Jan. 12Summoning, “With Doom We Come”One thing I love about metal music is how often bands love to work within a theme. No other genre has offshoots focused solely on pirates, vikings, the ocean, or the mythos of specific fantasy stories. That final one is where Summoning finds themselves. For the past 25 years, they have been releasing music about and from JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth, telling stories of characters mentioned in passing or even making their own renditions of the songs that Tolkien wrote himself. These recordings are slow and deliberate; you can really feel the reverence for the subject matter that the band has, which makes every listening session a wonderful experience. Their depth of knowledge on the subject is always at the center of the music, lending the records an almost timeless quality where they almost feel as if they could come from the world they love so much.
Joe Satriani, “What Happens Next”Instrumental music gets a bad rep of either being entirely background music, or a chain of guitar solos linked by half-hearted bridges that just want to get to the next moment of shredding. Joe Satriani has always deftly avoided these pitfalls, giving his guitar leads the same driving force as a vocalist would give their words. It allows the music to do all the speaking it needs to. The addition of Deep Purple’s Glenn Hughes on bass and Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers on drums rounds out the sound nicely. I don’t do deep dives on virtuosic guitar music often, but I appreciate the work of the likes of Steve Vai and Eric Johnson. This record grabbed me in a surprising way. The instrumentals have so much emotion that I honestly think that vocals would have been detrimental to the overall song, not something I can say about a lot of instrumental work. The leads in the title track especially tug at the heartstrings, which caught me again by surprise.
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, “Wrong Creatures”Sometimes I need a reminder that rock ’n’ roll without frills or gimmicks is still being made. BRMC has been standing on the periphery of the mainstream for a very long time, growing stronger with each release, hinting at the possibility of a breakthrough. On “Wrong Creatures,” I think they may have done it. The two lead singles, “Little Thing Gone Wild” and “Echo,” show the breadth of sound the band is able to harness, going from lip-snarling rock beats to shimmering no-wave complete with strings and whispers, and the transition in between is facilitated with every other song on the record. Overall, the album leans toward the subdued side of the sound spectrum, but every so often, the guitars will become unhinged and vocalists (and original members) Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been kick into higher gears. Also notable is the bass work, which churns and roils like an angry ocean underneath the mix, often breaking the surface and forcing you to acknowledge its power.