Friday, August 20, 2010

Who Decides: Comeback albums you should own

So what is a 'Comeback album'? For this post, it simply means an album that was released after a crappy/almost career ending album. There are a lot of them out there, but I will keep this list somewhat short. So how can a band release a career ending album? Easy, they try to reach a bigger audience or experiment with some new technique or just put out a half assed effort. For this list I will list the "comeback album" then the "crappy/almost career ending album" in parenthesis.

Fear Factory - Mechanize (Transgression) Yeah Transgression was a transgression. Oh the horror. Fear Factory are known for blast beats, double bass, heavy riffs and some killer vocals. With Transgression we got little to none of that. Actually, it was more reminiscent of Fear Factory during the dark days of metal. Yes there are a few hidden gems in there (the title track for one), but this was made for a tour with Megadeth and they didn't really put much time into it. Seriously who allowed Echo of My Scream to be on this album...and let it go for 7 minutes?

So enter Mechanize. This is more of a classic FF sounding album. From the intro of the title track you hear the industrial sounds that take you back to Demanufacture. The riffs and drums are back to where we love them. Most fans have embraced this album, but it is such a return to form that it had to lead this list.

Trivium - Shogun (The Crusade) Matt Heafy has some pretty big goals in life. When Ascendancy kept getting praise he said he wanted to be as big as Metallica. That's pretty big. Enter The Crusade press tour, where he decided to now say he wanted to be bigger than Metallica. So how could they do that? Simple, lose all of the screams and go with clean vocals throughout. How did it sound? Like a Metallica rip-off. It was so bad. In fact, during the tours they changed all of their old songs to be clean vocals about selling out. Musically, it is straight metal, no metalcore or anything like that. It didn't really sound like Trivium, not that they are built as a metalcore band, but it didn't have that feel. It felt too simplistic. Some songs were good Entrance of Conflagration and the stellar instrumental title track. But what really killed this album, besides the lack of screams, was the intro to Unrepentant it is such a rip off of Through the Never by Metallica. So bad. It's a good album and will probably make The Clone list of Metallica, but it almost killed Trivium.

Enter Shogun. This is a masterpiece of an album. Combination of screams and clean vocals and return to their earlier sound. Lots of double bass action and guitar solos that were just great. And how could they top the title track of The Crusade? Simple, Shogun...a 12 minute song that has all the feel of a Master of Puppets type track without the feeling of copying it. Shogun would probably rank higher on the list of favorite Trivium albums, but won't pass Ascendancy because it seems too convenient to see them return to form. People wrote Trivium off after The Crusade, but this album is a must own.

Shadows Fall - Retribution (Threads of Life) After the great album that was The War Within, Shadows Fall was signed to a record deal with a major label, Atlantic Records. Threads of Life was their first album and they assured everyone it wouldn't be a sell out album. It would maintain the brutality of The War Within. Well it didn't. Like Trivium, this album included more clean vocals and really went for the more simplistic straight metal approach. Most songs were the same; fast verse, slow chorus, fast verse, slow chorus, solo, slow chorus. After the album sold so poorly, they were pretty much dropped.

So what did they do? Over-compensated? Maybe, but Retribution could be their best album in terms of guitar solos...scratch that. It is their best album in terms of guitar solos. This album really does a great job of making every song memorable. There is little filler on this album, if any and each song contains a freakin' awesome solo. I will say this, it topped the list of best albums last year for me. If you want some more praise of this album, go HERE, for some earlier comments.

Megadeth - The World Needs a Hero (Risk) This is the example for comeback album. Risk wasn't a risk, it was a huge mistake. But was it a bad album? Yes & no. It was a horrible Megadeth album. It sounded nothing like Megadeth. Sure the first two songs might have come off of Cryptic Writings, but that was it. Everything else was pop rock. And that's where it's not a bad album, it's just not a Megadeth album. Kind of like Motley Crue's self-titled album without Vince Neil. Great rock album, but wasn't Motley Crue without Vince Neil singing. What made it worse was the hype for the album. It was supposed to be a return to form for Megadeth. Cryptic Writings had some sellout type songs with Trust and Almost Honest and they were going back to metal. Well...somewhere from the press to the recording something changed. Because gone was the metal and back was the sellout pop rock. Dave blamed Marty for the change in direction and producer and I believe Dave on this one. Marty has turned into a Japanese pop star, while Dave has tried to redirect Megadeth back to metal dominance. Plus it was easy to convince Dave because he really wanted to beat Metallica in terms of numbers.

So what happened? The World Needs a Hero. I love this album and it is probably in my top 5 Megadeth albums. I talked about it in depth and reviewed it before HERE. It starts off with a song that could have been on Cryptic Writings, but the solo is nothing special in terms of technicality, but it feels perfect. There are a few "radio" friendly songs here, but Recipe for Hate...Warhorse, Dread and the Fugitive Mind, Return to Hangar, When, and even Kill the King (which was supposed to be on the album, but was put on a greatest hits album before this was released) are striaght up thrash metal that could have easily made it onto Rest in Peace or Countdown to Extinction. What makes this album for me is the solos. There are songs where they solo for over a minute. And it is the classic trade off solos that Megadeth was known for. Bottom line, the whole album is great, but the second half is classic Megadeth. This was the beginning of Megadeth returning to thrash. Some fans bash it, I love it.

Before I end this, some of you might be asking yourselves "where's Metallica?" I don't think that St. Anger was a "crappy/almost career ending album". It debuted at #1. And honestly at that point Metallica had lost most of the "true fans" from the Load albums. So Death Magnetic isn't a comeback album for me because Metallica never left.

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