Metal Skull: Twisted Sister And Three Death Metal Records: One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Atheist/Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken/Relapse

Scenario: You’re standing on the street, minding your own business, when all of a sudden a man in a shadowy Abramoff (remember him?) trench coat comes up to you and says, “Hey buddy, there’s a new Atheist live record out from their reunion set at Wacken.” You can either say, “Gee, thanks, mister,” and run to your nearest purveyor of deathly metallic goods or go home and listen to whatever garbage it is you prefer.

I think the choice is pretty clear.

Atheist, one of the most influential, important and heaviest technical death metal bands of all time— seriously, it’s them and Death, then Cynic, then everyone else—reunited for a set at Germany’s Wacken Open Air in 2006. This collection not only captures that live set, but also includes a second disc, dubbed Pieces Of Time: Atheist 1988-1993, that spans their three studio albums and serves as a great introduction to beginner listeners of the band. Yeah, sure, vocalist Kelly Shaefer went nu-metal with Neurotica, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that “On They Slay” and “An Incarnation’s Dream” kick indecent amounts of ass. You know how you listen to Gojira and think to yourself, “Wow, they’re so original and totally unlike anything I’ve ever heard?” Yeah well, this is what they’re ripping off.

Now signed to Season Of Mist, we can only hope a new Atheist album surfaces. Sure, it would be their first in 16 or 17 years, but who the hell cares? A touring reunion is nice, but if time has shown anything (even Celtic Frost got a record out before breaking up again), it’s that a band isn’t fully revived until they start the creative process anew. In the meantime, however, Unquestionable Presence: Live At Wacken gives plenty to look forward to and is a great way to introduce the band to a new generation of fans.

Ignominious Incarceration/Of Winter Born/Earache

I don’t even want to admit how long this CD, which was released by Earache in March, has been sitting on my shelf waiting for review. Under normal circumstances, something that old would automatically be relegated to the “pass” pile and get lost in obscurity among my general collection (the difference being largely procedural and alphabetical, logged in different Excel files, etc.), but something about the artwork for the alliterative UK five-piece’s debut appealed to me enough to keep the digipak around, and after all this time of looking at it, I feel like I at very least owe it a review, if not a beer and an order of mozzarella sticks.

Well, Of Winter Born, sadly, is not the second coming of Decapitated, but the young death metallers, occasionally given to deathcore breakdowns as they are, do alright. They’ve got swoopy hair and some silly face-piercings, so any new school griping is justified, but taken for the music itself, these songs aren’t awful. No, I’m not just saying that because I waited five months to review the album. Granted, I’ll probably put it on my shelf and never listen to it again, but someone else might. You might! Maybe melodeathcore is your thing and you never knew it. Maybe you should get the Atheist record instead…

Whatever avenues your shopping purchases take you down, the heaviness of Of Winter Born should be considered a given, and there are way worse things young headbangers could be listening to (like Job For A Cowboy), so if the girl-pantsed kung fu pitter in your life pops the squibbly guitars of Ignominious Incarceration in their iPod—because it’s my understanding that no one under 20 ever buys CDs anymore—don’t be too worried. For my pushing-30-self, however, there’s a wolf-shaped bonus disc of demos and, darn, that’s some neat Witchking-looking artwork. Ah hell, I tried.

JJ Koczan feels much older after writing that last review. Fortunately there are adult beverages in which he can drown both his sorrows and his brain cells. Drive safe.