In the immortal words of generational icon and slacker philosopher Butt-Head, “You gotta have stuff that sucks, to have stuff that’s cool.”
This was true in 2019 as it was in most years, although as a team we kinda struggled to really think of stuff that qualified as a bonafide Turkey. This Thanksgiving tradition sees us roasting, basting, and slicing through the year’s least delicious birds. They may have been albums we were wanting to be good that ended up being minor flops or those that were somehow even worse than the already low expectations. Either way, these blew up like your Uncle Todd’s garage when he forgot to thaw his fowl before dropping in the fryer.
We have fewer turdkeys than in past years. Could be because we’re feeling cheerier, or maybe that everything around us is so shitty and we felt like being more positive about metal. Probably the latter, but don’t discount our cheeriness. We’re a bunch of goddamn rays of goddamn sunshine.
Chime in to tell us your biggest disappointments of 2019 or to tell us how we’re colossally wrong. Or just use this article as the last thing you need to settle into an afternoon nap after about ingesting a few pounds of slaughtered bird.
I struggled with writing this blurb, not because I didn’t have things to say, but because I wasn’t sure I wanted to say them. The idea of this “Fowlest Flops” turkey feature isn’t just to bash bands or records—it’s ultimately more about us, as fans, lamenting the releases that disappointed us the most. And, of course, disappointment implies some heightened level of hope that a release might be, y’know… good.
So I’m not entirely sure this one fits here because I haven’t been excited about a Death Angel album since they reunited for the mostly dull The Art Of Dying, 14 years after the mostly stellar Act III. Still, here’s the rub, here’s why we’re here: It’s a little early for List Season yet, but holiday creep is the thing these days, so I’ve seen some year-end lists sneaking their way out ahead of the curve. Upon these lists, I’ve noticed several entries for Humanicide, and so I fell for it. I went and listened—or listened again, actually, since I spun about half of Humanicide back when it came out, when curiosity / misguided loyalty to childhood favorites got the better of me the first time.
Back then, at least, I had the ability to give up after about four songs of the same energetic-but-forgettable modern melo-thrash that has plagued Death Angel releases for a decade or more now. A moment or two will rise up above the mix—“Divine Defector” achieves some ripping fury, and “I Came For Blood” feels like Anthrax and Suicidal battling it out after too many energy drinks. Mostly, Humanicide promises fire and yet leaves me cold. The performances are energetic, but they’re also clinical; every song sounds the same, and none of it is anything particularly invigorating, with the final track “The Day I Walked Away” being just outright weak.
On the plus side, Cavestany can still rip off a fun solo here and there, and Osegueda’s voice remains formidable, his performances the only part of the formula wherein Death Angel has markedly improved over their classic era. In the end, Humanicide falls prey to the same pitfalls as For All Kings and Dystopia—somewhere along the way, classic thrashers began to merge with the groove hybrid that followed them, blurring the lines into a Trivium-tinted blend of old and nu. For Humanicide, that ultimately equates to too much weak material, not enough that sticks after the disc stops spinning. True, it may be no less bad than those Anthrax or Megadeth records above, and it’s definitely better than Sacred Reich’s 2019 reunion stinker, but all of those are low bars to clear. Give me The Wings Of War for old guy thrash in 2019, no question. [ANDREW EDMUNDS]
Dear Lunar Shadow,
I would have written you sooner, but I’ve been using our time apart to process how I truly feel. We used to share so much. Back in 2016, Far From Light was my favorite album of the year. It still is a favorite. I believed in you so much. I believed in us. I couldn’t possibly see what was on the horizon, I was so blinded. Our love was just so pure, I couldn’t help but put my heart on the line when it came to us.
Maybe I wanted too much. True love should transcend expectations and maybe I put too much pressure on wanting you to change, expecting you to try new things, but I feel like you’re happy doing small variations the same melodies you did before. “Conajohara No More” just comes off as a watered-down take on “Cimmeria.” From the opening riff to the tempo changes and song structures, it just feels like retreading covered ground and comes off as a bit too predictable.
It’s not like you didn’t try to grow at all. “Roses” was a bold step in a new direction, and perhaps it’s not you, it’s me, but it feels like our hearts are growing apart. I have to be honest: the flirtation with New Wave isn’t bad, but it feels out of place with the history of the band and much of the rest of the album. And then there’s the ballad. While I loved the slower tracks on the debut, the attempt to do it again falls short and I’m left skipping the track and just pretending it’s not on the album.
The time we had with Alex on vocals wasn’t perfect, but I learned to love the imperfections in the subtle nature of the harmonies. They became part of the magic that resonated so deep within my heart. Robert’s a serviceable singer when he’s not trying for high notes, but the magic just didn’t connect. “Red Nails” and “Hawk Of The Hills” have chemistry and show a more logical growth in melody and songwriting, but at that point in the album it’s just too little too late.
I feel we need to spend some time apart. I will always cherish the enchanted nights we spent together in lands of yore, but my heart yearns for more. Perhaps when our paths cross again in the faerie glades or the windswept planes and the moon will light our path again we can reassess our relationship, but for right now it’s just not working for me. I wish it didn’t have to be this way.
Change is inevitable. At least, change is inevitable unless you’re Tool guitarist Adam Jones, who has failed to add a single new trick, riff, or chord progression to his arsenal despite being in a wildly successful band for over a quarter of a century. It took Tool 13 years to follow the inconsistent but inspired 10,000 Days with Fear Inoculum, and in all that time, he appears to have been in cryostasis. How can a musician that plays in a supposedly “progressive” band not even have a level of self respect to improve his craft over such a long period of time? It’s not like he has to keep a day job for financial security. Maybe, maybe practice a few hours a week, Adam. You owe it to the fans that keep going to see Tool live despite the dearth of new material.
The real kicker is the excruciatingly long “solo” in closer, “7emptest” (ugh), which seems to go on longer (and with far less skill) than the organ wankery in “Light My Fire.” It’s kind of hilarious, and it should be embarrassing, but a person so eternally content with being the least talented member of his band is probably incapable of embarrassment.
Jones is far from the only culprit. The entirety of Fear Inoculum sounds like leftovers from previous writing sessions that have been cobbled together in a series of 10-plus minute songs so that Tool diehards will eat it up and never question the methods. Really, there doesn’t seem to be a single original idea across the entire 80 minutes. Classics like “Pushit” and “Reflection” serve as the main source of the “new” material, but those older songs grew meticulously to stunning conclusions. The new songs either arrive at flaccid finishes (the title track) or muddle around in long, winding passages that fail to go anywhere real (“Invincible”). It’s easy to convince yourself that it’s Good Tool, because it’s made of the same Good Tool Elements, but even the slightest analytical ear reveals it to be extremely shallow.
The whole thing feels so cynical. Tool was once a truly progressive bright spot in arena-sized rock, and even the mistakes on 10,000 Days saw them trying to do something different. Fear Inoculum, by comparison, is the work of a band that is merely going through the motions. Sure, it sold a shitload of records, but so did “Smooth” by Santana featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox 20. [ZACH DUVALL]
Tau Cross has had… one hell of a ride. Back in 2015 they released their self-titled debut, which rocked our collective balls off with the combination of Rob Miller’s own Amebix-style crust and rocktastic Killing Joke-like peaks. But we aren’t focused on that album. Neither are we focused on the 2017 release Pillar of Fire, which appeared on our Fowlest Flops edition of the same year.
Rather we are sitting here discussing Messengers of Deception, an album that was dropped by Relapse Records and is no longer even listed on Metal Archives as a release. In fact, despite my initial excitement for ripping this album you can’t find it well… anywhere. It’s not often that an album flops so hard it gets withdrawn from production, destroyed and then essentially erased from history. And that doesn’t happen when only the music is an issue. Compounding the musical disaster that was (briefly) Messengers of Deception is Rob “The Baron” Miller’s inclusion of a very special thank you to Gerard Menuhin. Menuhin is a man who has referred to the Holocaust as “the biggest lie in history” (see his 2015 book Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil). Another major shock came when Relapse dropped the band, halted production, and released a statement confirming that not one single member of Tau Cross outside Rob Miller had ever even heard of Gerard Menuhin. It was in that way that The Barron single-handedly took down Tau Cross and smeared a vicious sheen of blood-soaked shit across the history of Amebix (one of my absolute all-time favorite, most life-influencing bands). He was, as the album title so aptly recognized, a real life messenger of deception. For that reason, 2019 was a pretty tough year as some heroes not only passed away but others destroyed their legacy in a fate somehow worse than death.
Now, that not-so-simple politically disgusting issue aside, the music on Messengers of Deception. As a writer who was “fortunate” enough to get an advanced copy of the album I’ve had the unique displeasure of actually listening to the tracks that were once contained therein. They were… songs. The album that never was lacked any of the oomph, pizzazz, or punk rock swagger that made their debut so very popular. It was, sadly, far too similar to their abysmally uninspired sophomore LP yet this time without the excuse that the members didn’t record on the same continent. What Messengers of Deception did accomplish was to teach us that Tau Cross was truly a one-hit wonder with their self-titled album being absolutely otherworldy in comparison to anything they could ever dream of following it up with. More than being an “album that never was” this one should have remained in the “never” sector of the galaxy rather than ever being allowed to see the light of day let alone the ears of the adoring public.
Fowl aspect aside, huge shout-out to Relapse for doing the right thing and a very sincere “my deepest condolences” to all members of the band not named Rob Miller who were hurt for the crime of the one. Never doubt their loyalty to ideals central to the tenements of punk.
RIP Tau Cross. [MANNY-O-WAR]