UNGH! AAARRH! It’s thrash week! Welcome to our “Earache Thrash Pack” — and that name is a salute to the record label, not a value judgment. On tap are three tracks that cover a lucky 13 years’ worth of thrash and death metal on Earache - beginning with the Swedish pioneers At the Gates; continuing with its spinoff band the Haunted and finishing up with a new track by the English band Evile. Brush up your Cookie Monster vocal stylings; be prepared to execute some feats of speed and precision, and be warned that these track aren’t nice; they’re full of horror-movie type references and loaded down with doom and misery. But they’re wicked fun to play on drums.
At the Gates—“Blinded by Fear”
Drawn from the Swedish quintet’s fifth and last album, this track is a milestone of the “Gothenberg sound” — a style typical of that part of Sweden, where they like their death metal slightly (repeat: slightly) on the melodic side. Still, this ain’t exactly a power ballad: Lyrically, this song maps out the darker corners of the subconscious, and its music was hard-edged enough to become one of the most-played tracks ever on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. After years of swearing they’d never reunite, At the Gates booked some festival dates for Europe this summer—no US dates yet, so thrashers can start adding up their frequent-flyer miles now.
When At the Gates disbanded in 1996, three of the five members formed a band that was even more extreme — more brutal on one side, more doomy and haunting on the other. With its sledgehammer guitar riffage “D.O.A.” leans toward their brutal side; singer Marco Arco sounds like he’s been gargling battery acid for days. Arco would leave after this album but the Haunted would go on to greater glories, playing the Ozzfest in 2005 and touring Japan in 2006.
Talk about concise precision — This track is only three minutes long, but it’s three of the more exhausting minutes in Rock Band history. The instrumental intro alone is enough to separate the true thrashers from the posers, as the grinding riffs gets trickier, and calls for more drum acrobatics, every time it comes around. (The song’s brevity makes it the exception on Evile’s debut CD, whose other tunes are as long as seven minutes). Hailing from West Yorkshire in the peaceful UK, this band is part of a modern thrash revival, a new generation who’ve picked up on Slayer, early Metallica and the Gothenberg crew. Just proves that even death metal can come back to life.
“I Want My, I Want My DLC!”
The songs in Rock Band are only the beginning. Each week we’ll be rolling out more downloadable songs, essential tracks (and sometimes whole albums) from every era of rock history. Check the Rock Band website to find out what’s new.
Tracks will usually sell for $1.99 each; with three-pack specials costing $5.49. (On the Xbox 360, that’s 160 Microsoft Points per track and 440 per three-pack). Occasional special or discounted tracks may cost a dollar more or less.
Downloadable content for the Xbox 360 is available through the XBOX LIVE marketplace. Downloads for the PLAYSTATION 3 version of Rock Band are available through the PLAYSTATION Network Store. In each case, the songs are downloaded onto your hard drive.
If you’re playing solo, you can start rocking right away. For head-to-head or multiplayer online, all players will need to download the song.