Saturday, November 14, 2009

Drinking The Blood Of The Newborn Colossus

COLOSSUS – “Drunk On Blood” EP ’09 (Nice Life, US) – My experience with the North Carolina metal band COLOSSUS began, the way these things do, in an indirect way. I had stumbled one day into The Soundgarden, a record/CD store in Fells Point MD and ended up taking a chance on a disc I found by a band called Thunderlip entitled “The Prophecy.” It ended up being a winner, ‘80’s metal/’70’s hard rock galvanized by a nice dose of Thin Lizzy-inspired harmony leads. Anyone who hasn’t heard it (or the Lip’s debut, for that matter) should take a moment here and go order both. I’ll wait. Ok, that taken care of…. I then did what the Ray-man is prone to do. I embarked upon the ‘net to research more about the band. Catching up with them on myspace, I learned that they were from North Carolina and sometimes jammed with Valiant Thorr (who also kick ass). Scrolling down, I glanced at their top friends and saw something that jumped out, for some reason: COLOSSUS. Hmm…obviously a band, never heard of ‘em. But I’m thinking: You’ve gotta have some serious balls to call yourselves COLOSSUS. And, so a page-jumping I went. The band’s myspace site was: That is also a very good sign. They indicated that they sounded like “Placido Domingo being attacked by a pack of scorpion-men.” They had 3 (three!) lead guitar players. It was time to write to these guy! And so I did, returning from vacation that summer to find waiting for me a package containing the first COLOSSUS release, “…And The Rift Of The Pan-Dimensional Undergods.” To make a long story short, despite having a wonderful marriage, I fell in love. I played the CD 1000 times, put it on my I-pod and played it some more. Without question, it was the best metal debut album in a decade of Sundays. The songs were brilliant, loaded with riffs that were both ball-crushing and catchy-as-hell. The vocals of Sean Buchanan were stratospheric in the best Halford-on-Stained-Class sense and the guitars…my God, the guitars! Bill Fisher, Andy Lewis and Nicky Nixon put on a clinic that would have had a team of Randy Rhoads, Adrian Smith and KK Downing begging for mercy. Read my ranting and raving over this debut achievement here:
Cementing this all in place was the fact that about a week later the opportunity to see this bunch of metallic upstarts in person fell in my lap when COLOSSUS played The Talking Head Club in Baltimore with, yes, Thunderlip and killer Baltimore rock band The Mishaps. They could bring this shit off live! Wow!

I then went on to interview the colossal guys…read here…

Then, as the year of 2008 drew to a close, I went about the business of beginning to wonder what would lie ahead for this 6-piece Raysrealm Rookie-Of-The-Year winner. For a band to deliver such a mammoth opening statement, you had to think…did they shoot their wad? Would they be able to continue, upwards and onwards after this initial volley? My first answer to this came this past July when the COLOSSUS ambulance pulled in to the Golden West Café late one night, once again following their old friends The Mishaps and proceeded to lay waste to the surroundings by unveiling some new tracks from their upcoming release “Drunk On Blood.” As my buddies and I staggered out of the club at around 2:00 AM, pulling pieces of metal shrapnel out of our substantial foreheads (we’re all a bit long in the tooth, of course), we simply could not wait to hear this band’s next effort!

But, as these things go, we did have to wait… 4 more months until just recently when the mailman appeared on my front porch with a large brown package in his hand bearing the return address: COLOSSUS. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat back to listen to such a highly-anticipated record. Was it worth it? Well, let’s begin with the format. This is a vinyl-only release. As someone who was brought up musically in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I cannot tell you how much it means to me that this is a FUCKING RECORD!!! A 12” piece of vinyl (!!!) that comes housed in a gorgeous cover with artwork that would make any fan of real metal (Maiden, Manilla Road, old Priest, etc.) smile warmly. Secondly, the untrained observer may investigate this record further and express disappointment that it is an EP with “only” 5 songs. Let me put that to rest right now. Do y’all remember the first Mercyful Fate EP? What was that, four songs? Any complaints there, motherfucker? Did you write a letter to Hank Shermann saying “Pretty nice effort, Henry, but how ‘bout some more meat on the bones next time around?!” No, of course you didn’t because you were too busy going to Captain Pete’s T-Shirt Emporium to have ‘em make you some MF swag with those snazzy felt letters. That was for you to wear while you were compiling your 1982 Top 10 Albums Of The Year list with Fate squarely at the top. Point is, like that icon from metal’s past, the 5 songs on this COLOSSUS record are so Goddamn good, so completely and utter friggin’ massive and destructive that they mow under just about any 60 minute CD you can pull out of your collection and call “obsolete.” This is the real fucking deal and I can tell I really mean that by how much I’m cussing right now. “The Mountain That Rides” opens, raising the volume gradually as the band hits a few glorious chords, hangs momentarily on a musical cliff’s edge, then plummets full-force into a headlong NWOBHM-fest. At once, it marries that era’s innocent metallic youth to a 2009 vitality that displays a critical point. In the right hands, which at this moment are the 12 that populate this band, metal is not only NOT a retro-genre but as forward moving as you can get. Sparks of energy and excitement fly off this spinning piece of black vinyl as Buchanan tells tales from a desperate wilderness that would send Mastodon running for their Boy Scout handbooks. “Kill More Better” does. What the hell else do you need to know about this one, man, except for the fact that it may have a catchier chorus than anything on AC/DC’s “Black Ice.” You’ll be walking thru Wal*Mart singing this one and raising the eyebrows of the MILF with the cart in front of you. Just don’t let her see that bloody wolf-leg you’re carrying until you have her back in your lair….

Anyway, “A Year Later (There’s Still Meat Left In The Skull.)” Besides being the absolute greatest song title of 2009 and, perhaps, all time, this one opens with one of the most triumphant metallic guitar figures I’ve ever heard. Sean’s vocals are beyond brilliant, presenting visions of names like Dickinson, Halford and Adams all at once without ever sounding like any of them directly, simply allowing it all to fuse into his own style. As the record then proceeds into it’s 2 longer cuts, “The Operative” and “Wendigo” the guitar prowess on offer comes into simply massive relief. Bill, Andy and Nicky use this record to stake their claim as one of the greatest guitar teams of all-time. The production of Mitch Marlowe, Al Jacob and Jamie King is very important, as it allows you to really understand how great these cats are. Listen, especially to this closing pair. All 3 axe men will lock together in a rhythm. Effortlessly, one will peal off, like a precision jet fighter, taking a harmony to expand the sound. One guy will introduce a lead line and then, one by one, the other 2 will join him applying layers of melody that I’ve only heard a few places before…Wishbone Ash’s “Argus” & “There’s The Rub,” Maiden’s “A Matter Of Life & Death,” maybe a scant couple more, but it’s a short damn list, that’s for sure. Of all the numbers present, it’s the aforementioned 6 ½ minute “Wendigo” that draws things to a close and it’s smartly-placed and fitting. The opening gallop, complete with Lizzy-like harmonies raises the hair on my arms every time as Sean’s vocals are as emotional as they are soaring. Still, masters of dynamics, COLOSSUS save the very best for last. After several changes, the song moves into one of the most majestic codas in memory. The guitarists fuse together in a rhythm as heavy as the riff in the middle of “Stained Class” and Buchanan delivers the commanding mantra “I will lead a thousand men…and take their strength from them…” It’s one of "those" moments and it serves to capitalize the very theme of this spectacular record: North Carolina band COLOSSUS has taken the throne as the best metal band today. I dare someone to try to knock them off! Face Melting Complete

NOTE: For anyone thinking “Shit, this sounds great but I don’t have a turntable…” When you order this album, it comes with a sticker with a free download of all the songs. Right here, you mutha:

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