National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2014 Show Report

The month of January brings excitement to the City of Anaheim every year, and the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) 2014 show is no exception!  Let’s cut to the chase this year!  A few highlights of the gazillions of musical instruments and gadgets are found below…enjoy!
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TOOL Mark 21st Anniversary of Opiate with Limited Edition Package

TOOL will release a handcrafted, bonus-laden, limited edition package of their original debut EP, Opiate, on March 26, 2013 to mark the 21st anniversary of the six-song release.

The anniversary edition is limited to 5,000 copies and features art direction by Adam Jones, illustrations by legendary artist Adi Granov and design packaging by Mackie Osborne, who has collaborated with TOOL on many albums including 10,000 Days, Lateralus and Salival as well as posters and merchandise.

The 5,000 copies will be broken down as 5 x 1,000 runs with each set featuring a variation of the exterior graphics and included bonus items which include a new stereoscopic image for fans to use with their glasses from  the 10,000 Days packaging.

The packages will only be available via TOOL‘s website (www.toolband.com) on March 26 and there will be no pre-orders.  A limit of three packages from each of the 5 x 1,000 versions will be in place.  More details to be announced soon.

INTRONAUT – Valley of Smoke

There’s nothing like artistic progression, maturation, and improvement. With Valley of Smoke, INTRONAUT take their melancholic and atmospheric style of prog to a new level. New sounds, tighter songwriting, and better arrangements color the record. Yes, those pristine clean electric guitars, manly bass lines, doomy heaviness, instrumental passages, and technical yet tasteful musicianship are all intact.

However, what jumps out more than anything else are the predominant use of clean vocals courtesy of lead vocalist/guitarist Sacha Dunable and guitarist Dave Timnick. “Tasteful” and “fitting” are the words that best describe these vocals. These long understated bellows add a new dimension to an already multifaceted sound.

Valley of Smoke is painted with that trademark textured prog soundscape that INTRONAUT is known for. And when I say “prog,” I’m referring to the prog of bands like YES and KING CRIMSON. An interesting observation is that there are many riffs and passages that could have easily fit into an ENSLAVED or IHSAHN album.

When is the last time you listened to an album that did not have a single straight forward, traditional, or simple drum pattern? Probably never. Well, drummer extraordinaire Danny Walker has laid down one of the most musical, skilled, and just plain excellent drum performances in heavy music. I bet your favorite drummer would be lovestruck by the highly creative drum patterns of Mr. Walker.

For the icing on the cake, TOOL‘s Justin Chancellor makes a guest appearance on the instrumental title track. Seriously, what does that say about INTRONAUT?

With each subsequent listen and the passage of time, Valley of Smoke will progressively make more sense. Subsequently, your appreciation of one of the most unique bands in extreme music will only increase. (Century Media Records)

PUSCIFER – V is for Vagina

In between his busy schedule of fronting TOOL and A PERFECT CIRCLE, Maynard Keenan has somehow found time to unleash yet another musical entity, PUSCIFER. While not a true solo album, V is for Vagina was composed primarily by Keenan, and serves as yet another glimpse in to the man’s twisted and imaginative mind. Musically, PUSCIFER is a different animal compared to the dense, complex progressive rock of TOOL or the lush melodies of A PERFECT CIRCLE, with Keenan exploring the worlds of trip hop and dub. However, similarities between his main acts can be found peppered throughout the album. “Queen B” opens things up in a non-chalant way with PRIMUS drummer Tim Alexander laying down some sturdy beats for Keenan to play around in with a trance-like hum and om interspersed with low-key spoken word. The plot thickens with the hidden arrangements and programming of “Dozo” to the dense atmosphere of “Vagina Mine,” which benefits from the tribal drumming and solid grooves of Gil and Rani Sharone of STOLEN BABIES. “Momma Sed” display’s the man’s talent for writing tuneful yet understated melodies replete with subtle hooks, and solid, yet quiet beats. But for all its creativity and variety, V is for Vagina is not a flawless album, with the preaching on “Sour Grapes” and the somewhat plodding “Drunk With Power” serving as less than exciting filler. But the sultry lounge number “Rev 22:20” however more than makes up for such shortcomings. It will be interesting to see what the world makes of PUSCIFER, as most of the powerful, evocative vocals of Keenan are vastly subdued for this album. Yet his charisma and inventive arrangements remain, with V is for Vagina delivering an original and unique entry in to the complex catalog of heavy alternative rock’s most enigmatic frontman. (Pucifer Entertainment)

STOLEN BABIES: And the Circus Leaves Town

Los Angeles’ STOLEN BABIES are as twisted and imaginative as they come, both musically and visually. But the eclectic band’s natural talent shines in their ability to incorporate such creativity into crafting great songs. Each and every song is like a ride through a twisted carnival madhouse wonderland. STOLEN BABIES are not a band to be categorized, but their influences from the spectrum of rock are very apparent. Drummer Gil Sharone, who’s lent his talents to various musical entities including DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and PUSCIFIER, provided some insight into the band that somehow manages to make an accordion part of a kick ass band.

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