Perry Schwartz’s RDIO Cure – How do you take your metal? Mastodon, Dream Theater and Chickenfoot keep fists pumping with three distinct styles of metal

This week’s new releases weren’t all that exciting to me so I decided instead to take a listen to some recent releases on the harder side of things.  While metal’s forefathers Judas Priest, Motorhead and Iron Maiden continue to make music, there are a slew of bands out there moving the genre in new directions and giving a new generation of fans a reason to put up their devil horns and bang their heads in unison.

Add It To The Collection…The Hunter is the latest album by sludgethrash band Mastodon.  I have to admit, I’d heard of these guys before but never really gave them a good listen, probably because their earlier work was more progressive and many of the tracks on their first few albums were longer than eight minutes – I like my mental short and to the point!  On The Hunter, Mastodon are making radio-friendly metal tunes that clock in no longer than five-and-a-half minutes.  The result is a tight album of catchy tunes that sound more grunge than thrash at times.  Think Alice In Chains meets the harder side of Metallica.  Must-have track: “Creature Lives”.

Worth another listen… When a band loses one of its founding members and arguably the driving force behind their sound it can signal the beginning of the end.  In the case of Dream Theater, losing drummer Mike Portnoy is more aptly the beginning of a new beginning.  Following Portnoy’s departure in September 2011, the band  held auditions for his replacement – no small task.  Brilliantly, they filmed the entire process and created a web series for their fans to follow along on the ride. In April Mike Mangini – a freakishly good drummer – was revealed to be the band’s new drummer, and having just witnessed first-hand the incredible devotion of Dream Theater fans at a recent gig in Toronto – they sang along to every word of every song, new or old – I believe the fans are pleased with the selection.  The first post-Portnoy album, A Dramatic Turn Of Events sees Dream Theater doing what they do best – creating epic, progressive hard rock with precision musicianship that is mind-blowing.  I was mesmerized at times by the speed at which bass player John Myung’s fingers attacked his six-string bass while accenting the machine gun double-bass drum of Mangini.  My only issue with Dream Theater is the keyboard playing on some of the tracks sound more like b-list horror movie soundtrack material rather than prog-metal masterpieces. Must-have track: “On The Backs Of Angels”.

Skip It… One of the hallmarks of hard rock is the supergroup.  From Damn Yankees to Mr. Big, Velvet Revolver to Them Crooked Vultures, the supergroup phenomenon in metal has resulted in some incredible collaborations.  In 2009 an unlikely hard rock supergroup was formed following a string of impromptu jam sessions featuring Sammy Hagar (Van Halen), Michael Anthony (Van Halen) and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chilli Peppers) at Hagar’s Cabo Wabo tequila bar in Mexico.  The trio eventually added metal guitar god Joe Satriani to the line-up and Chickenfoot was born.   The band recently released its second album, Chickenfoot III, which features more funk-metal, riff-based rock but lacks any major hooks or material worthy of a second listen.  There’s no doubting the talents of each member, but on Chickenfoot III there’s no moment when it all comes together.  Perhaps the mysteriously missing Chickenfoot II surfaces in the future and becomes a classic lost album – that would be very Spinal Tap.

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