over Metallica's Jason Newsted for their eponymous tenth album, they had gone to yet another style. They've maintained this minimal, punky style since, and it's been well-received. Only, there's a twist. Before their last two albums, founding guitarist Piggy (who is still in the band) died. Yes, died. Apparently, in the hospital, he handed his laptop to drummer Away and mentioned that there were a few albums worth of guitar licks on there and to just go ahead and use them. The idea of a posthumous band member is problematic, and I won't really go into in great detail. Let's just say that it works. It's hard to imagine another band being as tight-knit as to be able to pull it off, but Voivod has always been a cut above. While "Infini", like "Katorz" and "Voivod" before it, may not have the psychedelic watershed quality of "Nothingface," it certainly is a fitting capstone to the career of a band that is also a family. Plus it rocks out.
Now Morrissey has put out plenty of collections, but I don't think he's ever done anything like this. If you're a Morrissey obsessive, then you have all of these songs on bootleg or b-side and you should leave on your own and go home and cry and want to die. If you're a reasonably interested Morrissey fan like myself, then this collection of rarities is like that checklist you made while reading Rogan's book, of songs that were not included on any of the albums you had. The funny thing is, usually collections of off tracks sound just like that. I've read some other reviews of "Swords" that said the same thing. I must heartily disagree. Not only is this disc packed to the gills, but almost every track is a standout, from the bizarre "Ganglord" to the obvious Smiths fuck-you of "If You Don't Like Me, Don't Look At Me." The one drawback is that of course, this is the same consistently great shtuff that he's been doing since Miles Davis was Inches Davis. In a recent discussion over fried mushrooms, genius blogger Eriq Nelson suggested that perhaps the kick in the pants that Morrissey needs to go to the next level would be to work with an underground hip-hop producer. Hell yeah!
SLAYER- "World Painted Blood"
If, as I have said elsewhere, that Morrissey is the 'Slayer of Brit-pop,' then Slayer is the... well, I don't know. James Brown of Slayer? Actually, I would have said that until recently. Slayer has made a career, perhaps in counterpoint to Voivod, of a steady gradual upward slope in musical brutality. Where most bands tend to slide downwards into velvety soft mediocrity, they have just become more and more brutal, stepping on toes with both music and lyric. Their last album, "Christ Illusion," brought original drummer Dave Lombardo back into the fold for a more classic thrash sound than previous drummer Paul Bostaph had. It seemed an unnecessary change to some, including myself, but the resulting album was just fine. Now, with the announcement of a new album, also came the most startling announcement of all: Slayer will be calling it quits. Unfortunately, I could not find a direct quote, but it seems that Satan's sons believe metal to be a young man's game and want to bow out gracefully. What the fuck? After listening to "World Painted Blood," I am highly disappointed. Perhaps the foreknowledge of the end has sapped Slayer of their drive to crush and dismember, or perhaps the brief spate of energy from reuniting with Lombardo is gone, but this new album is not the way I want to remember them. Can you say "Reign In Blood?" On repeat?
MESHELL NDEGEOCELLO- "Devil's Halo"
If you haven't been living in a cave or in some country where they block this blog's IP, then you know that I just interviewed Meshell for the blog. It went pretty well, considering the fact that my interview questions kind of got eaten by the music industry. But that's immaterial. "Devil's Halo," tired metaphor aside, is a strong album by an artist who has taken great pains to remain free of any particular constraints, artistically. I understand that it was made with as few digital aids as possible, and the more organic feel shows. It definitely has more of a rock feel than some of her earlier efforts, and as Meshell discussed with me, the flow of the music definitely seems paramount, so the lyrics have a dreamlike quality to their delivery even when there is a pointed message. I may be repeating myself, but it is overall very fierce and well worth a listen.