The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Tax Time Thought

From a poet friend of mine, Frank Crowson:

"As income time approaches, did you ever notice when you put the two words "The" and "IRS" together it spells "THEIRS?"


Pop me a Guinness, that's BRILLIANT!

The Saints' Guide to Happiness

After a number of spewings to my friend Bob about my general frustration as an aspirant writer and how close I am to the top rungs of success, how I feel that my day job, while it pays the bills and I have a good boss who takes care of me and supports my side ventures, has robbed a part of my vitality and in short, just gets in the way of where I feel I'm destined to go in this life. It was something I knew was a potential when I went to college and instead of earning my Bachelor's in Journalism or Mass Communication, I got it Business Administration/Marketing. This is the trapping I set myself up for, because my credo was to avoid being a starving artist. Ever since starting the nonfiction project on metal bands, I've inadvertently become usurped into the scene and now I enjoy the privilege of speaking with bands worldwide, many of them well on the radar in today's scene. I get free CDs, free shows, I enjoy the company of established musicians who treat me with respect and I'm having the time of my life. I'm a lucky bastard, in layman's terms.

Still, it wasn't satisfactory enough to me if you would've asked a few months ago. When the proverbial prize is so close within reach, obsession takes over and anything impeding the path towards inner harmony and satisfaction becomes more of a burden than is perhaps necessary. In other words, equating success with a financial payout is the obsession I allude to.

I'm not a greedy man. I have no desire to become a parasite to the industry I'm forutnate enough to have broken into. What burns inside my mind and inside my heart is generating enough revenue from my wares to shirk my preconceived shackles and live my life according to my terms. I envy writers who make their living off their words, I truly do. I generate a very meager second income from my writing; the majority of it is voluntary because I love doing it and I love meeting people I never would've in the past, and I love building my rep through the underground, and I love the people who take an interest in what I'm doing; they can never know my full appreciation because there's still so much apathy I contend with it is sometimes heartbreaking. Thus, I'm rewarded in so many ways I should be trying to count them all instead of worrying about what has eluded me to this point.

This is what I learned after my friend Bob ordered me The Saints' Guide to Happiness by Robert Ellsberg after my random grumblings about life and where I've envisioned myself to be. Rather than make this a full-fledged review of the book, I will instead relay what I got out of it, which is probably the most important thing in the grand scheme:

What Bob was trying to tell me before the book arrived in my mailbox was that happiness is all around you in the present, that essentially worrying about future happiness is counterproductive. He's so very right. St. Antony, who lived to be (unheard of in his time) 105, was affected by the message of Jesus who told a rich man to sell his belongings to the poor and then follow him. What Antony got from essentially doing the same thing was removing the external factors, which must've included certain conflicts, and instead found a happiness outside of the material world just by simply cherishing what he surrounded himself with in his desert exile. Perhaps that sounds naive and blase in our technologically advanced world today, but stripping the message to its barest bones, I find that taking comfort in what you have in front of you presents opportunity for instant happiness. As we are so much an instant gratification society, such a parable should carry so deep an impact. Trust me when I say it's easier said than done, but I found that Bob's words carry worth and meaning. It's soul food if you want to use a different terminology.

Why obsess about the future? My mom has told me numerous times to "just do the thing" and everything else will work out. As relates to Bob's prescription for happiness, the two perspectives are validated in The Saints' Guide to Happiness. So many stories inside about people finding comfort within themselves and their devotion, just by living their lives in the current. What better example than Mother Theresa?

You can be an agnostic and still appreciate the fact that concerning yourself beyond your current capacity is, well...just plain silly. Life is stressful enough, and both my wife and I worry about the dumbest things, often on top of things that are meritous to worry about. Dealing with the future shouldn't have to mold who you are as individual in the here and now. If you want to modify wrong behavior so that you can look yourself in the mirror down your life's path, that's certainly commendable, but fretting over what you're powerless against in the present day is putting one foot into an early grave.

So in essence, what I've learned with Bob's gift is to appreciate what I have and what I've worked extremely hard to achieve within the first 35 years of my life. I should examine my accomplishments and smile. I should shudder at my mistakes and hope to never repeat them, always being mindful of the consequences. As for the future? Who cares? I could die tomorrow with a lot of unfinished business. God gives you life to utilize it to your fullest capabilities in an uncertain timeframe, yet the focus should be on what you can achieve this very minute, with maybe a life's goal outline perhaps, but certainly not a make-or-break constitution upon yourself that denotes whether you're successful or happy. Success and happiness, when broken down proper, is being true to yourself. The measure of a man or woman is simply being.

Thank you, Bob. This book was a bit of a lifesaver...

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Songs that make you want to escape somewhere...

In Maryland we had our first dose of warmth in the early tides of spring today. A day to shirk the coats, fill up the gas tank (even with these asinine prices) and crank some jams out of open vehicle windows. On my way to pick up some And You'll Know Us By the Trail of Dead, recommended to me by my friend Bob, down went the windows, off went the coat, up went Weezer's dreamy cover of "Island in the Sun." As pedestrians on sidewalks looked at me like a menace, I didn't care one iota. My mind instantly drifted in the way only good tunes on a sunny lunch break can provide.

I found myself wanting to be at the beach, in the mountains, in an art gallery, in the back of a convertible standing up with my arms stretched out, on the road to nowhere with a 4 pack of Guinness pub cans all to myself chilling in a cooler, just itching for a pitstop chugalug, on a hammock idling the afternoon away, scratching my cat's chin, sniffing my wife's red locks, chilling in the basement with the kids across the street who are trying to put together their own punk band, you get the picture...

The power of music is so undeniable it seizes you sometimes when you're vulnerable and that's about the most pleasurable thing I can think of next to sex; it's the embodiment of escapism. in the case of Weezer, I was transported about of my truck cab and into their swooning notes and all I could think of was putting it into fifth gear and flying down Interstate 95 until I reached the southern tip of Florida...

So I ask anyone reading this, what song(s) produce this effect for you?

Upcoming Agony Scene and Still Remains reviews posted

At Pivotal Rage.com for your consumption, are reviews of mine for upcoming albums for the following releases:

The Agony Scene - The Darkest Red (Brent Masters' drumming will knock you flat)
Still Remains - Of Love and Lunacy
The Bereaved - Darkened Silhouette
The Aerium - Song for the Dead King
Dispatched - Terrorizer
Gwar - War Party
Scorngrain - Cyberwarmachine (this one's a scorcher)
November's Doom - Pale Haunt Departure
Searing Meadow - Corroding from Inside
Sunn 0))) - The GrimmRobe Demos

**Special thanks to Roadrunner Records for featuring my Agony Scene review on their label website!

Are Queens of the Stone Age saviors of American Rock 'n Roll?

Okay, it's audience participation time...

Even stuck in traffic a mere two miles from the office this morning, I was carrying a nearly unbreakable vibe listening to the new Queens of the Stone Age album Lullabies to Paralyze.

Josh Homme is soon going to get a reputation the more he cleans house with each QOTSA project. Obviously the inclusion of Dave Grohl on Queens' masterful Songs for the Deaf was a one-shot thing, but Homme will either be regarded as a stoner rock Prince for surrounding himself with a multitude of players, or he'll be considered the ultimate pain in the ass. It's up to his peers to decide, but one thing you can't take from Homme, the man knows how to groove.

Lullabies to Paralyze is less slick and more slick than the preceding album Songs for the Deaf, but the biggest notable is the variety of riffs and grooves Homme implements this time around.
Lullabies has moments as grungy as The Doors' Morrison Hotel to the pop rock sensibilities of the early 70s like The Stooges and MC5. Queens of the Stone Age are all over the place and if you listen very carefully, you'll even hear a little Beach Boys on "In My Head."

That being said, it could be posited that through Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme has revolutionized the downtuned "stoner rock" sound, streamlining it into a more accessible rocksteady presence. Is this selling out? I hardly think so. As far as I'm concerned, Queens of the Stone Age and others such as Dirty Americans and Seemless, who are just now getting attention, are bringing back what was so damned fine about pre-Kiss 70s rock and roll...

So are Queens of the Stone Age saviors of American rock 'n roll? Let you, the reading jury decide....

Trivium and other band pictures posted

At Rough Edge.com, pics of rising stars Trivium, taken at Jaxx nightclub in Springfield, Virginia on 3/12/05. Link:

http://www.roughedge.com/photogallery/2005/thmbtrivium0305.htm

Other concert shots posted at Rough Edge.com are:

All That Remains
Dead to Fall
Unearth
Eighteen Visions
Gwar

Cheers!

CD reviews up at AllThingsMetal.net

Current reviews by me added to AllThingsMetal.net:

Overkill - Relix IV
Pyuria - Calliphora Vomitoria Introitus
Phazm - Hate at First Seed

Previous reviews of late at ATM:

Judas Priest - Angel of Retribution
3 Inches of Blood - Advance and Conquer
Trivium - Ascendancy
Dio - Evil or Divine: Live in NYC Live
Epoch of Unlight - The Continuum Hypothesis
Crionics - Armageddon's Evolution
Belef - Infection Purification
Entombed - Unreal Estate
Tartharia - Abstract Nation
Anorexia Nervosa - Redemption Process
Yyrkoon - Occult Medicine
High on Fire - Blessed Black Wings

Thanks for your support of me and my comrades at ATM!

Ray

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

As Gen X veers towards a midlife crisis...

I'm going to be 35 in May, dammit. They say you're only as old as you feel, and save for some preliminary arthritis in my writer's fingers, a few heart pains generated from processing mortgage transactions for way too long and a soul patch I have to yank stray gray hairs from, I'm feeling pretty alright for a sleepless engine of obsession that should have enough common sense to go to bed at a decent hour. All those years of midnight creature features and Headbangers Ball have caught up to me in my adult life, and as I now become the target of scorn for today's generation when I attend concerts mostly as a journalist, I therefore feel my age.

I've begun to see the signs that being a part of Generation X--still the second largest demographic behind the baby boomers--means we're soon going to be a forgotten entity. We're like a three-part miniseries that has reached Thursday and the final installment. We're like minute rice; our worth is coming to a boil, glued by our stickiness and merged into the entree dish to be consumed by the ravenous or discarded as filler by the capacitated. After all, once we're done buying our G.I. Joe's, My Little Ponies and Cabbage Patch Dolls the second time around (mostly for our children, those sly dog marketers), what purpose do we exist, save to pay our taxes, become hardline Alex P. Keatons and overall pessimists since we're products of our time, the jaded Reaganomic 80s? For sure, gag me with a red, white and blue leg warmer and ravage my heathen temple with an elephant's tusk whose ivory bears the tattooed carving "DITTOS!"

I'd rather watch Annie five times in one sitting, about the second-worst torture imaginable. Tomorrow, tomorrow...oh, like, get bent! Get me some Bad Brains IMMEDIATELY! It's always been I and I survive, with a little help from my friends...

The Sex Pistols, if they gave us anything useful aside from lessons in debauchery, is the often-cited "No future" mantra at the end of "God Save the Queen." While I prefer the three-chord glue sniffing chicanery of The Ramones, I often equate teenagism with those cryptic two words: no future.

And as we grow up as we all must (despite many like myself who fight it to the bitter, frayed end that leads to conformity), we find ourselves growing less relevant in the overall scheme of society. Our roles change as the social construct deems it. Responsibility forces us to file and rank like everyone else, despite the primal urge to yell "Screw it all!" The plain and simple fact is that survival depends on our capacity to get with the program whether we want to, fucking peasants that we are. To me, that's the essence of John Lennon's brilliant "Working Class Hero." We're slaves, we're Borg, we're obsolete. As depicted in "The Prisoner" by Iron Maiden, we should declare with outright protest: "I'm not a number, I'm a free man!"

I mean, come on, man! I don't want to grow up, I'm a Toys R Us kid! Even Joey Ramone sang against growing up clear into his fifties before leaving a small void over New York City and inside many hearts, mine included. If the eighties taught us anything, it's that sentimentalism is acceptable, and of course, it carries a price tag. We were consumers ahead of our time, credit abusers before any sane plastic purchaser in his thirties loses his spending cool. We're the ones our current president courts to keep the economy afloat. We're saps and we're there to be exploited; as we get older, if we haven't uttered the phrases 401K or IRA too often, we stand to germinate into bitter old farts as the likelihood of our social security ending up as inheritances for GW and Dick Cheney's future bloodline becomes more of a reality than those bullshit scriptjobs so many huddle around water coolers and coffee counters doting over. Why not? You vote for mediocrity, you live it to the fullest.

This is why, in my opinion, Generation X, noteworthy for many reasons (and many of them bad), will suffer anonymity the closer it hobbles towards the geriatric ward. Not even the smiles of their infants can compel them to keep one foot out of an early grave, just as generations today and those of the future are quick to heap the dirt over their gnarly plots by the mere answer of "What?" to a rudimentary question like "What was the name of the space shuttle in the 1986 liftoff tragedy?" or "What is Atari?" or "What happened at Three Mile Island?" or worse, "What is a typewriter?"

Generation X represents the last generation to remember what typing ribbon ink on forefingers was like. Generation X remembers that Sundays meant that NOTHING was open. Generation X remembers that Ernie and Bert were never thought of as gay (and neither is Spongebob you partypoop conservative bigots). Generation X remembers when MTV was actual 24-7 music. Generation X had no internet. Generation X waited weeks for domestic correspondence and months from overseas. Generation X unwittingly (but appropriately) sang along to Simple Minds, "won't you come see about me?" not realizing that one day it would turn out to be a prophetic question.

Unfortunately, Generation X is too busy doing its caffeinated shuffle to realize that once its market value is depleted, it'll be square peg ghosts in the machine as obscure and relevant as the safety dance. No future...no future...no future...

interviews up at Rough Edge.com

If you desire, and I thank you for your support, check out my interviews at www.roughedge.com for the following bands:

--Roadrunner Road Rage Tour featuring 3 Inches of Blood, The Agony Scene, Still Remains and Trivium

--Willie Adler of Lamb of God

--Ronnie James Dio

--Martin Cock of American Head Charge

--Mike Justin of Unearth

--Billy Sheehan of Talas/David Lee Roth/Mr. Big/Steve Vai

--Ryan Morgan of Misery Signals

--Jonathan Hunt of Dead to Fall

--Phil Labonte of All That Remains

--Kirk Windstein of Crowbar

Coming soon: interviews with Norma Jean, Atreyu, Overkill and Dave Weiner of Steve Vai

**I will continue to update you all as to where my interviews and reviews post as they become available...check by frequently, I write for 8 venues currently! Thanks again for your support!

My interview with Dave Weiner of the Steve Vai band

It's moments like these that take the edge off of a potentially fruitless and aggravating week that, not even past Tuesday, has been filled with ant attacks, basement floods, 86'd meals on the kitchen floor, bedrooms filled with menthol vapors to help a sniffly wife breathe and near-death experiences of distant family members.

After a hearty interview with riotous lead singer Myron of Dirty Americans this past Monday, the following day brought about another stress-relieving chat, this time with Dave Weiner, famed guitarist of Steve Vai's band. Perhaps what struck my fancy the most about Dave was his genuineness amidst his affluency.

You're talking about someone who has shared the stage with an indisputable guitar legend for 6 years now, along with other proficient figureheads such as Billy Sheehan and Tony MacAlpine, not to mention others such as Joe Satriani, Eric Johnson, Al Petrucci, Yngwie Malmsteen and others. Not that any human deserves the right to snottiness, but a guy with Dave's resume could easily lead him towards being a haughty snob if he wanted to be. When you consider Dave had a band at age 13 called Sunset Strip with two recorded albums (that haven't seen the light of day, he laughingly acknowledges) and the fact he was teaching guitar at age 16... Only Matt Heafy of Trivium comes quicker to mind when you think of the term "prodigy."

Consider this a preview of my forthcoming interview with Dave to be run at Rough Edge.com in the near future. I found Dave to be refreshing and insightful. What stuck with me the most was how enthusiastic Dave's spirit of D.I.Y. is. An ambassador of internet self-marketing, Dave claimed that record labels are unnecessary, save for marketing and promotion purposes. When you consider that at one time bands had to market their wares through sales out of the backs of their trunks, as well as through tape swapping, the ease of producing your own work, Dave cites, depends on the effort you as an individual are willing to stake. With technology being what it is today, Dave has self-produced his debut album "Shove the Sun Aside," an all-instrumental album that stresses minimalism through guitar grooving instead of overt flashiness. Dave has obviously learned a trick or two from his associations with Steve Vai and yet takes a sobering approach to his own craft. If you dig guitar rock without redundancy, check it out.

What is it like to be a guitarist next to Steve Vai, you may ask? Check out the interview to find out, but I will say that Dave Weiner is humble beyond words in his response...

Greetings and Salutations and In Our Ears

If you're taking the time from your busy day to read my blog, you have my sincere gratitude. I hope to post stuff of relevance, not only just for me but others. As music consumes much of my life, a lot of this blog will focus on my activities in music journalism. My friend Bob linked me to his own music blog and after considering that I wasn't doing a whole heck of a lot of writing about what I'm doing, I've reconsidered doing it. I once thought it might be smug and pompous of me to talk about the interviews, reviews, concerts and things I do that monopolize my spare time, but upon second thought, some of it is worth sharing, particularly links to my work for you friends and family to check out should you so desire.

At times I envision using this blog for other writing matters such as poetry, essays or just general bullhockey for you to either yell "right on!" or slag altogether. I'm growing a thicker skin over the years, so I invite anyone to tell me what's on their minds, be it negative or positive. If all works accordingly, we can grow as a cyber community of free-thinking individuals unafraid to express ourselves and just to simply have fun.

To begin, I will share with you something I wrote for one of my regular venues, RoughEdge.com for their In Our Ears section, which asks their writers to say what they've been listening to in the immediate timeframe. As most of you are aware I primarily cover metal and punk music, it may surprise some of you that my tastes are widely varied into other genres, and this posting should give you a slightly better insight into my mind, not that I advise you to go there!!!

Again, thanks for your time, friends... Hope we connect often...

Ray

In Our Ears - April, 2005 Rough Edge.com - Ray Van Horn, Jr.

1. The Agony Scene - The Darkest Red - to quote my review, all that and a romp in a howitzer with Tank Girl

2. Enslaved - Isa - proof positive European metal is where it's at; this is one of the most breathtaking death metal albums I've ever heard, bar none

3. Tori Amos - The Beekeepers - sweet, sweet Tori; next to my wife, you're the most gorgeous redhead God put on the earth, and Beekeepers shows her acting less of a radical and more of a Bohemian like the previous album Scarlet's Walk; groovy stuff

4. Scorngrain - Cyberwarmachine - industrial metal with the hardest rffs I've heard in ages; this will clean the wax out of your ear canals and you'll be dancing like a lunatic to it...this is the album Ministry should've recorded immediately after Psalm 69, not Filth Pig

5. The Doobie Brothers Greatest Hits - Oh wahhhhh, listen to the music...need I say more?

6. Lilitu - The Delores Lesion - one of the biggest metalcore surprises I heard after everyone else!!! amazing album

7. Ani Difranco - Knuckle Down - impulse purchase at a Barnes and Noble the morning after covering Road Rage Tour before we ate breakfast at Starbucks and left for home...female angst at its fiery best....go get you some, girl...

8. Dave Weiner - Shove the Sun Aside - my interview for today, guitarist for Steve Vai whose debut solo album is special in and of itself; for the readers, my interview with Dave will be appearing here at Rough Edge in due time

9. Trivium - Ascendancy - hoo mama...what intelligence stored inside these young lads...their guitar solos are second to none, save for the old masters...shameless plug, check out my Road Rage interviews with Corey ofTrivium, plus Agony Scene, 3 Inches of Blood and Still Remains.... the hype is actually dead on; Trivium is the next big thing

10. Kodo - Mondo Head - I'm still regaining my wings playing drums since I haven't played seriously since '89... for the unitiated, Kodo is a Japanese drumming troupe playing classical Japanese styled music...forget Loudness; Kodo is the REAL Thunder in the East; for purists like myself, Kodo makes a cameo appearance on Sepultura's Against