If you’re among the cherished tens and tens of regular readers we have here at Last Rites, you might notice something about us as a group: we aren’t particularly negative. This isn’t because we simply love everything—we can be a saltier group of curmudgeons than a particularly old can of anchovies—but purely because we’d rather focus our writing time on stuff we truly enjoy. We don’t get paid for this, so why waste too much time on the crappier tunes of the world, right?
In this way, you might say that we express our thankfulness year round, so there’s no real point in getting all redundant on Thanksgiving Day. Besides, with List Season about to start, there will be plenty of opportunity for us to restate how much and why we love a lot of 2017’s heavy metal.
With that in mind, we flip the script on Turkey Day, instead making it Turkeys Day. A lot of stuff sucks, and we do hear it, even if we aren’t always spending a lot of words on it. Behold then, our biggest turkeys of 2017, albums that we felt to be huge disappointments or just outright failures. These albums might have been points of debate among the team, or universally loathed platters. Regardless, we’re pouring on the salt.
Chime in with your most hated or tell us where we’re incredibly wrong. And make sure you only express your ire after about three pounds of fried bird and a bottle of red. Aim your Thanksgiving belligerence our way instead of spewing it at ol’ Aunt Nettie just because she can’t stop expressing how all lives matter.
In all seriousness, try to enjoy the company of friends and family today. You’ve earned it. Well, probably not, but the food is there anyway, so get fat.
DANHAMMER’S TURKEY: SUFFOCATION
Let’s cut to the chase: …Of the Dark Light is dreadfully boring. Coming off the heels of the tremendous Pinnacle of Bedlam, perhaps my expectations were unrealistic, but it definitely feels like the cumulative departures of Mike Smith and Guy Marchais have finally caught up with the otherwise steadfastly reliable Suffocation. …Of the Dark Light is a worse version of Blood Oath, which was already handily the worst Suffocation album. Think about it this way: Imagine the most perfect mashed potatoes you’ve ever tasted in your life, with just the right amount of butter, salt, pepper, and sour cream. They’ve been whipped just enough for smoothness, but not so much that they’ve become glorified cream of wheat. That’s Suffocation at their best. …Of the Dark Light, by contrast, is the worst mashed potatoes you’ve ever had – dry, unseasoned, mealy, and utterly bland. And that supremely, almost insultingly stupid breakdown towards the end of “Clarity Through Deprivation”? It’s like someone put a rock on your plate, called it a potato, and demanded you choke it down. That’s not the kind of pierced from within we all need in our lives.
DUVALL’S TURKEY: OVERKILL
Listen, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that The Grinding Wheel is a bad album. In fact, it’s still better than most of the albums Overkill released during the Slick Willie and Dubya presidencies, so it really isn’t even a bad Overkill album. Why, then, make it my Turkey of 2017? Because Bobby, D.D., and company made the fatal mistake of raising their expectations back up to elite levels. In Ironbound, The Electric Age, and White Devil Armory, Overkill dropped three albums that no Thrash Band of a Certain Age has any business releasing. All three are among the best albums the band has ever done, and are easily the best three albums they have done post-Horrorscope.
The Grinding Wheel’s biggest crime is that it fails to live up to its predecessors. By comparison, it plods through too many mid-paced songs that are often too long, and even with a little trimming wouldn’t have been highlights that could compete with the likes of “The Green and Black,” “All Over but the Shouting,” or “Down to the Bone.” Had The Grinding Wheel come prior to Ironbound, it would have been considered a preview of the band’s impending renaissance. Instead it marks the end of it.
*sheds a single green tear*
MANNY’S TURKEY: TAU CROSS
Pillar of Fire doesn’t end up as my fowlest flop without an understanding of just how much I expected from the record. The Self-Titled debut figured very high on my 2015 list, and since the day that album came out I have been anxiously looking forward to a time when Tau Cross would release more killer material. What I got was Pillars of Fire and a huge emotional letdown, like the time my parents left me in Niagara Falls because they simply forgot I existed. Sure, the band was hamstrung by distant geography, but, despite its title, what is most lacking on this album is any real fire from the band, any vicious desire to write stellar compositions. It’s like Thanksgiving without gravy: dry. The whole thing sounds quite phoned in, including the production. It’s not crazy to expect more from a band consisting of members of Voivod, Amebix, War//Plague and Misery. It’s not crazy to expect more from the guys that made the damn debut, which is an almost flawless record. There’s not much I could say that hasn’t already been said by my colleague Captain, so I’ll just stress that the reason this album stands out is because of how high my expectations were going into it, and how far below those expectations the album delivered.
CAPTAIN’S TURKEY: ELECTRIC WIZARD
Two points I’d like to clarify right off the bat before jumping into the melee for this particular turkey: 1) We all understand that it’s unreasonable to expect bands that manage to endure for decades to stick to the same formula year in and year out, and 2) Most of us who’ve been in Electric Wizard’s corner at some point during their long career still consider themselves extremely lucky to have releases that boast head-pummelers such as “Wizard in Black” and “Funeralopolis.” But my dawgs, dropping the needle on a record like Wizard Bloody Wizard and realizing this is the same band that produced 2007’s Witchcult Today, let alone Dopethrone is fairly depressing, even if you count yourself a fan of their noisier, more rock-oriented doom. This is the first record I’ve come across in ages where I actually wish the production was worse, because an extra dose of mud might help offset the overall brittleness behind the drums and riffs. Yeah, that’s right: a soft-riffed Electric Wizard. Did we suddenly slip into the Bizarro World of the Superfriends? Can anyone confirm whether or not Coldplay managed to drop the heaviest record of the year? And grrrreaaaat horny toads, why are Oborn’s vocals so far forward in the overall mix. The dude has always delivered nasally, and EW has worked that element to their advantage in the past, but here it comes across as if you’re sitting two inches away from the Emergency Broadcast System for forty minutes. I’m not really sure what I was expecting from Electric Wizard at this point in the game, but it was more than Wizard Bloody Wizard.
KONRAD’S TURKEY: KREATOR
The contrast between following a formula and phoning it in isn’t always stark, but there’s an impenetrable line between the two when comparing Kreator’s last two albums: Phantom Antichrist and Gods of Violence. While some long time fans were naysayers to the unthreatening, arena thrash sing-a-longs taking up the majority of the space on Phantom Antichrist, there’s no denying the perfection with which the harmonious leads and choruses were written. Antichrist was the least abrasive album Mille Petrozza had written since Endorama and yet, it was impossible for most folks not to stomp their feet to tracks like “From Flood into Fire,” “Civilization Collapse,” or “The Few, the Proud, the Broken.” Over the last five years, Kreator’s active touring schedule provided fun for the whole family with its newest creations, but still included a lot of the classic songs every old school fan wants to hear regardless of the band’s latest output. Kreator’s arena style family fun had already reached full throttle prior to the release of lackluster Gods of Violence, an album that displayed Nuclear Blast’s marketing strategies oozing from the seams. Kreator is supposed to be better than that.
Kreator’s latest album is difficult to get through, not because of poor songwriting or bad leads, but due to its disingenuous approach to metal in general. Where Phantom Antichrist challenged its rough-and-tough fans in an emotional way, tracks such as “Satan Is Real” make the latest album feel like the Nick Jr. of thrash metal. Kreator isn’t a gateway album band, and judging from the skill level and ferocity that Mille and Co. still bring to the table in a live setting, there’s no question the band can do much better than an album that’s difficult to get through even once. Gods of Violence is not only predictable, but infuriatingly so.