Just a beginning...
Genre: groove metal
I remember when groove metal happened back in the early 90s. Pantera released their masterpieces Cowboys from Hell and Vulgar Display of Power, and suddenly the metal scene exploded with groovy bands - many of whom were established thrash bands who embraced the groove to various degrees, while the rest were upcoming new bands. Soon the scene consisted of a few original bands surrounded by a mass of Pantera-clones, and suddenly the groove metal star went supernova and imploded on itself, falling out of favor before the 90s ended. This is partially because of the mass of sub par Pantera-clone and because the groove was embraced and, in many cases, dumbed down by the nu metal bands of the late 90s and later by the metalcore bands of the noughties, while a more interesting and, dare I say, true version of the metal groove was kept alive in the underground sludge metal scene.
It seems now that new life has been blown into the groove metal monster - probably thanks to the increasing popularity of sludge metal - and, with releases like Diretone's upcoming eponymous debut and "Sky Is High" by Serbian rockers Concrete Sun, which was released earlier this month, there is focus on both quality, originality and homage to the great groove metal acts of the 90s.
"Sky Is High" is a massive riff-based grooving monster of a rock album. While there seems to be a clear influence from sludge metal, Concrete Sun's sound is much tighter and less twangy than the typical sludge sound, and Sky Is High has more sonically in common with the thrash metal bands who went groovy in the 90s in the sense that, while the groove is in focus, Concrete Sun also appear to be aiming at precision and tightness in both riffage and in the overall performance. I would say that, if one were to compare this album to releases from the golden era of groove metal, the best point of comparison would be releases like Overkill's "I Hear Black", Anthrax' "The Sound of White Noise", Sacred Reich's "Independent", and perhaps Exodus' "Force of Habit". Now all of these releases were not exactly popular when they were released, but what I like about them is that they were different from the undefinable mass of groove metal releases the came out at the time, and I think it is great that Concrete Sun sound more like those releases than the many Pantera-clones that made up the major groove metal population. I mean, obviously, the Pantera-inspiration is there and is reflected in some of the riffs, but we are not talking rip-offs here.
Not only is "Sky Is High" solid and groovy, most of the tracks are based on some awesome drives and then, for a groove metal album, it is also quite varied with tracks like 'Just a Beginning', 'Euphoria' and 'Hide Behind' being groovy motorcycle-friendly metal rockers, while the title track is heavy and melodic, and a tune like 'Ruff Song' is an all out old school hard rocker, whereas 'Last Man Under the Sun' is a dark and heavy blues-tinged alternative rock/metal track. The vocals also deserve mention, as the vocalist has a really unique voice (think Bobby Blitz meets Manic Frustration-era Eric Wagner with a touch of Wolfsbane-era Blaze Bayley in the more mellow parts); it may take a spin or two to get used to, but his vocals are rock 'n' roll as f*ck and really fit the music perfectly. Another thing that screams rock 'n' roll are the guitar solos which steer clear of any sort of shredding, instead drawing on the blues and are more akin to the solos heard in much 90s alternative rock.
Fans of groove metal as well as sludge metal and even alternative metal/rock should definitely invest in "Sky Is High".
(review originally posted at seaoftranquility.org)