In for the departed Troy Destroy is Pete Belair from the Australian rockabilly group Firebird. (Also from Firebird is Brian Setzer Orchestra slap bassist Chris D'Rozario) Whoop some shit, peeps...
Friday, November 30, 2007
In for the departed Troy Destroy is Pete Belair from the Australian rockabilly group Firebird. (Also from Firebird is Brian Setzer Orchestra slap bassist Chris D'Rozario) Whoop some shit, peeps...
Nightwish - Dark Passion Play
2007 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Nightwish might be the Iron Maiden of their particular species of metal--that of the symphonic persuasion--though Within Temptation and Kamelot, with more exposure and awareness to the metal community, ought to be the Priest and Saxon of their kind, due to pedigree alone. Nightwish, after gaining mass acceptance with 2004's Once, a party that carried well into the subsequent year, found themselves at a shocking crossroads.
"Wish I Had An Angel" was a breakthrough single, not only for Nightwish, but also for the entire orchestral metal subgenre, particularly those bands led by operatic femmes that proved you could turn ABBA, Mozart and The Chieftains into mega metal. Suddenly names like Lacuna Coil, Epica, Visions of Atlantis, Leaves' Eyes and many more came crashing through the gates "Wish I Had An Angel" smashed down. For all of their success, however, Nightwish was faced with having to sever ties with the voice that helped established them as the premier band of their ilk, Tarja Turunen.
The sacking of Tarja made huge news around the metal world, and with the release of Nightwish's Highest Hopes greatest hits compilation and End Of An Era DVD, speculation of the band's demise was swirling in the air. Little did many know, however, that Nightwish was licking their wounds and biding their time (many of the members playing in interim side projects) as they sifted through 2000 demos in the search for a new vocalist. In the meantime, Tuomas Holopainen and Nightwish were busily scratching out an album of deeper magnitude and richer orchestration, one that amazingly leaves Once as an intended afterthought, Dark Passion Play.
The new gal in the stable, as everyone following this particular section of metal knows, is Anette Olzon. After announcing Olzon's arrival, Nightwish ushered out an immediate debut song "Eva," an internet-only single that was used for charity purposes. The soft and reserved ballad gave Nightwish fans a preview of their new belle and while no one would dare say 'Tarja who?' the wise selection of Olzon restored hopes that Nightwish would forge onwards in strong fashion.
How confident was Nightwish in their selection of Olzon? Well, consider the fact that Dark Passion Play opens with a majestic fourteen-minute odyssey "The Poet and The Pendulum," an assumed Poe ode that is lavished with fabulous symphonics of John Williams movie score quality and vocal callesthenics from Olzon. Olzon is asked for the world by Nightwish right out of the gate, and to her credit, Olzon shows what she's made of by dropping octaves in spelunking fashion and carrying the choruses with startling resound, so much it's a definitive stamp that Nightwish V2 is as formidable as the first inception, if not more so.
As this entire genus of metal is in peril of being stifled to death with practitioners utilizing pigeonholed scripts and motifs, despite the impressive grandeur of it all, the evidence of who's for real and who's fluff will soon turn over like tarot cards. The prophecy for Nightwish now seems as fruitful as before they flirted with the death card, just by the soaring triumph of "Bye Bye Beautiful," "For the Heart I Once Had," "Whoever Brings the Night" and "Master Passion Greed," the latter of which features a breathtaking horn-blaring finale.
Even more impressive is the gang vocals on the acoustic folk ballad "The Islander," one of Nightwish's most established songs of all-time. The stripped, earthy essence of this traditional folk sonnet is a beautiful break from Nightwish's customary metal-symphony resonance, and it serves as a terrific prelude into "Last of the Wilds," which utilizes reed and string heritage instruments as the dominant characters atop a straightforward rock instrumentalization. The combination is gorgeous and a demonstration of why Nightwish are in the upper echelon of their style.
Some bands falter under adversity, while others seize it as an opportunity to grow even further. Perhaps Nightwish is the Maiden of their breed in that respect...
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Hives - The Black and White Album
2007 A&M/Octane Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
What the Danish Nekromantix did for American psychobilly, Sweden's The Hives did for American and British garage rock. Frequently sounding like The Kinks on a fierce acid trip on earlier albums such as Barely Legal and Veni Vidi Vicious, The Hives were embraced by a wide circle of music fans, ranging from the mainstream rock sanctions to the punk and metal underground to the tragically hip. Loud, brash and intentionally obnoxious, The Hives, who roared and squealed like stuck pigs on the deliciously nutty Veni Vidi Vicious album, have recognized their almost-astonishing worth to a global rock audience. Their loose cannon reputation was gained in large part by their cockstrutting rock personas onstage, thus the last Hives album, the out-of-norm Tyrannosaurus Hives was somewhat of a shock, almost as if the Sex Pistols decided to go glam.
While Tyrannosaurus Hives did away with a large portion of that over-the-top punk abrasion that The Hives forged their legend upon, what it lead to is a somewhat more mature Hives with a careful focus upon expanding their grease and sawdust rock sound on their latest offering The Black and White Album.
Say what you will about the cheeky title, that The Hives are still those persnicketty hellions in nature, but the fundamental nature of The Black and White Album reveals that The Hives, like The Mooney Suzuki and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, have figured out how to move beyond the punchline that was Veni Vidi Vicious and elevate into a nouveau retro rock entity that fuses some glam, disco, funk and mod into their basic three chord structuring. If anything, The Hives have learned to become even catchier than they were, delivering a knuckle-down rocker out the gate with "Tick Tick Boom" and stepping up the pace with a dancy-groovy number on "Hey Little World" that possesses the pimp stride of a vintage Shaft flick--as in Richard Roundtree Shaft.
Throwing curves such as the modball "Well All Right!" the Blondie-esque disco tramp-vamping of "T.H.E. H.I.V.E.S." and the outright goofy Grandmaster Flash digi-rap of "Giddy Up!" The Hives show that they can dicker and dally outside of their quasi punk base. Dipping into the same throwback new wave nuances as a lot of fashionable rock bands today like The Killers have made a name on, The Hives toss out the steppy and bouncy "Won't Be Long" and "Bigger Hole to Fill," while "Return the Favour" hails a strange but effective mash of new wave and Hanoi Rocks. For an extra bit of fun, they take a stab at Madness on "You Dress Up For Armageddon."
At the core of The Hives, however, is a straightforward rock band, which they don't forget to embrace on cuts like "Try It Again," "You Got It All...Wrong" and "Square One Here I Come." This is what makes you allot for The Hives' absolutely looney experimentalism on The Black and White Album. Certainly they didn't want to pigeonhole themselves by writing "Hate To Say I Told You So" ad nauseum, so hats off to them for thinking outside the box. Though The Black and White Album is a strange bird, it surely has some strong wings to soar from...
Photo (c) 2005-07 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull is the title of the new album from Dylan Carlson's celebrated drone metal unit Earth. Southern Lord Records issued the following press release about the album:
"Earth's latest incarnation has arrived. After re-faceting some old gems for greater illumination on Hibernaculum, the band returns one again to it's continuing evolution. Where Hex... reveled in dark Satanic twang and austere American beauty, The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull finds Dylan Carlson and the band growing into a harder, more rock and American Gospel-oriented and improvisational direction framed by truly psychedelic production and blazing guitar sounds. Earth show's it's affinity with a nod to the best elements of the more adventurous San Francisco bands of the late 60's and 70's, and the more spiritually aware and exciting forms of Jazz-Rock from the same era. This is no nostalgia trip but a thoroughly inspired and original metamorphosis. Earth is honored to be joined on this record for three songs by legendary virtuoso guitarist Bill Frisell (John Zorn, Elvis Costello, Ginger Baker, etc.) showcasing some of his most fuzzed out playing in years! Frisell adds a brilliant texture and counterpoint to the scintillating and inspired riffs of Dylan Carlson and the band. Adrienne Davies joins again on drums, lending a classic and steady feel to the proceedings. Steve Moore also returns adding heavy Hammond organ and his intense jazz inspired piano playing. Live bassist Don McGreevy also makes his full-length Earth debut on this record. Earth will begin touring throughout the world when the album is released, Australia, Europe and a full US campaign and on from there. The new songs are equally compelling live where Earth takes the vehicles and expand and explore them for further musical and meditative exploration."
Earth will also perform four December dates in California, one with Giant Squid and another with Neurosis:
12/27/2007 Dante's - Portland, CA
12/29/2007 The Blue Lamp - Sacramento, CA w/Giant Squid
12/30/2007 Brookdale Lodge - Santa Cruz, CA
12/31/2007 Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA w/ Neurosis
Montreal road dogs Despised Icon are currently in the midst of a fifth jaunt across North America this year on the "Crashing Through the Holidays Tour" with The Acacia Strain, Full Blown Chaos and Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza. Supporting their breakout The Ills of Modern Man album on Century Media, the restless death grind band will haunt the roads right up to the holidays.
Remaining tour dates:
11/30 The Soundvent – Thomasville, NC
12/01 The Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
12/02 Thee Imperial – Jacksonville, FL
12/03 The Orpheum – Tampa, FL
12/04 Backbooth – Orlando, FL
12/05 American Legion Post 33 – Pensacola, FL
12/06 The High Ground – Metairie, LA
12/07 The Javajazz – Houston, TX
12/08 Fat Daddy’s Sound Shack – Lewisville, TX
12/09 White Rabbit – San Antonio, TX
12/11 The Sets – Tempe, AZ
12/12 Knitting Factory – Hollywood, CA
12/13 Showcase Theatre – Corona, CA
12/14 Soma – San Diego, CA
12/15 MACLA – San Jose, CA
12/17 Eagles Lodge – Wichita, KS
12/18 Creepy Crawl – St. Louis, MO
12/19 The Mad Hatter – Covington, KY
12/20 The Penny Arcade – Rochester, NY
12/21 Backstage Enterprises – Kingston, PA
12/22 The Palladium (Upstairs) – Worcester, MA
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Helloween - Gambling With the Devil
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Here's hoping the younger generation of heavy metal fans who have become entranced by the lightning fast aptitude of Dragonforce do some homework to ferret out the roots of such explosive demonstrativeness. No disrespect to Dragonforce whatsoever, but they didn't exactly invent the wheel. Two of the bands who did, however, are Helloween and Gamma Ray, both of whom have new albums out and both of whom have settled the dust between them (namely the tie that binds, Kai Hansen) to engage on a full world tour together in 2008.
Perhaps Dragonforce's Herman Li and Sam Totman can play faster, but Kai Hansen showed the way in Helloween's early days and again in his alter ego Gamma Ray, while remaining slinger Michael Weikath in Helloween, along with his left hip shredder Sascha Gerstner, are certainly no slouches themselves. What separates Helloween and Gamma Ray from Dragonforce, outside of seniority, is their willingness to hunt outside the boundaries. Once Dragonforce learns to write music outside of their one-dimensional orchestral thrash script, they should be the dominant entity their fans purport them to be.
For Helloween's purposes, their latest album Gambling With the Devil follows a restorative effort with Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy, which at least sent a beacon call that Weikath and company are far from finished. Fans were divided on their appreciation of the third Keeper effort, and on Gambling With the Devil, there still might be the same bit of contention. There's really only so many ways one can still pump out fast-tempoed melodic thrash written in epic form without being derivative of the past. If anything stands in Helloween's way, it's that. However, on Gambling With the Devil, it's not all the same larger-than-life speed metal motifs, even if they have a shot at enticing newcomers with their massive thrash prowess, which is second to few. Songs like "Paint a New World" and "The Saints" are true-to-form stratospheric thrashers that yield some of the exactitude you'd find on past Helloween efforts such as Time of the Oath, The Dark Ride and Keeper - The Legacy.
What's most impressive about Gambling With the Devil, however, is that Helloween has figured out how to stretch outside of their normal capacity and touch on new territories, ventures that failed them disastrously on Pink Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon. While you still have the gorgeous neoclassicism of "Dreambound" and the storm into Valhalla feel of "Kill It," it's the extensive gambling Helloween risks themselves on the airy "As Long As I Fall," which some might find to be soft-soap, but it's a very catchy song that displays a deeper maturation outside of trying to impress the listener with velocity and heaviness. Ditto for "Final Fortune," which might be considered this album's "I Want Out," and yet there's enough amplitude to the song that keeps it from getting too breezy. It's as slick a song as Helloween has ever written, but somehow it works nicely.
Smack in the middle of Gambing With the Devil is a self-contained trilogy (or "trinity" as vocalist Andi Deris describes it), a trio of songs, "The Bells of the Seven Hells," "Fallen to Pieces," and "I.M.E." Talk about maturity, Helloween could've milked this section to pompous and inflated measures, but instead the three collective songs that reveal the album's motif--surviving life's temptations in a high-stakes gamble that could mean your very soul--is honed to about fourteen minutes altogether. "The Bells of the Seven Hells" is a steady bobber of equal catchiness, while "Fallen to Pieces" gets really daring at times with atypical guitar strums almost jazzy in nature (on top of a rather beautiful ballad-chorus interlude), while still remaining a true metal song. This is where Helloween would've suffered in their "experimental" phase of the early nineties. They can now lavish a song like "Fallen to Pieces" with outside-the-box theories and still toss in a quick thrash bar to keep true to their purposes.
Andi Deris has really broadened himself as well this time around, fusing growls and and wails into his performance on "Kill It," as well the "trinity" section where he embodies the central muse complete with mind-addled confusion between right and wrong in a society lacking moral fiber, and somehow coming out of the "gamble" okay based on hard-discovered principles.
Add a guest intro on "Crack the Riddle" featuring Saxon's Biff Byford, and a chance for Helloween fans to win an all-expenses-paid trip to a live gig in South America when you purchase the limited edition version, and Gambling With the Devil is as interesting as Better Than Raw with the confidence of increased artistry via Keeper of the Seven Keys - The Legacy.
One might've gathered by the review blitz over the weekend that I spun a hell of a lot of music. Amazingly, that's just one sliver of what I normally turn in the CD player. I usually toss out my most-spun discs in a week's time, but everyone who participates in this weekly exercise seems to have a lot of fun and I appreciate seeing the diversity of what you're listening to.
That being said, I'm going to open up my selections wider now so you can get a broader look at the insanity that is my music listening life. This week, I'm going to have to give it to Quiet Riot's Metal Health out of respect to the departed Kevin Dubrow since I played it a lot yesterday and will do so again today as I prepare to write a remembrance piece for Metal Maniacs magazine. I will admit to getting a little choked listening yesterday because "Cum On Feel the Noize" is such an endearment to the metal scene and everyone should at least recognize that heavy metal needed this song to break through in order to gain mass acceptance--at the time, anyway. But "Don't Wanna Let You Go" and "Thunderbird" really shook me a little, in particular the latter song. Back in the day, we all thought it was a wussy ballad until we got our heads out of our heavier-than-thou asses and recognized it as a love letter to Randy Rhodes. What's heartbreaking is that the man who sung it is now an additional recipient of those touching words to the dearly departed. Hope you and Randy are partying it up, Kev...
As for the rest of the music mix, I can say that I spun some Bach and Handel as I did Thievery Corporation, the suddenly mainstream garage racket of The Hives and the atmospheric alt rock of The Winter Sounds in between the loudness and chaos that ususally reigns supreme in my microcosm. I'm still flat-out astonished with the new October File album and Opeth will likely be haunting my playlist for quite some time as well. So anyway, serving up my expanded list for you guys. Enjoy, and do us the honor in kind...
Quiet Riot - Metal Health
October File - Holy Armour From the Jaws of God
Opeth - Blackwater Park
V:28 - VioLution
It's Casual - Stop Listening to Bad Music
Radiohead - The Bends
The Hives - The Black and White Album
The Winter Sounds - Porcelain Empire
Annihilator - Metal
Thievery Corporation - The Cosmic Game
Quicksand - Slip
Lizzy Borden - Appointment With Death
Helloween - Gambling With the Devil
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Photo courtesy of BolanBoogie
At the request of a regular Metal Minute reader, I will share some of my thoughts on the passing of Quiet Riot singer Kevin Dubrow.
Although the news was in my email that morning, another dash-and-run kind of day made me miss it, so when it was finally told to me, I was in the heat of a very busy work day and quite stressed at the time. Add to being under the weather, the news socked me in the gut harder than it might've initially, because really, I only had the opportunity to attempt to know Kevin Dubrow for about an hour-and-a-half in a series of phone conversations for a project I've been working four years on now.
The first emotion that struck me was shock, and then it dawned on me that I interviewed Kevin on a couple of random days in April of 2004. In fact, I was last in the process of transcribing the tape for the project when I took a few days off from the normal magazine writing schedule to work on the book. I managed to get some of the interview typed out, but there's still so much more to go and frankly, it'll be a tad cryptic to go back now and finish the transcript. What really freaks me out at the moment is that I'm looking at that tape right now on my desk, sitting smack between Phil Soussan, former bassist for Ozzy, and Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse. Some odd company, eh?
Not too long ago we lost Ricky Parent of Enuff Z'Nuff, who also gave me an interview for the same project. Ricky chatted with me as best as he could from his hospital bed on the phone after a chemo treatment and I'll never forget that moment because he graciously insisted on doing it despite my invitation to reschedule.
With Kevin, there obviously wasn't such an awkward atmosphere; the Kevin Dubrow I spoke to was very animated, extremely friendly and quite candid. Still fairly new to the music writing game, I was astonished by the comfort zone Kevin established between us and while I may have asked a rookie question or two, he patiently fielded those until I got into the core of good questions, to which he went to town. Kevin talked fondly (and very frankly) about his time with Randy Rhodes, how much he valued his friendship with drummer Frankie Banali and some outrageous behind-the-scenes moments in the life of Quiet Riot at the height of their success. One story that comes to mind was Kevin laughing out loud about having a "break," shall we say, with a member of the opposite sex between takes on a video shoot.
Biggest of all, what struck me impressive about Kevin Dubrow was his acknowledgement that his vociferous and opinionated behavior during the mid-eighties was ultimately his downfall as a limelight rock 'n roll singer. He felt at peace with the band's decision to let him go after the QR III album and felt more at peace that he had the opportunity to bond with Banali in various inceptions of Quiet Riot all the way up to his passing. While Dubrow still had a few choice words for certain people of the past, the one he flogged the hardest was himself. It wasn't an act of self-condemnation as it was a penance and the realization that a price often comes with being a flashy rock star. I was really taken by him noting that he should've handled his fame with more grace.
I think that the Kevin Dubrow you saw on the VH-1 Behind the Music Quiet Riot special matches up to the Kevin Dubrow I spoke with. Would that I could've conducted the interview face-to-face, but I truly value the time Kevin gave me. Quiet Riot was a band I always loved and still today does Metal Health come off the shelf in frequent doses. I can't think of anyone from that era who wasn't intrigued by Kevin's metallic mask that was as creepy as Jason Voorhees' hockey mask, and when you hear Kevin singing, yeah, he's a culmination of certain voices such as Steve Marriott (whom we discussed a little) and Rod Stewart, but truly Kevin had his own vibe. It was part smoke and gravel but it was also banshee wild, and to think that an unchained loose cannon voice like that helped penetrate the mainstream with "Cum On Feel the Noize," so much that you have to give Quiet Riot a lot of respect for bridging heavy metal to North American audiences... I won't ever forget when I heard "Cum On" playing on AM radio of all places; the same station that played Lionel Richie, Kenny Rogers, Barbara Streisand, Al Jarreau and Earth, Wind and Fire was playing freaking Quiet Riot!
I'll let that stand as my point on why the loss of Kevin Dubrow, particularly at such a young age, is utterly tragic. For an endpoint, I'd like to share with you a snippet of that interview I conducted with Kevin in 2004:
Ray Van Horn, Jr.: When you were with Randy in 1975 and he asked you to join the group, what was going on in your mind at that time? Could you see the writing on the wall, shall we say?
Kevin Dubrow: When I first met him, I thought it was going to be a joke! He looked so strange; he had hair down to his waist and he wore a jacket that looked like it was a thrift store jacket, kind of like an old fuzzy rug in the bathroom, this really thick, shag thing like a bathroom rug! It was like a joke! Then he played a few days later at his mom’s house and then the joke was on me, you know? He was amazing, and that confirmed what I wanted to do for a living. Anybody that great who would be interested in working with me... I had to get a lot of talent pretty quick! (laughs) So we did a lot of tape recording and he coached me. He was my first vocal coach, so to speak, you know? He’d say ‘You’re not signing the way you talk,’ and ‘Who do you really like as a singer?’ I’d say it was Steve Marriott and he’d say ‘Why don’t you try to sound like him?’ and every singer does by imitating at first, of course. That was the way I started to develop my style.
Peace be with you, brother...
Monday, November 26, 2007
The chart-topping hard rock ensemble Extreme will reunite for a brand new album and tour in 2008.
Returning are three-fourths of the original lineup including Gary Cherone, Nuno Bettencourt and Pat Badger with new drummer Kevin Figueiredo.
The forthcoming album will be Extreme's first in 13 years since 1993's Waiting For the Punchline. Extreme previously reunited briefly for a few shows in 2004 and 2006. The revamped unit is scheduled to play the Boston Music Awards on December 1st.
Source: Blabbermouth.net / Jonathan Cohen, Billboard.com
Photo (c) 2007 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
Bassist Chris Lukhaup and drummer Moritz Neuner have decided to depart from Leaves' Eyes. Both men are also members of Atrocity, which is fronted by Leaves' Eyes Alexander Krull. The band recently issued the following statement:
"LEAVES' EYES played their last show of the year together with BLIND GUARDIAN and ASTRAL DOORS in the Krefeld Hockeystadium in front of 3,000 people. Moreover, this was the final concert of LEAVES' EYES with bass player Chris Lukhaup and drummer Moritz Neuner; Chris Lukhaup had to leave the band due to personal reasons and Moritz Neuner is taking another turn in his working career. The band wishes them both all the best in the future. At the moment LEAVES' EYES is checking out new musicians — if you are interested and a killer bassist or drummer, please contact email@example.com."
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Dark Funeral - Attera Orbis Terrarum Part 1
2007 Regain Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
In the mass feeding frenzy of black metal disciples that are screeching and inverting crosses for your approval, one of the few that still truly leaves an impact is Dark Funeral. Without a doubt, 2007 is owned by Dark Funeral with three reissues (The Secrets of the Black Arts, Vobiscum Satanas and Diabolis Interium) and now this DVD Attera Orbis Terrarum Part 1, all as Dark Funeral prepares for a massive tour and new material forthcoming.
If you want a preview of what to expect when Dark Funeral invades your town, you can have nearly four hours' worth, and believe me when I tell you this: if you watch it all in succession, you will be drained of all energy by the time it's through. Dark Funeral, as on their albums, is one of the most relentless bands on the planet, regardless of genre. As it turns out, they happen to be satanists with a fireball puissance who will rattle you senseless in an hours' time (much less four) with standard thrashers like "Hail Murder," "Ravenna Strigoi Mortii," "Open the Gates," "My Dark Desires" and "An Apprentice of Satan."
The reason anyone can tolerate Dark Funeral's abravise velocity if they're not a black metal fan is because of the luxuriant threads of dank melody they spin on each track. Dark Funeral is fast and cruel, but there's also an artistic grace to their high octane odes of hatred, which compels you to listen, despite the seldom-changing beat blitzes that siphon you dry the longer you submit to their arcane measures.
Attera Orbis Terrarum Part 1 whisks you up and plops you at the feet of Dark Funeral as they play in Poland, France and The Netherlands, wrecking havoc at each set with a disciplined focus that is mesmerizing to behold, albeit you will feel absolutely flogged and demoralized if you don't take a break between sets. Of the three main sets, the first one in Poland is the most dizzying as Dark Funeral utilizes seven cameras, two of which sweep inwards from the back of the arena as well as from side-to-side, a tactic that worked beautifully for Motorhead in their stellar Stage Fright DVD. With Dark Funeral, the sweeping motions create an odd sense of claustrophobia despite the massive size of the audience in attendance. Unfortunately, one of the cameras tends to crop and smoosh the band to the point of annoyance; it's one of the rare times widescreen format is a detriment.
Still, Attera Orbis Terrarum Part 1 is a monstrous documentation of a band in its fullest capacity, and as an added attraction, a special feature with a ton of amateur footage capturing Dark Funeral from the early days in 1994 on up is included for your buying pleasure. In all, Dark Funeral live is lightning fast, terribly brutal and one of the meanest hellrides you'll ever embark on.
McRad - FDR
2007 Uprising Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Here's a career that needs its own autobiography: the case of one Chuck Treece, musician and skater, a dude with as much prowess on the quarterpipe as behind a drum kit or with strings reverberating from his fingertips. This Philadelphia native was more of a west coast phenomenon on the skating scene back in the day, but looking at Treece's musical resume which includes Billy Joel, Urge Overkill, The Mosquitoes, Underdog and Treece's personal gig of a lifetime, on the stool for Bad Brains, the skate punker had already established his street cred with McRad prior to all of it.
Two decades ago, McRad released the overlooked Absence of Sanity, an album featuring just Treece and fellow skater Zeke Zagar. Some of McRad's songs filling the California gutters and emptied pools were "Weakness," "Dead by Dawn," "Prevent That Tragedy" and "Dead By Dawn." As Treece would one day audition for the Bad Brains when H.R. went on hiatus, the vibe of McRad was more than akin to the Brains' holistic therapy punk. Fitting that he would eventually drum for the band he loved so much.
Treece has since slowed his skateboard tracks and 20 years after Absence of Sanity, he resurrects six of those old songs and writes ten new cuts for a return hello to the punk and metal scenes with FDR, an album reportedly named after Treece's favorite park in his native Philly.
As McRad is only a namesake at this point with Treece wholly running the show (minus a few guest fills courtesy of Phil Rowland), FDR is a slip back in time with a contemporary polish. At the root of FDR is a lost sonance that was also called by some (mostly non-skaters) the "Thrasher Sound," as related to the skate magazine Thrasher. Even deeper rooted is a basic fondness for the asphalt urgency of Bad Brains as well as Cro Mags, Dag Nasty and All, punk rock with a soul, which Chuck Treece has mastered and regained with FDR.
Though old-time McRad listners might feel slighted that FDR lifts six tunes from Absence of Sanity and worse, that Treece soft-pedals them a bit this time around, what appears to be at stake here is a cat in a new stage of his life, one that accommodates for family life and parentage. With his accomplishments in the music and skating forums, there's not so much to prove to the world as much as there is to Treece himself. The word on the street is that FDR is a bit of an audio business card to the summer punk rock forums, namely the holy grail Warped Tour.
Certainly the Warped Tour could stand to bring along an important voice of the underground like Chuck Treece, which hasn't been lost on some of FDR's new songs like "Ejected," "Feel" and "Violin." Of these three, "Feel" has the deepest soul, going so far as to replicate the vocals-through-a-phone resonance that H.R. innovated on the Bad Brains' "Sacred Love." Also dig the grimy guitar solo on "Violin," coupled by Treece's passionate vocals. Likewise noteworhty of the new material are Treece's instrumentals "TG," "TG II," "Always" and "La 4." On "Always," Treece gets bass happy and the happenstance peaceful mode of this song reflects a mental stability that is reaffirmed on the overt sweetness of "Son." The production of FDR extracts a deep, heavy tone that sounds more filled out this time, indicating Treece's experience behind the console as well as in front of the recording mikes.
So push comes to shove, FDR is a happy-go-lucky welcome back from a street player that has found sustenance and is in comfortable shoes that allows him to bring back a few select choices from the past and update them with new material reflective of a good mood and a life well-lived.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
October File - Holy Armour From the Jaws of God
2007 Candlelight Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Surely you've seen those lame-ass "Now That's What I Call..." compilations that are usually littered with prefab corporate puke (with a small exception to their Christmas outing which is begrudgingly kinda cool since it has more old stuff than new). Welp, the first thing that came to mind within three songs of October File's newest album Holy Armour From the Jaws of God is trying to find the right noun disguised as a superlative to fill in a more appropriate "Now That's What I Call..." comp.
Aggression is what repeatedly came to mind with each successive track on Holy Armour From the Jaws of God. The UK was once known as the mecca of furious punk and hardcore aside from being the territorial roots of eighties (and generations beyond) heavy metal, so much that bands like The Exploited, Discharge, Broken Bones and GBH were revered as lions of the punk pride. Of course, that included Killing Joke before the inexplicable synth pop experiment of Night Time and Brighter Than a Thousand Suns that nearly destroyed their long-standing integrity in the underground.
Fortunately Killing Joke rediscovered the bitter pill formula later on brutal albums such as Pandemonium, Democracy and of course Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions. Also fortunate is that a band like October File recognizes the brute emotion that Jaz Coleman and Killing Joke exudes from their fire dances, and in October File's case, they jack it with loud exuberance.
A band that has t-shirts mocking Black Sabbath with the hilariously nutty epithet "We Sold Our Souls For Sausage Rolls" is a band that has their feet in the gutter and refuses to take them out despite the grimy sewage soaking their ankles. Moreover, a band like October File stamps said feet in the muck when passing suits and wedding gowns and for the listener, nothing says "piss off" better. Or to quote the album's notes, "songs about girls, having fun and how cool summer is just didn't make the album..."
Instead October File has songs called "High Octane Climate Changer" and "A Munitions Crusade," which gives you a hint of the band's brutal honesty and crushing punk and metal tones. Holy Armour From the Jaws of God is absolutely vicious, all the way from the reckless speed, guitar aeronautics and mock marching on "Hallowed Be Thy Army" to the mutant mosh of "Friendly Fire" to the creeping sonic sluice of the album's closer "So Poor," a fittingly haunting serenade to Killing Joke.
The sheer excitement of "High Octane Climate Changer" is one of the most refreshing sounds of anger you'll allow yourself to get charged to, as is "Blood and Sweat" and "In My Magnificent Circus," where Ben Hollyer growls about watching Rome burn, grabbing a fiddle and laughing as all perishes before him. On the face it's cryptic and nihilistic, but what's really being addressed here is totalitarianism and fascism, a meaty and sarcastic point-of-view behind the iconoclast's eyes.
As Hollyer occasionally sounds like Cronos of Venom, his out-of-control vocal projection only adds to the furious heat of Holy Armour From the Jaws of God, and in a wonderful show of kinship between generations, none other than Jaz Coleman himself lends voice to the album, thus making it a wholly complete endeavor.
Steve Beatty's bass is a beastly persona unto itself on cuts like "Religion?" and "Another Day," while Matt Lerwill nearly breaks his strings in his attempt to produce the most titanic riffs he can muster, all rounded out by stamping slams courtesy of John Watt. Together, October File is a band that would mace you over the head for your attention if need be. Fortuntely, their music does all the necessary clubbing. Call this one mandatory...
Piggy D - The Evacuation Plan
2007 Black Victory Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
With the varying styles of aggressive music bassist Piggy D has aligned himself, be it the ignited street punk of Amen to the manic monster rock of Wednesday 13 and now as part of Rob Zombie's four horsemen, such a diverse and electic undertaking naturally instigates a creative juice or two flowing in the man's veins. The big question when approaching Piggy D's debut solo album The Evacuation Plan of course is, what's this thing going to sound like?
Is it going to be sonic brute force with 'fuck you' linch pins at every turn? Is it going to be fast, bouncy and cartoonish? Or is it going to be thunderous arena rock? Well, how about none of the above?
After finding himself displaced in the destructive wake of Hurricane Katrina, Piggy D drifted from his home in New Orleans as part of Rob Zombie's caravan, but along the way, he took the time to explore other musical directions on his wistfully-titled album The Evacuation Plan.
Truth be told, Piggy D's fans are going to be flat-out surprised with The Evacuation Plan, because as ringleader and frontman in his solo venture, Piggy D challenges his listeners and himself by removing himself from the platforms of outrageousness from which he's regularly associated, instead lighting the lava lamp, putting pen to paper and searching for a soul through Aerosmith, the Foo Fighters, Thrice and a number of pop punk acts smooshing the scene today. In other words, Piggy D is on the hunt for a melody to his internal combustion, and instead of blaring in protest like a bansheee, he harnesses the negative energy into a tuneful rock format that yields the occasional ballad to keep him grounded.
In other words, The Evacuation Plan is a straight-up rock record, and before you cry foul, give it a chance. It may not be what you're expecting on the first spin, but hit it again and then another time and you'll start to appreciate what Piggy D's achieved here. Songs like "The Dare," "Brave Or Faithless" and "Mr. Anxiety" are all peppy and catchy tunes as Piggy D exorcises the demons haunting his lyrical modes. His positivity in the midst of a dark confessional that is The Evacuation Plan is remarkable, so much that a cut like "For My Revenge" isn't the blazing Casey Chaos diatribe of anger as much as it is a freestyle high roads rocker that prompts foot and finger tapping.
One of the most poignant songs on The Evacuation Plan is the melancholic ballad "Roll Call" and its deeply affecting lyrics about ostracization, one likely stemmed in the aftermath of Katrina. Still, having an extended family such as his bandmates in Rob Zombie's posse probably helped Piggy D channel the painful fugue of "Roll Call's" lyrics into an empathetic song filled with self-doubt and depression, one where Piggy D verbally drops a flower into the hand of anyone who can relate.
Call The Evacuation Plan an about-face from Piggy D's workaday gigs, but the more you delve past the overt poppiness of the album, the more you begin to understand it is Piggy D's personal therapy session, one in which he self-prescribed himself a musical Xanax to bounce back in an affirmative light...
Wolfpack Unleashed - Anthems of Resistance
2007 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
When you think of "melodic thrash metal," as Austria's Wolfpack Unleashed describes themselves, you can come up with principals ranging from Testament to Dark Tranquility, or Megadeth to Himsa. In between, you have punkers-turned-thrash such as Suicidal Tendencies, Gang Green and DRI or you also have Znowhite and Laaz Rockit. Add a couple of more contemporary names like 3 Inches of Blood and Hibria and...oh hell, we could play the name game for three more paragraphs, but you get the gist.
There's no second-guessing what Wolfpack Unleashed is at its core, but just when you've pegged them as Testament modernists on the opening song "Last Dance of a Dying King" from their second album Anthems of Resistance, they throw their listeners a number of curves with grating agro vocals from Gunther Wirth and a hybrid thrash-mash of both schools of speed metal. In other words, for every ounce of predictability Wolfpack Unleashed ushers into your ears, they stand ready to turn a trick or two to keep you guessing. What Wolfpack Unleashed does best is change melodies within a song, so much that listening to "Disgrace Erased" or "Wolfpack Unleashed" is like hearing a few metal tunes in random succession.
At the heart of Wolfpack Unleashed is a berthed devotion to the masters of the genre and they want you to know it, since Anthems of Resistance is practically a love letter to the thrash scene. There's an undeniable Megadeth motif at the tail end of "Next Victims" that hails a nearly-replicated finale of Megadeth's classic "My Last Words." You also get to hear a little Alex Skolnick tribute from the guitar solo on "Killing Fields," as well as a Metallica hammer riff at the end of the song. In the same breath, Wolfpack Unleashed seeks your attention by demonstrating a capacity to write beyond scripts, such as on the epic-minded "Eroica."
What Wolfpack Unleashed is offering with their first album The Art of Resistance and now Anthems of Resistance is a hearty salute to the old ways of thrash by fusing familiar riffs and note structures in the context of revivalism and a slick melding with new school theories. The album is a mostly entertaining spin, but after two albums, you have to wonder if Wolfpack Unleashed has a "Resistance" trilogy planned... Maybe "Resistance Revolutions?" Hey, it worked for Keanu Reeves...er, actually...
Friday, November 23, 2007
Fall of the Leafe - Aerolithe
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
As of this writing, the Finnish sextet known as Fall of the Leafe has ceased to exist. After a handful of albums and a few final gigs this past September, Tuomas Tuominen and company have parted ways, and the reasons seem vague beyond the fail-safe explanation of creative differences. Already this album is fetching top dollar in certain markets, which means the breakup is largely felt by Fall of the Leafe's fans.
Whatever the true discrepencies lie between the members of Fall of the Leafe, their final output, Aerolithe is an interesting farewell that format radio rock fans would especially find appealing, because Fall of the Leafe on this album concocts a series of tuneful songs that border on heavy and cumbersome to melodic and melancholic. The biggest hint to the underlying turmoil that led to its separation is the fact that Fall of the Leafe, while being sharp songwriters, don't sound terribly confident of the direction they want from this record.
Do they want to be a power rock band that rubs elbows with Nickelback and Puddle of Mudd or do they want something of deeper substance that's filled with articulate guitar melody and occasional driving anger? Not even they seem to have an answer on Aerolithe, but admittedly there are some catchy, driving songs such as "Drawing Worry" (any intentional foreshadowing here?) and the moody "Especially by Stealth." In between, Fall of the Leafe tries to be pop-extensive on "Lithe" despite some heavy strumming, and "Sink Teeth Here," which is strangely breezy in nature. They try a little agro pop with "Graceful Retreat" and go for the emotional bloodletting on "At a Breath's Pace."
Normally such diversity in songwriting themes creates an interesting listen. Given the ultimate ending of Fall of the Leafe though, it does fingerpoint a lot of indecision and irresolution. Should Tuominen growl or wail? Should the rest of the band thrash or stay the trigger? Should they try to be progressive smart as Tool on the stamping "Look Into Me?" Simply too many questions. As smartly as Fall of the Leafe can write a song, there's something just a hair disjointed in tone about Aerolithe and perhaps that's what the band saw in it and themselves. Aerolithe reveals a lot of good ideas that gel in many places but unfortunately they don't in others. Aerolithe is certainly a listenable album, there's no denying it, but the overambitiousness of this album speaks largely of the band's inevitable fate.
Hellraiser: 20th Anniversary Edition
2007 Anchor Bay/Starz Home Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Come to daddyyyyyyyy...
I always think of Paul Stanley's singing about taking the pleasure with the pain on "Room Service" when talking about Hellraiser. Stanley can't say no and neither can a series of intrinsically flawed individuals--many with hedonistic tendencies--who come across the mystical puzzlebox of the endurant Hellraiser series that Clive Barker put in our laps 20 years ago. Christ, is it really that long ago?
That surprise should only come to Generation X'ers who were hooked (pun intended) by the gory horror series in 1987 and the sight of leather-clad, pasty-faced ghouls bearing torn, emotionless facades and punctured and mutated condemnations with names like Pinhead and Chatterbox who still seem fairly new to the horror universe in comparison to Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers.
The Cenobites of Hellraiser and its slew of sequels rank high amongst its all-time poster children of modern horror and certainly at this point, the name Doug Bradley has become synonymous with his alter ego pin cushion-faced usher to the Gates of Hell. By the time Hellbound: Hellraiser II came out, we've learned that the reason Pinhead is the chosen one of the underworld is because his deep inquisitiveness between pleasure and suffering in the mortal world makes him a prime choice to damn other puzzle-solving candidates to the same bloody fate as his. Naturally the inherent obsession to solve an ancient key portal to hell without fear of consequence (under the guise of the penultimate gratification) is what makes the Cenobites eager to submit these compulsive people to their savage capacities and to see how much sinewy cartilege tearing they can withstand. On the face, the brutal inflictions an unfortunate soul is subjected to by the Cenobites is considered a penalty for vain tenacity, but in the Cenobites' world, such extreme nerve cutting is postulated as a reward. The promise of orgasmic delight is usually fulfilled but the price is outrageous mutilation inflicted by transcendent doms and an eternal death sentence in Hell.
The fine line between obession and impropriety is the foundation of the Hellraiser series and it all got off to a bang in the original film where betrayal, seduction, infidelity and murder condemn its central characters to a servitude of flesh offering as playthings of the undead Cenobites who "have such pleasures to show" its core miscreants, a greedy, estranged half-brother Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman) and the cheating wife of his sibling, Julia (Clare Higgins).
After returning his wife to her native England in the hopes of creating a stable married existence, Larry Cotton (Andrew Robinson, also of Dirty Harry fame) restores a dilapidated family cottage, unknowing that the remains of his half-brother Frank lurks in the floorboards. Larry deduces that Frank had once temporarily squatted at the cottage before inexplicably vanishing, but what we know as the audience is that Frank has procured a mysterious puzzle box and unwittingly unleashed demon hosts that tear him to shreds after bringing him a pinnacle climax.
After goring his hand on a rusty nail, Larry's blood seeps into the wooden planks, which restores his half-brother to life, albeit in mangled form. Seducing his former lover, Julia for the second time, Frank forces her to lead unwitting sex-starved victims to the cottage where she bludgeons them and serves them up to her beloved to feed on in the hopes of restoring his fleshly parts.
The X-Factor to this gruesome tryst is Larry's gorgeous young daughter Kirsty (Ashley Laurence), who refuses to live in the cottage due to her uneasiness about her stepmother, a mistrust that proves to her advantage when she spies Julia leading one of her would-be sacrifices into the cottage. Her uncle is revealed in his still-imbrued state, as is his lasciviousness when he advances on his blossomed niece. After she escapes, Kirsty vows to expose the bloodthirsty lovers to her father, but she is too late. In her exodus, Kirsty snatches the notorious puzzle box from her uncle and inadvertently summons Pinhead and his ghoul squad. In order to stave them off, she offers them the whereabouts of Frank, who escaped their notice.
What Kirsty doesn't know is that Frank has murdered her father and stolen his skin. The Cenobites see right through it, however, and rip Frank apart a second time, even nailing Julia in the process. Pinhead issues Kirsty the warning that these are "sights not for your eyes" as her last chance to avoid a gruesome fate, but it's Kirsty's hesitance to run that binds a blood pact between her and the Cenobites, which carries over into Hellbound: Hellraiser II. Kirsty defeats the Cenobites by accidentally finding the right puzzle combination to suck them back into their own dimension, but the puzzle box somehow makes its way back to the original vendor who peddles it to another curious thrill seeker, beginning the cycle anew even before the Hellraiser sequels manifest.
Hellraiser is one of the eighties' true horror classics. Directed by Clive Barker himself (who fared much better in his writer-director debut than Stephen King did with the ill-advised Maximum Overdrive), the film is appropriately dank, gray and guttural. The detail of the cottage's squalor (right up to the squirming maggots in the kitchen) is an extension of his authoring prowess, though we have to wonder how Kirsty had the cottage phone number if nobody in the family had presumedly had access to the place in many years. This is one of a few minor detail flubs in the film, but logistics aside, Hellraiser is a nasty bit of filmmaking that gets as deep under your skin as the Cenobites' impaled victims. The gore effects are top-notch and voguely nauseating, even if the laser and lightning effects are cheesy by today's standards (though, truth be told, they were considered cutting edge at the time).
Largely the reason Hellraiser works is because Clive Barker serves up a story about immorality but he makes his central sinners pay for their transgressions; there's an odd sense of justice to Pinhead, even though all he wants is to observe the threshholds of pain tolerance people possess. It's ironic that the puritanical Kirsty solves the puzzle when the majority of those who come into contact with the awful contraption have some sort of avaricious character trait that is addressed and punished.
On this 20th anniversary DVD of the film, the digital transfer is reasonably sharp, considering the primary dark hues Barker's crew shot the film in. The blood and strewn entrails are grossly vibrant, heightening the dreadful atmosphere of the film. If anything hurts the film in 2007, it's one scene where we see Pinhead's fingertips in a normal flesh color with the obvious white paint beginning near the knuckles. Nevertheless, you won't be terribly distracted by the infractions pointed out here because Hellraiser is just too good of a film overall. The DVD special features offer up the usual audio commentaries (with Clive Barker himself plus Ashley Laurence) and trailer spots, but there are three featurettes featuring Doug Bradley, plus Andrew Robinson and Ashley Laurence (who is still very attractive to this day) to jack up the DVD's marketability.
Jesus wept, yes indeedy...
Earache Records corrals some of today's current thrash disciples on their compilation Thrashing Like a Maniac, dropping on the metal public January 21st. Look for bands like Municipal Waste, Fueled by Fire, Bonded by Blood, Evile and many others seeking to splinter your neck muscles with classic-styled speed metal, Bay Area style... Mosh, you bastards!
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
A little under the weather as we approach Thanksgiving and amongst all the blessings I have in my twisted little life, I count each and every one of you reading The Metal Minute amongst those blessings. I've been getting a lot of emails about the site and everyone's enthusiasm keeps me motivated. So as always, thank you for your patronage and your kind words.
As indicated by my dark prose yesterday, I've been spinning a lot of Opeth, which made for a crazy soundtrack while cleaning out our garage this past weekend. No wonder our neighbors stay clear of us! Welp, if they can't appreciate true genius, then to hell with them...
If all goes well, I'll be on the horn with Roy Khan of Kamelot this morning, who'll be calling from Europe. The man's been a complete gentleman as I've had to constantly alter, shift and postpone this interview week upon week and canceling at zero hour the other day when things went to hell in the office, so if you're reading ahead of time, brother, thank you in advance for your patience! If you all haven't checked out Kamelot's Ghost Opera yet, take a chance on it; it's one of the most rockin' symphonic metal CDs you'll hear this year.
Firing up the kettle for some tea, stashing the ginger ale and keeping those Midnight Special DVDs spinning some glorious seventies rock, funk and soul to cure my poor stomach... So anywho, let's get 'em out there, peeps...
1. Opeth - Ghost Reveries
2. Juicehead - The Devil Made Me Do It
3. Taipan - 1002: A Rock Odyssey
4. Peter Murphy - Deep
5. The Cult - Born Into This
Calling all rock soldiers... The Space Ace is on the loose in late December for three special performances in Springfield and Norfolk, Virginia. Ace is worth a deuce at Jaxx in Springfield on December 27th and 28th and then at The Norva in Norfolk on the 29th.
Visit www.spaceaceonline.com for more information.
Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd... The current Broadway revival version of the famous horror musical is fantabulous enough; in case you've not had the gory pleasure, the entire cast plays instruments while acting the play. Tim Burton and his main lead man Johnny Depp take a slash at Sweeney Todd this December. How will they portray the Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Here's a glimpse...
Johnny Depp’s Sweeney Todd Studio Sessions
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If you'd be so kind as to indulge me before you dive into today's Take 5 interview with Lizzy Borden... I rarely dream anymore, but when I do, it's vivid and surreal, like a Dali scape melded from my own conundrum. Perhaps I've been listening to too much Opeth and Lizzy lately, I dunno. I used to do local open mikes and I'm missing them, actually. Hope you enjoy...
Untitled (Inspired from a dream...)
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
who are you
fair creature born of the earth
that you should choose me
to reveal your unblemished skin
and beckon me to kiss your proud flesh
as if we’ve been lovers for ages
how do I fearlessly tread behind you
our fingers locked forthright
surrendering a trust so rarely bestowed
as you gently lead the way
past the charge of the bull that narrowly misses
through narcoleptic fields and woods of do-nothing apathy
into manmade darkness that blinds and corrupts
cautiously down disinfectant-choked corridors filled with the clawing elderly
all as if to mockingly say we’re infallible and young forever
I hear others whisper
they’ve secretly loved me but were afraid to speak
they despise you
and think me a fool
that I should willingly disrobe and entwine with you
they desperately reach to tie the loose strings at my feet
and only at storm’s edge do they openly profess to me
who do I believe?
them or you?
I believe you to be my salvation
because tomorrow came yesterday
and I live for the now
but you just may be death beneath the allure...
if that’s the case
permit me one final greedy caress
and one last vainglorious kiss
Monday, November 19, 2007
Photo (c) 2007 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
Lizzy Borden has largely been a cult phenomenon, a fame known mostly to the real metal diehards and insiders. At one time, Lizzy Borden and his marauding madmen of the early eighties hacked and slashed their way through the Sunset Strip, spilling blood and confetti on their audiences to the tune of NWOBHM as interpreted through the California sun. Lizzy nearly reached the pinnacle level of the eighties hard rock heavies that came along after he'd opened the roads for them in LA with such classics as Love You to Death, Give 'em the Axe and Menace to Society. A strange but intrisically rewarding path Lizzy has led, he has learned a lot since the days of Menace, nearly flirting with a commerical breakthrough on his tempo-minded Visual Lies album and then the artistic statement of his career, Master of Disguise. The respect Lizzy has commanded finds him giving testimony in Penelope Spheris' classic trash documentary Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years, and if you keep your eye open carefully, there's a silver-painted Visual Lies era Lizzy crawling atcha from a poster in the movie Trick Or Treat. Of course, all of that is an afterthought (including the brisk and vicious Deal With the Devil album) in light of Lizzy's current metal masterpiece Appointment With Death, one of the best metal albums of the year and one that is a culmination of all that Lizzy has been and is now.
He may not be on the same level of Gwar in terms of his horror rock theatrics, but consider Lizzy a bit more of a sophisticate of his trade, kind of like Vincent Price as opposed to Freddy Kruger or Grand Guignol versus Hostel. A Lizzy Borden show is about class and style in horror presentation instead of cartoonish limb-tearing and disembowelment. Both have their charm in their respective forums, but Lizzy has a subtle Poe-like methodology to his craft and there's always been something deliciously demented about naming yourself after a notorious historical figure whose rhyme including the fabled "forty whacks." That's the stuff of legend...
**Also be on the lookout for a continuation of this interview in my column "Death From Below" in AMP magazine...
The Metal Minute: How bad do you remember it being fighting what I would call “The Battle of Sunset Strip?” I hear so many bands of the day talk about the notorious flier wars and the scrums here and there...
Lizzy Borden: We were actually one of the first bands with a flier, you know? I’m sure there were people with fliers back in the seventies for KISS and all those other bands out of New York, but in LA no one fliered in the early days, like in ’83. We were out there fliering and playing The Troubadour on a Tuesday night at 1:30 in the morning! (laughs) We’d be fliering our brains out and we actually came up with really great ads and we worked with the local magazines around that town, but once we got going, we realized okay, there’s better ways to promote! By the time the Poisons and all those bands came out, they had their systems down. The best way we did it, we hired a bunch of girls to go out and give the fliers out, because when we did it, no one cared, you know? When a girl did it, people all took the fliers! It was a great way of doing it. If a hot chick gives them, even the girls take them! It gives you an excuse to talk to a hot chick!
MM: (laughs) As far as image goes with Lizzy Borden, you have the new ghoulish theatrical image you’re promoting for your current album Appointment With Death, but if you go back to the Give ‘Em the Axe and Menace to Society days, the wild costumes you guys had then were pretty over-the-top then too. Do you feel that whole look was indicative of what Lizzy Borden was all about then, and perhaps still is today?
LB: Well, yeah, because the very first ads we put out looking for band members, we billed it as a theatrical rock band. That’s kind of the way it was. We knew every record was going to have a theme and all the clothes would represent that record at that point of time, and then with the next record we’d create something else. It would always be in the theatrical vein, always be something more of a costume and stage props, stage makeup and all that. That was the whole essence of Lizzy Borden and it still is. Each album has a look about it and each character that I play per album has a certain look. It’s just whatever I think the character should be, whatever experiences the character may adopt throughout the lyrics of any particular record. That’s how you build up the look of a character and how he’s going to be, so yeah, that is the essence of Lizzy Borden. It’s that little experiment that’s been going on for twenty-five years! (laughs)
MM: Menace to Society is my favorite album, now followed by Appointment With Death (laughs), but my mind goes back to being a teenager and hearing “Generation Aliens,” “Bloody Mary,” “Terror On the Town” and “Stiletto (Voice of the Command).” Do you feel that Menace to Society better prepared you for the future on Master of Disguise, Deal With the Devil and now Appointment With Death?
LB: Oh, we learned so much from Menace! On Love You to Pieces I fully had control over everything. For Menace I wanted the band to have a complete input but there were too many chefs in the kitchen. We had a great album and then the mix had too many problems because everyone wanted everything louder than everything else. When you get that kind of struggle, we weren’t on the same page because everyone was on a very selfish vein, but also that’s kind of cool because it really represents that record, the lyrics and the whole thing; there was inner turmoil on that, so that’s the way the record should’ve gone. It should’ve had all of that angst between the band members and everything, so I learned right after that record you can’t have that many chefs in the kitchen. That’s why we decided to use a producer and that’s why we got Max Norman to produce Visual Lies. We needed somebody (laughs) who could see everybody out of the studio when it came time to mix, but yeah, it all taught us so much.
MM: Naturally I have to touch on Visual Lies since it was a big turning point for the band. There was a more emphasis on melody and mainstream rock since 1987 was really pivotal for a lot of metal bands. There were a lot of bands that took a lighter approach than in years past. Did you find it difficult at that time to take a stab at a more conventional rock sound with Visual Lies? I mean, “Me Against the World” is still one of my favorite Lizzy Borden songs!
LB: It wasn’t a conscious effort to conform in any way to whatever was happening around us. We were still doing what we were doing; the only difference was that we had a producer and the only difference in what we were writing. Max Norman’s main contribution to Lizzy Borden then and still throughout to this day is tempo. We used to play as fast as we could play! (laughs) He came in and said this song would be so much better at this speed or this other speed, and we went ‘Oh, we never thought about that; we just played as fast we could!’ Once we took a song like “Me Against the World” that was actually written at a faster tempo, once we slowed it down, it had so much more power and we were just blown away! We were scratching our heads wondering why we’d never thought about tempo before, but that’s why you hire these people; they come in and they say ‘Look, if you want this song to really have the power that you want it to have, you’ve got to pay attention to tempo.’ Once we slowed it down, it was so much more powerful than it was. It would’ve just been a regular song the way we had it. When we slowed it down, it became much more of an anthem. It had a lot more to say since the lyrics matched the music. It wasn’t really conscious at the time to write pop songs; we just had a producer who told us to change the tempos and once we did that, it kind of changed the sound of the band a little bit.
MM: I’m sure it has to be a unique feeling being on Metal Blade Records today in a metal revival scene filled with a bunch of exciting young bands who have their own demographic geared towards the younger generation, but here comes Lizzy Borden out of the ashes with a definitive statement on Appointment With Death. A song like “Under Your Skin” could just pop right on out there for either generation, be it the old-time headbangers or the newbies. You guys sound tremendously relevant with this album, but what do you feel Lizzy Borden offers the metal scene today?
LB: I think you’re right about the relevance of it all. The bands that are playing out there today are influenced by everything that happened in the early eighties. Somehow it skipped a generation or so (laughs) and these young kids are playing licks from Eddie Van Halen and George Lynch, go on down the line… When it all comes back around, all of a sudden now we become relevant again and we get to perform in front of young kids and they get it, whereas during the mid-nineties during the grunge thing, they didn’t get any of it! They didn’t understand it, they didn’t want it, and it was one of those things where you had to be like a vampire and bury yourself in the back yard for a little while until that blows over! (laughs) Otherwise you just spin your wheels, so that’s kind of the way we look at things. It’s not so much that we necessarily want to be relevant, but we do want to entertain and we want to have an audience that wants to be entertained. Our whole thing is about entertainment. That’s all happened now. It’s all coming back, the youth of the world, America and Europe, it’s really these young kids that are reviving this almost lost art, and it’s so great to be a part of it, to be around for twenty-five years making it through all those little windy roads there.
Copyright 2007 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
From the Prosthetic Records Press Release:
Los Angeles-based Prosthetic Records is proud to announce the addition of Japan's GRIEF OF WAR to the label's roster. Having formed - in their own words - for the purpose of being the true heir of real heavy metal, GRIEF OF WAR was started from humble beginnings in 2002 based out of Tokyo, and almost immediately after forming, the band quickly started rehearsing to develop and refine their sound through a series pre-productions recordings. Releasing the self-titled 'Grief of WAR' demo in 2003, the band began receiving positive reaction about the release from a handful of CD shops and fanzines inside their native Japan, prompting the quartet to being energetically playing live in June 2004. Through this, the band began gaining an increasing fan base throughout Tokyo through uncountable tours and live dates, including playing together with Danish metal band Mnemic in March of 2005. GRIEF OF WAR finally unleashed the band’s debut full-length, 'A Mounting Crisis...As Their Fury Got Released’ through hometown label Yggr Drasill Records in May 2005.
Self-described as "Samurai Crunch," GRIEF OF WAR aims to capture the title as the heir of real traditional metal in the golden 80s, through a deal with Prosthetic Records set to begin with the release A Mounting Crisis... outside Japan on February 19, 2008. Music from the effort can be previewed at Grief of War MySpace page
The Cult - Born Into This
2007 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
A friend recently made the comment after we caught The Cult live last week that he felt these guys might possibly be the perfect rock band. To certain extents he could be right; once The Cult overcame a few sound obstacles and gained some momentum, Ian Astbury fell into a Jim Morrison stage strut in his leather skin boots while Billy Duffy struck chords and poses befitting The Cult's smash hit album Sonic Temple. The audience inside this Baltimore venue had been hiding during the openers' sets then suddenly massed all over the floor and in the rafters, many wearing replicated Love t-shirts in recognition for what is The Cult's truest calling record. At the end of the night, The Cult, with drumming troubadour John Tempesta, had wowed the crowd and though most were half-drunk on Jagrmeister and the vibes of The Cult's most popular songs from Sonic Temple and Electric, there was excitement to hear the latest album from one of the modern era's greatest bar bands. From what I could see on my way out, the merch table wasn't doing half bad. A lot of bands from the eighties get accused of milking the revival train (which is true in the case of bands selling t-shirts at $35 a pop), while a lot of today's listeners believe bands like The Cult died in the arenas they once filled with the sound of booming rock nirvana.
On Born Into This, The Cult show no signs of throwing in the towel such naysayers prompt them to do. In fact, The Cult dips back into their past, largely from the Love and Electric eras and toss in a few Beatles, Rolling Stones and Doors (fancy that) nods and cough up a pretty solid rock album with more exuberance than one might expect them capable of.
The Cult found rejuvenation on the bricks-heavy riffage that fueled 2001's Beyond Good and Evil, but The Cult, masters of reinvention between albums (showing wide diversity between the revival alt pop of Dreamtime and Love and the AC/DC-like amplitude of Electric, just for example) exhibit little of the brute force from their last go-round, instead concentrating on writing no-nonsense rock 'n roll with Born Into This. Largely playing it safe but keeping a steady pulse nonetheless, Born Into This is a mostly agreeable and melodic pop rock album with the attitude befitting a band of their time in the ranks.
John Tempesta is one of the stabilizing factors to an album that could've fallen into a buzzsaw snore, and though Ian Astbury's vocals are beginning to betray him in the higher octave range, it's his confidence that sells this thing, along with Billy Duffy's terrific guitars. Together, The Cult manages to put some life into songs like "I, Assassin," "Citizens" and "Sound of Destruction" that ride their rich rock tones like the pulsing thrum of a Harley in the desert out of a lost eighties Headbangers Ball video. Tempesta's beats keeps Born Into This pumping with danceability and head-bobbing aplomb as Astbury snarls and Duffy and bassist Chris Wyse grind out dirty riffs on "Savages," one of the album's hardest-driving tunes.
Throwing in a party-minded curveball with "Dirty Little Rockstar," The Cult borrows the main riff from The Rolling Stones' "Undercover" and turns their tune into a catwalk strut jam that would've guaranteed them a top-ten singles hit in 1989, because at this point, The Cult is exactly as their namesake implies. Yes, they pack the house with Gen-X suburbanites who want to hear "Fire Woman" as much as they have listeners still fascinated with "She Sells Sanctuary" from Love, but The Cult is a niche rock 'n roll band that still does what they do best, but maybe with a veterans' polish that makes a peppy song like "Illuminated" sound like a greatest hits package wrapped into one tune, snaring elements from Love, Electric and Sonic Temple to create an infectiously harmonious rocker. Whether this catches on with a new generation remains to be seen, but at least The Cult still exhibit relevance on Born Into This, and who knows? They just may be the perfect rock band...
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Opeth - The Roundhouse Tapes
2007 Peaceville Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Opeth is quite likely the most sophisticated metal band on the planet. Forget the associative genre tags such as "black metal," "dirge metal," "Goth metal" and "death metal." Opeth is far beyond subdivision, but if we're going to have to pin a tag on these masterful musicians, this writer will go ahead and call Opeth the Pink Floyd of dark, atmospheric metal.
Now that I've stated what we already know, let's discuss The Roundhouse Tapes, a double live disc recorded a year ago at The Roundhouse in London. Only a band as breathtakingly expansive as Opeth is could stretch nine songs over the course of two CDs, but unlike most live albums that showcase a string of hits along with random catalog songs to satiate the band's devout, and possibly a cover song just to create buying power, The Roundhouse Tapes is a complete overview of Opeth throughout their history from Orchid to Ghost Reveries.
Of course it helps that a standard Opeth song ranges between 7 to 10 minutes on average, but the typical thing to do would be to cram a live performance with songs from the most recent album. In this case, only "Ghost of Perdition" makes it from Opeth's breakthrough Ghost Reveries album. Instead, they truly put their audience's interests at heart by serving up something from the majority of their albums (save for Deliverance), be it "Face of Melinda" from Still Life, "The Night and the Silent Water" from Morningrise or the title track from Blackwater Park.
The absolutely cosmic "Under the Weeping Moon" from Orchid is one of Opeth's grandest cases of progression as compared to Pink Floyd and Nektar, and in a live forum, the reverb is nothing short of astral. If you've never heard Opeth before, what strikes fascinating is Mikael Akerfeldt's seamless vocal duality between death growls and utterly emotional cleans. He is one of the most charismatic singers in metal, and his cavalier demeanor shows between songs on The Roundhouse Tapes as he speaks to his audience soothingly (minus a joke-minded "shut the fuck up") and warmly invites them to "please enjoy" each song.
Opeth fans need not have me elaborate on the sheer territorial crossings this band executes better than 99% of their metal peers. Opeth's music is mind-blowingly complex yet tuneful and not a single metal band outside of Deep Purple sells the thunder of an organ better than Opeth. Their ability to meld jazz and funk as a prelude to the outright heaviness of "Bleak" is nothing short of phenomenal. As one of the most textured and fluidly knowledgeable metal bands in history, The Roundhouse Tapes is one of those rare live albums that is as mandatory as Iron Maiden's Live After Death.
Taipan - 1002: A Rock Odyssey
2007 Supernova Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Steve Austin is a freakin' genius. One might say that Austin effectively masterminded the entire screamo and jacknife alt punk scene with Today is the Day. Better yet, the more we go back and listen to the piercingly shrill catalog of Today is the Day, the more we can all take comfort that music in the nineties wasn't completely wasted in the U.S.
Taipan is one of Steve Austin's many side endeavors and honestly, it's one of his best. How he kept 1002: A Rock Odyssey shelved for six years is beyond comprehension because it's wicked nuts but it's also one of his most listenable albums, assuming the caustic sonic abrasion he's normally associated with isn't your bag. You don't have to be a Steve Austin fan to dive into 1002: A Rock Odyssey, but it helps to understand the subtlety of his marauder's songwriting style.
One of the songs that stands out in title alone is "My Dick In Your Mouth," which is an outrageous punk and metal fuse that jams as much as its gets utterly silly lyrically. No sooner are you done laughing at Steve Austin hollering "Suck, suck, suck! Suck Steve's big ol' dick!" with as much seriousness as a diabetic plowing into a bowl of Coco Puffs, then Austin dismisses the ridiculousness he's just played with nonchalant aplomb by uttering "Now I'll go write some more shit on the computer" before plucking out a pseudo-rawk guitar line on "Don't Chain My Soul." "Don't Chain" teases into coming off like a potentially sugary alt rock jam before growing in gut-wailing angst (ala J. Mascis of Dinosaur, Jr.) with each successive bar.
The gallows humor that Steve Austin is noted for really shines on "Angel Dust" where he executes a simplistic (for him, anyway) three chord rock 'n roll ditty overtop a vocal soundbyte that introduces the freestyle jam with a respectful quote about Austin's playing, comparing it to someone having "drunk Clorox all night." If that isn't a hell of a compliment, particularly if your mindframe falls in line with Austin's...
Sonic Youth and Pixies fans will have fun with the lunatic fringe-mindedness of "Teardrop," while it's almost hard not bust a gut laughing at Austin's swipe at droning melancholia with "Epiphany." Ditto for the alarm clock and warped voicemail recording of the 2001: A Space Odyssey intro on "Manzig." We'll leave you to be the judge on what Austin's inspiration for this crazy song is... And why not flag the sweet effervesence of "Baby Loves Daddy" and Austin's take on Dinosaur, Jr. meets Pink Floyd with "Lost Rhodes?" As stated previously, the man's a genius. From the intentional jab at eighties cock rock out the gate with "Clairvoyant IX" to the high note fractures of "This is Your Life" at album's end, 1002: A Rock Odyssey is a must-hear.
Thank God Steve Austin has recognized his relevance. One might balk at the generous influx of Today is the Day material trickling back out under Austin's imprint, SuperNova Records, but if not for this cabinet cleaning, we could've possibly missed out on Taipan and what a gross disservice that would've been, not just to Austin's fans, but largely to Austin himself.
Spektr - Mescalyne
2007 Moribund Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Whatever shortcomings this album may lack in initial sound quality is more than compensated with brute force and an unnerving methodology from the black metal duo known as Spektr. These French dark artists have found creative measures through electronics, coldwave and industrial to accent the core black metal drives on their third album Mescalyne and the album grows in coherence because of its disjointed songwriting theory.
What separates these guys from the rest of the black pack is their inventiveness that calls for stop-on-a-hair beat projection that creates a deadly air of paranoia, assuming the creepy sampling and nearly aquatic guitar melodies haven't done that already. You're not going to normally hear successive guitar threads that are immediately halted then spewed then halted again in black metal; the norm is to strum and blast beat mercilessly from start-to-finish. In some ways, this is a far more disturbed and effective approach at projecting the tenebrous vibes of this subgenre and style points go to Hth and kl.K for having the tenacity to explore outside the mold that would normally have them playing the same two chords at a relentless speed for six minutes apiece.
The four songs of Mescalyne are haphazard and coldly atmospheric, in particular "Hollow Contact" and the appropriately-titled "Maze of Torment," which makes you feel every ounce of trepidation Spektr builds with its shivery keys and a nerve-plucking sample of stalking. The expected payoff of a sonic blast of black metal screechery never comes; instead, Spektr coolly slips into the fourth cut "Revelations" with a dancy beat that develops into a series of manic degeneration. In other words, Spektr dangles the climax you're begging for on "Maze of Torment" and makes you wait until appropriate on "Revelations," thus its impact is felt harder.
Major thumbs-up to Spektr for fusing some genuine art into a style that's in danger of growing stale from too many practitioners sticking to its breakneck satanic script. Mescalyne is a warped trek into the abysmal hell with plenty of complications to make the trip that much more scary...
Photo by Lucas Jackson/Reuters
The Demon has a few choice words about the state of music today and targets the downloading generation as "crooks..."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Seven Witches - Deadly Sins
2007 Screaming Ferret Wreckords/Locomotive Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
I recently had a nose-to-guitar strings view of Jack Frost when he toured with Lizzy Borden's horror rock bonanza; ditto for bassist Marten Andersson. It was as much fun watching these guys whirl their crafts as it was Ira Black and The Master of Disguise himself, Lizzy, as he changed personas as frequently as he did masks. Clad in pasty stage makeup as one of Lizzy's Appointment With Death undead characters, Jack Frost was more than game in Lizzy's ensemble as second guitarist and it made me realize the guy's pretty danged underappreciated in the metal leagues, considering that Frost has been seen in the likes of Savatage, Bronx Casket Co., Metalium and Speed as well as his own ventures, Frost Bite and of course, cult metal soldiers, Seven Witches.
One thing's for sure; the New Jersey metal scene is incestuous with the same cast of characters forming a slew of bands that roll of the tongue such as Seven Witches, Non Fiction, The Cursed, Hades, Bronx Casket Co., Watchtower, Speed\Kill/Hate and of course, the core nucleus of it all, Overkill. Whether you're talking about players such as DD Verni or Dan Lorenzo or Tim Mallare or Alan Tecchio, this is one tight-knit company of metalheads who pop up in each others' projects that cultivate at least every other month it seems.
For Jack Frost's purposes, Alan Tecchio was the best thing that happened to him as far as keeping Seven Witches a viable entity. Depending on your die-hardiness for 7W, most people would say that Frost has had a hit-and-miss run in this band with Passage to the Other Side being the unanimous fan favorite. That album, along with Xiled to Infinity and One are 7W's biggest claims to fame, and while last year's Amped was met with a bit of rejection, largely due to its mass confusion, what is largely agreed is that the addition of Alan Tecchio gave Jack Frost the inspiration he needed to come up with an album that ranks amongst his best efforts, Deadly Sins.
For you Passage to the Other Side addicts, you'll be happy to know that Armored Saint/Fates Warning legend Joey Vera recorded with Frost on Deadly Sins, along with former Non Fiction bassist Kevin Bolembach and Pain Museum's Clint Arent. With the dexterous Troll on drums, Seven Witches has opened up its sound, and in the nick of time, as Frost tackles a concept on Deadly Sins, namely the 7 Sins of Mahatma Gandhi. You have to love the continuity here; it's as slick as Iron Maiden's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
Whereas Amped and Jack Frost's last solo album Out in the Cold sound as if they were laid down in a hurry, Frost learned a lesson from those albums and he took his time writing and executing Deadly Sins, and the end result is highly favorable. The title track authoritatively establishes the album with a blasting double hammer glory ride as Frost rapdily strums and waaaas along, giving only a minute's respite on the following song "Science," before roaring forward again at top speed. It's Troll's confident strikes that allows Seven Witches to go at the velocity Jack Frost wants to push it and there will unlikely be any arguing that Troll has produced the best tempos 7W has ever seen. Does that free-floating solo of Jack's on "Science" sound like he's energized by his prospects with a posse that sounds as complete as he could hope for?
You know it, and as Seven Witches rages (in particular Tecchio's diverse range of yowls) on in memorium of Gandhi on Deadly Sins with songs like "Commerce," "Knowledge" and "Wealth," pausing the headstrong rock for the appropriately reverential "Man of the Millennium," Jack Frost creates a reflective and responsible ode to a reknowned proponent of peace. Pretty refreshing when it's more appropos metal-wise to celebrate carnage cossacks and military conquistadors of history. You never thought you'd be headbanging to a story about Gandhi, did you?
For his former reputation as a maverick, Jack Frost sounds as if he's finally found a higher calling with his music, one that elevates past the occasionally marginal and ascends to something quite respectable and damned entertaining in the process.