Yes - Classic Artists: Yes
2008 Image Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Leave it to Yes to cough up a three-hour-plus documentary on their rise and fall history in the rock world. Somehow, such a gratuitous marathon of storytelling is befitting a band that has defined prog evolution through whirlwind epics like "Heart of the Sunrise" and "Roundabout" from Fragile, "Yours Is No Disgrace" from The Yes Album or "The Ancient Giants Under the Sun" off of Tales From Topographic Oceans.
Though you will be utterly exhausted after watching the story of Yes unravel in full detail including testimonials from the majority of the rotating band members, the trip is unforgettable. Yeah, it takes almost three-and-a-half hours to tell, but the prevailing impression is that you will have seen a band historically considered to be metahuman as rock's most gifted progressive artists humanized and humbled through their experiences that features more confusion and disorder than their mid-to-late seventies work. Certainly the in-out-in-out capacity of Yes' band members including Rick Wakeman, Steve Howe and even Jon Anderson for a flash of time has produced a dividing line more amongst the fans than even within Yes itself, which is considerable.
Arguments of prog purism is the dominant topic amongst rock fans and critics, which finds many of them stopping at Relayer in terms of acceptance of what constitutes the true Yes sound. Though many of these fans have largely dismissed Yes' more recent efforts including the two Keys to Ascension albums, The Ladder and Magnification, the true debate and dismissal comes around the Trevor Rabin era that coughed up the rescue mission 90125 album, which to this writer's ears is a perfectly wonderful album, albeit a strangely reinvented and reconfigured Yes record. Regardless of 90125's greatness, it was the holy smokes dullness of Big Generator and the inexcusable sham of Union that even some of the band members admit to being a piece of junk. Steve Howe himself notes in the documentary that he threw the tape out of his car window he was that upset by Union.
In their heyday, Yes broke countless barriers and--for better and worse--unlocked the door to an alter dimension of sound and visual presentation through their larger-than-life synth-splashed psychedelia and otherworldly stage sets that would quietly usher in the era of the big arena bands of the eighties. It was Yes' stage designs, even in their early club days that paved the way for lighting spectacles of later years. It was also a period in which Jon Anderson notes that having seen King Crimson play while Yes was polishing their chops made him and the band practice that much harder and dig deeper into their progressive tendencies. As Yes grew in strength alongside Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Nektar and Pink Floyd, the channels were revealed for future greats like Rush and Genesis and now many years later, the underground is teeming with prog disciples who take the best of what Yes and King Crimson had to offer and strain it with lower tunings and tempo-crazed dallying to make it their own.
Had Yes not had to fight Led Zeppelin for in-house label attention from Atlantic Records, who's to say how much higher Yes could've risen? Certainly sales for The Yes Album, Fragile and Close to the Edge quantifies Yes as a megaband, but the documentary reveals an overlaying pressure in the band to get that much better than the album before, yet do it on their terms, which did cause internal combustion, be it the layoff of original guitarist Peter Banks after two solid performances on Yes and Time and a Word, or Rick Wakeman's flat-out disapproval of the illucid madness that was Tales From Topographic Oceans. The theme would continue so much that Jon Anderson himself briefly took flight after no one in sight got what Tormato was about (revealed on the DVD to be a cheeky shot at themselves, using touring and thrown tomatoes at the band as the butt joke theme of the album), prompting Yes to recruit The Buggles' Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes, which is where many Yes fans began to say no.
Though Drama is a better album than most give it credit for, including the punk-laced, brackish "Tempus Fugit," the legacy of Yes took a twist that would eventually include the addition of Trevor Rabin, whom many fans look upon as an infiltrator. Rabin's musical prowess is so great he single-handedly saved Yes from demise on 90125, but it's at this point where the internal back-stabbing and departures and arrivals splinters and destabilizes Yes, revealed in gory detail in the documentary. Amazing that they could recruit Steve Howe, who had departed to form the improbably successful Asia during the eighties, then also lure Rick Wakeman back from exodus, only to dump them out and eventually invite them back again in repeat cycles. What are core principals of the band are turned into virtual scab players, which is positively shameful as you watch it unfold. Still, the core five of Chris Squire (who handles most of the narrative of the documentary), Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman and Alan White keep making a play for it every now and then, and despite the hurt feelings and the mucky abuse, the final word of the story is that they're hovering within arms' reach of each other for one possible last hurrah when the moment is right.
The DVD also includes some nifty rehearsal footage of the core team in 1996 as they rediscover their magic on standards like "Roundabout" and "I've Seen All Good People." As if you haven't heard enough interview footage in the main documentary, there's plenty more on the second disc in a looser format, plus three videos including "Tempus Fugit" and "Owner of a Lonely Heart." If there's only one detriment to Classic Artists: Yes, it's the sleight of background music in the first hour of the documentary that is the mark of any good rock retrospective. Yes, you get a slew of lost photos and yes, the story of the band is compelling enough you're glued to it, but it takes until the eighties era of Yes before we start hearing a continuous thread of background music and that's a little shabby, sorry to say. It's Yes, for crying out loud...
Though classic rock stations have kept the legacy of Yes alive through repeat plays of "Roundabout," "Sweetness," "I've Seen All Good People" and "Owner of a Lonely Heart," these few choice moments when Yes opted to write a straightforward rock song isn't quite wholly telling of the legacy they've left behind. The bitter sourness of their late eighties destruction and no-one-cares nineties revival attempt has made many critics, judges and fans overlook the contributions of Yes, although a younger generation of progressive-minded musicians has taken the flame and lit their own mantles with the embers Yes has poked and prodded to a scant spark. Still, put your stylus down on The Yes Album or at least spin it in your CD console and all you need to know about Yes' deserving place as rock icons will zip into your face and ears like a triggered memory...
Thursday, January 31, 2008
Yes - Classic Artists: Yes
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Mother McCree is it Wednesday already? Lordee... Time vanishes as quickly as I can capture it. To quote the late Justin Wilson, how y'all be?
The content's a little thin this week, I'll admit, but I've had to catch up on my z's after a very long week filled with lots of overtime, which I'm grateful to get in these tough times. When I'm not at the office, I've been running my butt off taking care of a very sick wife who is routinely ill, but finally her doctors seem ready to do something about it, cue the tabernacle...
It's when the chips are at their fewest when music becomes the deepest salvation and though I'm taking more of a conservative approach towards the finances this year (forced circumstances or not, I'm tired of watching all the savings go out the damn door), I put my anger and frustration into the therapeutic pools of good vibes, healing vibes, tunes that mean something and give me strength aside from escapism. Music is our single greatest gift to mankind, because everyone can listen, regardless of language barriers or walks of life. It's the one mode of communication that anyone with the grace of hearing can tune into and receive and draw something personally from it.
That being said, Fugazi got a lot of play this week, as did the soundtracks to the canceled HBO show Six Feet Under, a show which has impacted my writing the past five years in tremendous ways. It was a beautiful show and while I can certainly live without t.v. if I'm forced to, I truly miss this one. Listening to the music inspiring the show's primary writers has me thinking about assembling a CD of music that charges and energizes my writing, and I'm so inspired that the few minutes I have to myself anymore has been spent on a new semibiographical fiction story that's unraveling wonderfully like a tapestry containing something emotional and robust beneath. The tentative title is "Escape From Yuppieville" and it's an angst piece about getting older in a rapidly advancing world ready to make you obsolete ahead of your time and sticking to a scene that doesn't necessarily belong to you anymore. Plus it'll focus on a lot social commentary in both dark and light ways assuming I do my job correctly.
The music I listen to in the upcoming months outside of promo CDs will be even more diverse and eclectic as I hedge the voice of the project and try to heal some bad feelings about life because I've had a good life in the grand perspective regardless of the hardships that everyone contends with, some in worse measures; we all must experience the highs and the lows in order to define ourselves as individuals, and that's what I hope resonates the loudest with "Escape From Yuppieville."
K, that's it's for now, buh bye, thanks for reading as always...
Fugazi - 13 Songs
Fugazi - Repeater + 3 Songs
Fugazi - A Steady Diet of Nothing
Six Feet Under soundtrack
Six Feet Under soundtrack Vol. 2: Everything Ends
Unsane - Blood Run
Unsane - Visqueen
Unsane - Occupational Hazard
Adrenalin OD - The Wacky Hi-Jinx of AOD
Death Angel - Killing Season
The Smithereens - Especially For You
Zodiac Mindwarp - Rock Savage
Earth - The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull
Morrissey - Bona Drag
Skid Row - Subhuman Race
Bushwhack - S/T
Husker Du - New Day Rising
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Alex Skolnick and Greg Christian (c) 2005-08 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
Thrash legends Testament have announced a limited run of worldwide tour dates in support of their upcoming new studio album The Formation of Damnation on Nuclear Blast Records.
Featuring 4/5 of the original Testament lineup along with renowned journeyman Paul Bostaph on drums, who has worked with the band in the past, The Formation of Damnation is Testament's first studio album since The Gathering in 1999.
Dates as follows:
3/30 – San Francisco, CA – The Independent
4/05 – Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom
4/06 – New York, NY – B.B. King Blues Club
4/10 – Santa Ana, CA – The Coach House
4/11 – Las Vegas, NV – The Canyon Club
4/12 – Hollywood, CA – The Key Club
5/03 – Mokena, IL – The Pearl Room/Chicago Powerfest
5/30 – Cluj-Napoca, Romania – Maximum Rockfest
5/31 – Belgrade, Serbia – Legacy Festival
6/05 – Solvesborg, Sweden – Sweden Rock Festival
6/06 – Tampere, Finland – Sauna Open Air Fest
6/07 – Athens, Greece – Gagarin 205
6/08 – Thessaloniki, Greece – Hydrogios
6/20 – Clisson, France – Hellfest
6/21 – Istanbul, Turkey – Festival Valley
6/22 – Prague, Czech Republic – Retro Music Hall
6/23 – Ostrava, Czech Republic – TBA
6/27 – Grandola, Portugal – Festival Metal GDL
6/28 – Bologna, Italy – Gods of Metal
Monday, January 28, 2008
From the band's press release:
"Meldrum has unveiled its premiere North American release, Blowin’ Up the Machine, a brand new album of fierce, hard-rocking metal on Locomotive Records.
The multinational act – singer Moa Holmsten and bassist Frida Ståhl from Sweden, and American guitarist Michelle Meldrum – released its European debut, Loaded Mental Canonin 2002 but has good reason for the delay of its follow-up.
“What can you do when Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society and Motorhead take you under their wings and on extensive tours with them?” said Michelle. “You can’t say no. We are so thankful to have worked with the people we have.”
During breaks from touring, Meldrum hunkered down to work on Blowin’ Up the Machine, and when it came time to record, they enlisted the drumming prowess of Michelle’s former Phantom Blue bandmate Linda McDonald and none other than Gene Hoglan (Death, Strapping Young Lad, Dethklok [Metalocalypse]), with whom Michelle formed her first band Wargod as teenagers.
“It’s kinda like coming full circle for both of us,” Michelle said. “It feels like it did when we were kids. I mean, when you know someone so well musically and as friends, it is definitely a special chemistry. I love him like a brother.”
“Now, I may joke about how cool it is to play with three ‘hot bitches,’ but lemme tell ya, Meldrum are some damned fine and talented musicians,” Hoglan said. “Moa can sing like an angel or summon the devil, Michelle can riff and lead with the best of ‘em, and Frida is simply one of the best bassists I’ve ever worked with. I’m proud to be a part of the team.”
Motorhead’s Lemmy also makes a special guest appearance on Blowin’ Up the Machine, writing the lyrics for the song “Miss Me When I’m Gone” and contributing vocals to the track.
“I was sitting in a hotel room warmin’ up before a gig and I thought, ‘I’m gonna crank out a riff that would sound like us but with Lemmy’s vocal style,” Meldrum said. “Then we asked him if he would be interested in writing some lyrics for the song and he was totally into it. When the time came to record it, we asked him if he wanted to special guest on the CD and he did. It is definitely an honor to work with someone like Lemmy.”
“You say girls can’t play rock’n’roll ?” said Lemmy. “Well listen to Meldrum and bite your tongue!”
Blowin’ Up the Machine was mixed by Michelle, Brett Chasen, Bob Kulick, and Toby Wright (Alice In Chains, KORN, Metallica, Fear Factory). Michelle also engineered the vocals and guitars, and served as Executive Producer, with Stahl and Holmsten Co-Producing.
“We are the real thing,” Michelle said. “We live, eat, and breathe this lifestyle of music. We sound brutal and heavy, but we are really nice gals and love having a good time!”
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Hammerfall - Steel Meets Steel: Ten Years of Glory
2007 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Hammerfall is one of the unsung heroes in terms of helping usher classic-styled power metal back to the masses. With the sudden enthrallment of Dragonforce to the newer ranks of the worldwide heavy metal army, one can say thank God the kids are flocking towards true metal, one filled with outrageous artistry and mesmerizing guitar solos instead of dismissing the whole thing at face value as the nu-metal conspiracy contingents did not so long ago by declaring guitar solos fossil fodder. Of course, one can also say the newly initiated need to be steered in other proper directions to complete their heavy metal studies.
As one-time students themselves, Hammerfall are disciples of the Manowar, Saxon and Accept credo of metal, which is to strike hard, strike fast, strike with all you've got and let the chips fall where they may. Of the three aforementioned veteran bands, it was Accept that had the best shot at international glory, while Manowar has become the stuff of legends everywhere but their native American turf. Despite a stumblebum period in the mid eighties, Saxon today still commands worldwide respect as metal titans. It is in the shadow of these bands that Hammerfall studiously hedged their own brand of pounding power metal and for the most part, their revisionist hail-and-kill brand of Manowar-flavored metal has stayed honest to the old ways, though on their past two studio albums Chapter V: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken and Threshold it's quite obvious that Hammerfall is seeking outside their perrenial punches for something a little off-kilter and more progressive. Considering that Hammerfall has frequently used harpischords in their larger-than-life metal thunderclaps, it's commendable they're seeking to stretch the boundaries of power metal even further.
As Hammerfall begins what might be considered a second period, Nuclear Blast quickly assembles a retrospective of how far the Swedish power lords have come through six albums and numerous world tours. To say that Hammerfall is not in Manowar's league (which a number of detractors sling from the security of their anonymous computers in chat rooms) is wholly unfair. While there's much to parallel the two bands--namely the intent behind the conquer the world and enslave all in shackles of metal mindset--Hammerfall is more a product of Euro influence that bears conscience to Helloween, Gamma Ray and Primal Fear as much as it does traditional sledgehammer-styled heavy metal. Also, if you listen closely, there's a daring tread towards the mainstream hard rock of the eighties such as Dokken, if you want to really disseminate a beat-heavy and tuneful ditty like "Let the Hammer Fall" from Legacy of Kings, which appears on this anthology in a live version from Hammerfall's 2003 concert album One Crimson Night.
That being said, Steel Meets Steel: Ten Years of Glory is a monster two-disc 30 song anthology with four previously-unreleased songs and three live cuts and say what you will about best-of albums, this one has plenty of the good stuff like "The Dragon Lies Bleeding" and "Steel Meets Steel" from Glory to the Brave, the titular tribute song "At the End of the Rainbow" from Legacy of Kings as well as "Keep the Flame Burning" from Renegade and the triumphant metal sonnet "Hero's Return" from Crimson Thunder.
As an album purist, I almost always recommend collecting the studio releases if you're a fan of a band, and I still maintain that stance in the case of Hammerfall, but one thing that cannot be denied about Steel Meets Steel: Ten Years of Glory is it's more than just a primer if you're new to these guys. It's a bible to this band. Yeah, you get songs their fans have been singing along to for awhile like "Blood Bound" and "Templars of Steel," but a Hammerfall hits package this comprehensive (even with only 3-4 songs lifted from each album) is damned near enough to satiate you in one sitting unless you're truly addicted. After two-plus hours of pure heavy metal banging in your ears from Hammerfall, you just might need a break, though no self-respecting 'banger would dare admit such weakness...
Thieves & Liars - When Dreams Become Reality
2008 Facedown Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
If you're going to ambitiously pursue a revivalism rock record, one that hails Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Y&T, Whitesnake, Saga, Steely Dan and even Strawberry Alarm Clock, you end up going the extra mile as San Diego's Thieves & Liars has done on their magnificent album When Dreams Become Reality.
You can read encyclopedias on the history of rock 'n roll until you can cite the entire catalogs of Buddy Holly, The Doors, Kiss and The Mars Volta upon demand. You can practice Hendrix licks in your basement until you break strings and fingers to the point of frustration (particlarly after watching Hendrix's utterly cosmic Woodstock performance in full and realizing there's no touching the man). Hell, you can pass around a bottle of Jack between your friends on a Friday night sitting on the trunk of your car while booming some lewd and rude hard rock in some farmer's left-for-dead cornfield, and that doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll capture the full-on impact when trying to recreate the vibe of upright rock 'n roll for your very own.
The trio of Thieves & Liars has dipped back into the past, not just to display their affinity for classic rock and eighties arena metal, but chiefly to borrow antiquated recording techniques from a period that hadn't even thought of the convenient DIY capabilities that Pro Tools allows musicians today. The majority of When Dreams Become Reality is a live recording with just enough wash to hide any imperfections, and what it means is that you get to hear the echoing reverb of Joey Bradford's mike, the growling guitar of Corey Edelmann and the natural percussive strikes from drummer Kyle Rosa. This nearly naked essence of When Dreams Become Reality gives it a retro feel with a careful polish that streams the album's songs successively, leaving just the essential amount of grime clouding at their stamping shoes.
Thieves & Liars goes for broke with this album by starting with the progressive-minded "The Dream" and "Betrayed By Blood," a pair of massively-filled songs complete with organs and a boys' choir before stripping and dirtying up their sound for numerous tracks in succession. "Road to Nowhere" is their greasy take on AC/DC's "Bad Boy Boogie" while "Slavin' Away" is all AC/DC as it is vintage LA sleaze rawk.
What's interesting is how Thieves & Liars just aren't satisfied until they've toyed with their listeners' minds by next weaving some gorgeous acoustic and violin-assisted pieces, "Alone" and "Forgotten" before returning to the loud with the Rainbow-esque title song that is coated with more choral supplementation where traditional keyboard sequencing would normally be found. An elegant touch you don't hear too often in heavy rock of anyone's generation.
Did I mention that When Dreams Become Reality is a concept album about the story of Joseph? Hard to fathom when you're too busy rocking out with Thieves & Liars that you're caught in the middle of a spiritual message of hope and peace, but that only lends to the artistic grace of the album. Whether or not you subscribe to what Thieves & Liars has to say, you're still likely going to be saluting their busting Zeppelin salute with "Good Times" and their slaverings of Aerosmith appearing on "Reconciled." This is actually the dominant speakeasy to When Dreams Become Reality. Rock 'n Roll is still clawing its way back in the midst of a droned and desensitized society addicted to digital beats and verbal throwdowns, but in the hands of capable purists such as Thieves & Liars, rock 'n roll isn't merely on its way back; it's given an upgrade with all of its original components left intact instead of made obsolete.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Honestly, when I thought of this segment to The Metal Minute, this was the album that prompted the idea. It even took me until 1998 to get on board with Skid Row's Subhuman Race, three years after it quietly morphed and subsequently whiffed through an already dead North American metal scene when it was released in 1995. I vaguely remember seeing ads for Subhuman Race in rock mags and comic books, but other than that, there was little to no promotion for the album by Atlantic Records, who had obviously forgotten how to market a metal band at this point, despite the adverse taste swing conditions that Metallica, Pantera, Slayer, Megadeth and a select other few braved through.
What a shame for Skid Row, because had this album materialized quickly enough after their monster Slave to the Grind album, it might've caught on better. Still, Subhuman Race had numerous obstacles presented to it, which one, made it a freakin' killer slab o' heavy rock (the heaviest Skid Row has ever chugged out) and two, marked the end of Sebastian Bach's association with the band. The anger and turmoil raging inside the Skid Row camp during the recording sessions for Subhuman Race is heard all over the album, which is perhaps off-putting for those requiring the softer touch of "I Remember You" and "18 and Life," two of Skid Row's most endearing tunes to a nostalgic generation that wants to remember the feelgood vibes of the eighties instead of the clouting nineties wakeup brutality of "Beat Yourself Blind" and "Frozen" on Subhuman Race.
After having had the chance to get the opinions of both Sebastian Bach and Rachel Bolan in two separate interviews I conducted at different points last year, I would cite that the former bandmates are respectful towards each other with Bach reflecting seriously upon the Subhuman Race sessions and Bolan giving just a hint of the friction that lurked in the band at the time. What's evident is that a ton of animosity existed as the recording spindles turned to capture this album. Truly, it's this internal venom that makes Subhuman Race the great album it is. Under no circumstances could the Skid Row that layed down the beloved self-titled album come up with something this vicious and this meaty, "Piece of Me" notwithstanding.
Slave to the Grind, which Sebastian Bach notes is his favorite Row album, was the finessed middle ground between Skid Row and Subhuman Race, which is certainly why it remains the band's finest hour with Bach. Still, from a loud and proud standpoint, getting to hear Skid Row putz through a kinda sorta ballad "Eileen," muddling through a groovy melody and then erupting like a bunch of pissed off kids in the final stanza is way cool, and despite the lack of discipline, its rowdiness is its charm. Ditto for the spastic thrash of "Bonehead," "Subhuman Race" and the step-heavy "Medicine Jar," one of the toughest songs Skid Row has ever greased out.
Skid Row hadn't forgotten how to juice the random sweetly tune like "Breakin' Down," even if it sounds forced compared to their effortless rock seducers prior to. The amplitude of "Breakin' Down" on the choruses is pretty inspired (as are the sublayered country twangs), though it betrays the contempt swirling around the studio in 1995. Only "Into Another" sticks to the downtempo script by keeping a steady throb without going for the kill.
But the bread and butter of Subhuman Race (which for some tastes requires a bit more strawberry jam to sugarcoat it) is the heavy riffage from Scott Hill and "Snake" Sabo on cuts like "My Enemy," "Firesign," "Remains to Be Seen" and "Face Against My Soul," not to mention the previously-mentioned fuzzbomb tracks. If there's one distinction about Subhuman Race from the other Skid Row albums--aside from its adamant vehemence--is that it unleashes its rhythm section with huge distortion spewage and lots of funky funnels swimming beneath their massive weight. Hard to determine which album is more filled between Slave to the Grind and Subhuman Race, but one thing that can be said about the latter is that whatever the climate of hostility did to the band at-large, it made them play like savage shredheads. Even Sebastian Bach cuts loose like an animal on this thing, and while it's apparent he lost a lot of his vocal focus on this album, his primal snarling is equally appealing.
All summed, Subhuman Race is Skid Row's most metal album and though I largely blame the lack of promotion and a soured metal market in which it arrived and was promptly dismissed to the bargain bin, by now serious metalheads should be giving this one a listen. Yes, it's harder to digest than what you're accustomed to with Skid Row, but the sheer honesty of Subhuman Race makes it a remarkable album.
Friday, January 25, 2008
Loom - Angler
2007 Exigent Records, LLC
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Yellowcard might've kicked out a few fences by needling windswept fiddles into their mostly feelgood pop punk schisms, which allows another band with more abrasive and chaotic tendencies to take a crack at something far braver and more experimental, which is what Utah's Loom does to creative design with their five-song album Angler.
Whatever fences were left standing around Yellowcard's moo-happy pastures of spilled milk and honey, Loom breaks the rest of the enclosure down and sets the kindling afire by writing urgent and complicated tunes with a pointed affinity for At the Drive In, The Refused and Fall of Troy with a decidedly effective twist: some meloncholic violin swoons courtesy of Kim Pack that plays foil to the excitable pace of Loom's alterpunk mayhem.
It's quite a trip when Loom wants to run amok in their jazz-rock play fields, screaming frolic all the way on "Hourglass" and "Tracers" and they still write their songs shrewdly enough to allow Pack's note sways to run both parallel and in conflict to their bouncy tempos. On "Yell," the whole ensemble brilliantly challenges one another to keep in harmony through a risky succession of punk rhythms and offbeat Bowie-esque pop rock and the end result is truly satisfying.
Categorical only if you're that headstrong about fitting them into a snugly-fitting wedge (which is perhaps unethicial since this band defies subdivision), we could be forced to call Loom Chamber Fugue Math Punk if absolutely necessary. Perhaps what's best is to simply leave it be and appreciate what Loom has achieved with their highly inventive art still in development and then look forward to the pleasures yet to come...
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Sabbat's press wranglers reports that "UK thrashers Sabbat will be making their US debut this April in select cities across the country. Featuring producer extraordinaire Sabbat co-founding member and guitar player Andy Sneap; known for his production prowess on timeless metal classics by Testament, Killswitch Engage, Megadeth and Machine Head.
Sabbat is looking forward to delivering old-school thrash to their American fans. The lineup includes co-founders Andy Sneap guitar, Martin Walkyier (vocals) and Simon Negus (drums), and is rounded out by Simon Jones (guitar) and former Prodigy guitarist Gizz Butt (bass).
Sanctuary Records has also recently re-issued Sabbat’s 1988 debut, History of a Time to Come and their follow-up, 1989’s Dreamweaver. The two classic albums are available now.
Formed in Nottingham, England in 1985, from the very beginning it was recognized that Sabbat had a special kind of talent. Disillusioned with the state of British Heavy Metal, which for several years had become increasingly more commercial and predictable, the band endeavored from the outset to provide metal fans with music of the quality and originality that they personally would like to hear.
Too technical to be dubbed mere thrash, too thought provoking to be labeled black metal, Sabbat are their own masters. Their sound is built upon the blackened fury of early Venom, the chaotic orchestration of Mercyful Fate, and the razor riffing of classic Metallica, Exodus and Slayer.
After splitting up in 1990, with Walkyier leaving to form Skyclad and Sneap concentrating on production, Sabbat reunited in 2006. The band has most recently opened for fellow Brits Cradle of Filth, and played several European festivals in 2007."
U.S. Tour Dates:
April 13th - BB King’s - New York, NY
April 15th - The Pearl Room – Mokena, IL
April 17th - Whiskey A Go Go - Los Angeles, CA
April 19th - Jaxx Nightclub – W. Springfield VA
Scott "Wino" Weinrich (c) 2005-08 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
After recently disbanding The Hidden Hand, legendary guitarist/vocalist Scott "Wino" Weinrich will release his debut solo album, Punctuated Equilibrium through Southern Lord Records.
The former Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Place of Skulls, Spirit Caravan and Hidden Hand frontman recently recruited Clutch's Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) and Rez n's Jon Blank (bass) to assist him on the tracks for Punctuated Equilibrium, which Wino notes, "will bring my career into focus." Producing the album is J. Robbins, who also helmed The Hidden Hand's Mother Teacher Destroyer.
Stay tuned for more details as they become available...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Howdy do, friends! Struggling to motorvate this morning because I'm just plumb exhausted from being on the go constantly; and this is without having covered any gigs in awhile, dangit. Sad times...
So far the highlight of my week (aside from the advance of the new Earth album The Bee Made Honey in the Lion's Skull hitting my mailbox yesterday) has been an interview with Bruce "Bubba Ash Briscoe" Campbell, which is certainly plenty to call it a good week. Be on the lookout for this fireside chat with Bruce in an upcoming issue of Hails & Horns magazine where we talk a litle about The Evil Dead and touch on other points in his career, including his upcoming film My Name is Bruce, where, to quote the man himself, "I get to take my screen persona and do irreparable damage to it."
On another music tear as I try to keep the engines charged to bring you faithful readers plenty more reviews, though last night I was so zonked from a very long and hard day I said screw it all, I refuse to think, so I put on Robocop 2 and miraculously didn't fall asleep as I tend to do trying to squeeze in a movie on a weeknight. I think about how quickly technology is trying to usher us into a cyber-advanced society like the new Detroit in the Robocop films and though the vision of those films is decidedly cheeky and fantastical with the addition of robot warfare and cyborgs patrolling the streets, when I took my stepfather to Bass Pro Shops over the weekend and we ate in the adjacent mall food court, I watched a security guard slowing rolling along on a two-wheeled scooter. Yes, Mr. Dylan, the times, they are a-changing, and right fast...
Maybe it's appropriate that Megadeth's The System Has Failed became my main spin of the week (with a few twists of Bright Eyes' Digital Ash In a Digital Urn), even if to introduce the new Underappreciated Slabs Saturdays feature. I'm starting to feel a tad curmudgeony the older I get, so much I'm not as pleased with all of the rapidly-developing tech as everyone else. As a Gen-Xer on the frayed edge of where the old ways parted at the dawn of the tech age, I should be happy and excited with how far mankind has come with technological advances, however, I'm not. When it's more obvious than our next election being a powderkeg in the making that the wildly-spinning tech advances is for sheer corporate profit, then I'm not impressed. I see people trading brand new cell phones and hi-def t.v.s within months of each other trying to keep up with the inexcusably fast changes that is an evident ploy for commercial booster shots in an economy threatening to fall on its ass. You can't stop progress, I know this (even Dr. Seuss gave us warnings I still uncover in my older age), but God forbid something radical happens and we're forced to go back to the primitive...people won't know what the hell to do since their lives have been so convenienced.
When society pools its bloated tekkie resources into something beneficial for mankind at large instead of for the wallets of those who can afford to keep up, then I'll pay attention. The more I see Borg cords dangling from ears with iPods snapped on hips, buzzing Blackberrys in pockets that chirp the most dreadful Tinkerbell fairy chimes and cups of Starbucks clutched in hand, the more I think it'll be us who's obsolete in due time instead of machinery that's been newfangled within six months of the last upgrade. I'm mentally fighting a losing cause and yes, I'm a realist as I keep an eye on these gadgets and gizmos that only increases the amassing credit debt charged by Penis Envy America, but people, understand you're being played, for Christ's sake... The system will fail one day, whether we're alive to see it not...preferably not. Guess I'll go dunk my concerns in a bowl of Corn Pops and cup of Earl Grey.
So, on that upbeat note, what the hell are you guys listening to this week?
Megadeth - The System Has Failed
Nekromantix - Life is a Grave and I Dig It
Irepress - Samus Octology
Fugazi - Margin Walker
Fugazi - Fugazi
Elvis Costello and The Attractions - Armed Forces
Gore Gore Girls - Get the Gore
Kiss - Unmasked
Gypsy Pistoleros - Wild, Beautiful, Damned
Joss Stone - The Soul Sessions
The Stooges - Fun House
The Ocean - Precambrian
Matadors - The Muse of Senor Ray
Matadors - Flame The Whisper
Prince - Controversy
Prince - Batman
Mars Volta - Frances the Mute
Nashville Pussy - Let Them Eat Pussy
Dan Lorenzo - Cassius King
Bright Eyes - Digital Ash In a Digital Urn
Hammerfall - Steel Meets Steel - Ten Years of Glory
Thieves & Liars - When Dreams Become Reality
Infected Malignity - Re : Bel
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Infected Malignity - Re : Bel
2007 Galy Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Only a metal band could come up with a name so meaty and full of despair as Infected Malignity. Seriously, we only wish a corporate pop act could be so bold since it would inevitably be just as cancerous to their nucleus as the name implies.
This Japanese prog-grind metal unit has been tinkering around since 2004 putting together rapid mathematical thrash equations with blistering complexity, and after a lineup overhaul to include new vocalist Kouhei Watanbe and bassist Takaya Tamura, the band issues a six-song mini album as follow-up to 2006's The Malignity Born From Despair, their North American debut for Galy Records, Re : Bel.
The opening instrumental "Waltz of the Rebellion" is a literal calm before the storm as Infected Malignity weaves a dreamy and deceptively tranquil sequence before whipping up a tsunami of aggressive blitzes yielding subliminally layered melody structures that slickly segue into one another through the opening half of the album. Don't look now, but you're on track 4 already! By the time you're bobbing steadily to "Clear Sky Depicted By Wicked Artist," Infected Malignity is already pummeling you at top flight with "Inequality/Fancy." While you're atrapped in, Infected Malignity hauls you down impressive note plunges and skids you to a halt with a haunted concluding melody on "S.N.D."
The inherent problem with grind metal for future purposes is that it will take skilled hands and musicians thinking outside the box of Napalm Death-ascribed pounding tempo norms in order to stand a fighting chance for recognition. Today's grind band has the dilemma of overcoming new rules and theories that are rewritten every day by forward thinkers such as Between the Buried and Me, Dillinger Escape Plan, Despised Icon and Psyopus. Fortunately for Infected Malignity, they understand this perfectly and are well on their way to creating their own fresh and dynamic niche of the form.
Blow the dust off your copy of Allied Forces and get ready... Canadian prog rockers Triumph have announced they will get together for a special performance at this year's Sweden Rock Festival. The band reports, "The classic Triumph line-up (Rik Emmett/Mike Levine/Gil Moore) could not have selected a better way to reunite after a two-decade absence - with what will undoubtedly be a show-stopping appearance at the 2008 Sweden Rock Festival. Held over a four-day span (June 4-7), the Sweden Rock Festival has been an annual event since 1992, and over the past few years, has been held in Norje, outside of Sölvesborg.
"We have had Triumph in mind for many years and hoped that they would play together again one day . When we saw Triumph was inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall Of Fame, then read some statements from the members that "maybe one day we will do something together again," we jumped in with an immediate offer - and it looks like we're helping write some new history! A fantastic band with so many classic albums is just what Sweden Rock Festival is all about. I am very proud to be able to present this band at this year's Sweden Rock Festival. I'm just one of many fans that are looking forward to this fantastic show." - Ingolf Persson, Sweden Rock Festival.
As one of the godfathers of prog metal and leading lights of arena rock, Triumph formed in 1975, and built a large and loyal fanbase by the late '70s on the strength of their non-stop touring schedule throughout Canada and the USA and the success of their classic albums, Rock & Roll Machine and Just A Game. But it was in the 1980's when Triumph truly became a force to be reckoned with, as a string of gold/platinum-certified albums (Progressions of Power, Allied Forces, Never Surrender, and Thunder Seven) and classic hits ("Fight the Good Fight," "Magic Power", "Lay It On The Line") solidified the group as one of rock's top concert attractions."
Also confirmed to play the festival are Judas Priest, Def Leppard, Blue Öyster Cult, and Whitesnake.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Nightmare - Genetic Disorder
2007 Regain Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Nightmare may be a band you're just coming to the plate with, but believe it or not this French power metal unit has been lurking about since 1979 in various modes and inceptions with a momentary layoff during the nineties. Nightmare had its break in 1983 as openers for Def Leppard on the Pyromania tour, and while the band has had a modest impact on the global metal community with their earlier recordings Waiting For the Twilight and Power of the Universe, they certainly ruled the French metal scene back in the day.
While bassist Yves Campion is the last man standing from Nightmare's birth, he's had Jo Amore in tow for the majority of the ride. Jo Amore was originally Nightmare's long-standing drummer but he's since yielded the kit to his brother David, who joined the band officially in 1999. Jo assumed vocal duties in light of the passing of Nightmare's vintage era singer Jean-Marie Boix, and he's brought to the table a capable helmmanship that's allowed Nightmare to continue on their quest for power metal supremacy.
Fortifying themselves with guitarists Alex Hilbert in 2002 and Franck Milleliri in2005, Nightmare has developed a tougher, focused sound that's in step with today's popular Euro metal tiers and still reveals a hint of the glory years spent in the midst of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal period that spawned them. On Genetic Disorder, Nightmare rides the savvy contemporary rails that producer Fredrik Nordstrom (In Flames, Arch Enemy, Dimmu Borgir and Hammerfall) lays in front of them, creating a perfectly contemporary power metal album filled with a steady chug and Jo Amore's vocals that frequently pass for Ronnie James Dio.
In all honesty, the addition of newer blood in Nightmare's second life has as much to do with bringing them into the times gracefully as putting their faith into a producer that obviously knows how to pull out a heavier bombast from them. Seriously, if you've never heard of these guys, there's virtually no way you'd figure out they're coming up on 30 years as a band. Maybe that should scare a few people, since songs like "Battleground For Suicide," "The Winds of Sin" and "Forsaken Child" jettison with such youthful vigor one could assume they've only been around a mere decade. However, only someone from the old school could know how to make a song like "Queen of Love and Pain" sound like a textured Dio or Yngwie Malmsteen song minus the flashy abundance. They coat and lavish tastefully while sticking to the core rhythms and alluring choruses.
Punching out steady throbbers like "Leader of the Masquerade" and "Final Procession," Nightmare delivers tuneful and singable metal marches with the stature that's sustained them throughout Europe, given new latitudes with a pair of guitarists who get what this band's about while steering Nightmare into the revival scene with such confidence it's just about impossible to ignore Generic Disorder.
Photo by Chris Slack
Moribund Records announces, "Nihilist, vocalist of Northwestern dark metallers In Memorium, offers this update: “In Memorium is currently focusing on finishing the final act to their new opus for Moribund Cult titled Lost To Antiquity, tentatively due for release in Autumn 2008. The artwork is being created by the ever-detailed hands of Gentian, who created the layout for Caina’s Mourner. Select song titles include ‘One Above All,’ ‘Discipline,’ ‘O' Hail Glorious Death,’ ‘Omnivorous,’ and ‘Beneath The Endless Ocean.’ There will be guest vocals from various members of Northwest black/death metal acts as Drawn and Quartered, Scorched-Earth, Skeletor, Sol-Negro, and Grey as well as other freaks and fanatics that dwell underneath the dark skies of Seattle, Washington. To those that await a return to From Misery...Comes Darkness, be prepared to be annihilated by the brutality that In Memorium is prepared to unleash! A two-week U.S. tour is in the works, as well, for after the release of the new album. On the live front, the next In Memorium live assault will be opening for Rotting Christ, Immolation, Belphegor, and Averse Sefira on February 19th at El Corazon in Seattle.”
Posted by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at 6:49 AM
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The Evil Dead Ultimate Edition
2007 Anchor Bay
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Picture yourself shacked up amongst 17 actors and film crew members in a barren section of the Tennessee mountains; no electricity, no toilets, a number of curious hicks and hunters crawling around you for weeks with random offerings of bathtub moonshine (in light of power tool theft prior to) so potent you can't imagine anyone bearing the inevitable holes in their intestines. Instead, the white lightning becomes an addition to the bare bones instruments of set design adding to the legend that is The Evil Dead.
Very few can appreciate the tortures of the damned that Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker, Hal Delrich and Sarah York (now known as Theresa Tilly) underwent to make what most horror buffs consider an indisputable gem of the genre, although you're still wont to find handfuls of neophytes and younger generations at a loss for this movie that was originally filmed in 1979 and fought until 1982 for broader acceptance. Strange to us old league horror nuts to see some goof out of our time and empathy range call The Evil Dead "crap on a stick," the same ones who turn around and glorify Eli Roth's Cabin Fever. Well, kiddies, Mr. Roth himself gets on this special edition DVD to testify that Cabin Fever is essentially his tribute to The Evil Dead. Doink, doink!
The problem with some people is they lack the ability to see past the archaic standards in which The Evil Dead and others of its day were filmed and instead take note of the painful measures by which Bruce Campbell and his co-conspirators in gore history undertook to make this thing. Campbell, who ought to be considered the Jackie Chan of horror for his relentless stuntwork, was one of many who bear the scars and toils from weeks in a freezing cold shit shack. Director Sam Raimi stretched, beat and excreted upon his life-sized action figures like little kids have historically done without mercy upon their toys. Campbell severely sprained his ankle ironically after completing a take on The Evil Dead, never mind the long night of shooting continued on and he had to bite through it all.
Despite the fact there are gripers that The Evil Dead is once again upon us in a new video format, this Ultimate Edition is worth having for the widescreen format (much less the Full Frame version with Bruce Campbell's commentary track), but more importantly, it's the behind-the-scenes access and stories of courage that you're going to want a piece of if you care anything about The Evil Dead movies. As Ash, Bruce Campbell has created a splattery pop art icon that is so endeared a story is told of New Line Cinema approaching Raimi and his gang to do a crossover film featuring Ash in a collision with Freddy Kruger and Jason Voorhees. What a travesty that would've been... Why not pit Ash vs. Leatherface for superiority dibs as supreme chainsaw hacker bandido? Hell, let's set it in the old west and have Bruce reprise his classic television persona Briscoe County, Jr. in a dual role? In the finale, Evil Ash comes in kills all three but is captured in the Necronomicon by Ashley Laurence, who has just finished kicking Pinhead's ass for the umpteenth time using the Book of the Dead after that pain-in-the-ass puzzle gets shattered for eternity...
Aside from hearing about Campbell's turmoils on the set as producer, actor and cow dung scraper on the set of The Evil Dead, we get to spend a considerable amount of time with the three women of the movie, who have of late been touring the horror con scene as "The Ladies of The Evil Dead." Consider the fact that Ellen Sandweiss, Betsy Baker and Sarah York (Ms. Tilly if you're nasty), as well as Hal Delrich were forced to contend with sight-impairing contacts (applied by none other than Bruce Campbell himself) for lengthy bouts of time in addition to their heavily-caked demon makeup, and then being run the gamut of physically punishing stunts; it's collectively a legend unto itself.
The actresses describe the abuse they withstood while making The Evil Dead, which might as well serve as a textbook for old school filmmaking. Betsy Baker testifies to the brutal brainings the she took from props allegedly made of styrofoam and losing her own blood and skin on the floor of the cabin during the sequence where Ash drags her character Linda towards the front door. Ellen Sandweiss describes her ordeal in the frigid woods during the notorious tree rape scene, which infuriated England so much they put Sam Raimi on trial for indecency. Sandweiss, who once ducked away from her notoriety as Cheryl (Ash's "fifth wheel" sister), now embraces what she and the cast and crew created with The Evil Dead, as former schoolmate to both Campbell and Raimi and as a widely-embraced scream queen.
It's fun to watch Betsy Baker's joking shriek duels with convention fans, complete with the all-too-familiar taunt "we're gonna get you...we're gonna get you..." as it is even more fun to watch Bruce Campbell hilariously roast himself, his comrades and even the fans at a Q&A session on the DVD. The man is as much of a cut-up as Baker attests when she first met him, Sam Raimi and producer Robert Tapert in a diner for her audition in 1979. To imagine this small band of 20-something filmmakers catapaulting spoons in the air while waiting to conduct a formal interview...is there any wonder why The Evil Dead and its riotous sequels are so savagely nutty? These are the same yabbos who poked and prodded Campbell's smarting ankle because he was trying to laugh through the pain of it all, and they're the same yabbos who hysterically pulverized Campbell's face with buckets of gore. Funny to imagine this being the same director who has done three mainstream yet wildly entertaining Spiderman movies, but also remember that Peter Jackson delivered two of horror's zaniest gore romps, Bad Taste and the cult classic Dead Alive before taking on his momentous Lord of the Rings adaptation.
While the majority of horror aficianados have seen The Evil Dead more times than Rocky Horror enthusiasts used to show up at midnight on the weekends, the really haunting fact is that a small group of go-for-broke-minded individuals pooled their resources and amazingly survived an adverse-laden film shoot, then were forced to wait over two years to see their labors presented to a wider public. These people were taken to their nerve's frayed ends on The Evil Dead so much that it took them months to get over the anger from their experiences, much less speak to one another again. To think that The Evil Dead was initially faced with so much rejection that it took drive-ins and grindhouses to generate the proper interest which ultimately sent it straight to the then-new home video technology. The rest has been history, suffice it to say...
The Evil Dead and also its campy faux redux Evil Dead 2 need no touting of their greatness. Even if you're of the new school where CGI substitutes a lot of the effects ingenuity the old gore classics employed on their wits and science fair experimentalism, you have to at least appreciate where Sam Raimi, his brother Ted and the memorable cast of The Evil Dead were coming from. Yes, it requires the strictest suspension of disbelief (just tell yourself that whomever Ash and his friends rented that hellish cabin from had rigged the electricity and paid the bill regularly so you can move on with the film), and yeah, there's plenty of continuity errors, but who the hell cares? When your plot is to strand a group of friends who uncork a bunch of demons that possesses and mashes them fiercely, so much they're forced to turn on one another in bloody fantastical fashion, that's all the premise you need. You didn't come to this chop 'em up film to seek out the next Howard's End, The Aviator or Atonement. If you did, then you need to get the hell outta Tennessee...
Extreme Dare Weekend Challenge... Piss off your neighbors by cranking this cacophnonous stew... Style points awarded if the cops show up at your door.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Welcome to a new Metal Minute feature, Underappreciated Slabs Saturday! Let's face it, metal fans are the biggest bunch of narcissistic primadonna know-it-alls (yours truly probably being the Rex Reed of metal in that regard) and we'll all fight tooth and nail in defense of our favorite bands and albums as if the point of it all is more important than the actual opinions. You just don't see fans of Britney Spears or Beyonce jawing with spit flinging out of their mouths like mad dogs in defense of album superiority. The music is so plain and everyday there's just no sense in getting riled up over it, particularly when the gossip of those performers' non-musical lives is far more interesting than the corporate slush they create.
In metal and punk, it's a far different story, naturally. Best friends will let the embers burn inside themselves to belittle one another if even the slightest difference of opinion emerges between them. Only in the underground will you hear a fan of Behemoth put down a fan of Judas Priest, never mind both are legends of their particular strain of heavy metal. Even worse are the holier-than-thou (or perhaps blacker-than-thou) who think no one but Darkthrone means squat to the scene. This unforgivable elitism means that a lot of fucking great music is going unheard and that just reduces the quality of life, as far as I'm concerned. I preach it until my ribs hurt that there's great music to be found in multiple corners, even if a particular genre may be insufferable. After all, Jurassic 5 and The Roots are respectable rap acts who haven't fallen under the corporate squash that has turned rap into a cash cow. That's just one example of many, because we live in a musically evolved society, one that cultivates something for all tastes, and if we're to say we've lived well as music lovers, then we should openly embrace, or at least keep an open channel to all that's out there.
In the quest for supremist point taking in metal and punk, I've seen a lot of damned good albums fall through the cracks in light of common adverse opinion or a simple lack of exposure. Often a good band's catalog is so large and eclectic only the most successful stand out, while others tend to go unnoticed and most especially underappreciated, which is the purpose of this function. While this feature to The Metal Minute is just as subjective and opinionated as hanging out in a record store with John Cusack and Jack Black arguing the merits of The Minutemen, Avail, Possessed or Fates Warning to pointless end, I nonetheless feel compelled to share. Perhaps you'll find worth in these selections I'll bring out in this section, so much you too will find the same secretive joy that'll make you feel like you're more in the know than your fellow headbangers--or, you might say 'That Van Horn's a real dweeb!' No worries; the praise or the scorn is not my objective...it's the music that's important here and if I can turn you on to something you might've missed out on, then that's job satisfaction to me.
With that being said, let's get it on with a Megadeth selection I believe could use a little more respect, The System Has Failed...
Honestly, Dave Mustaine has really benefited from the metal revival as much as anyone, if not more so. Even though he's lost his core pal David Ellefson and even to this day there's been personnel changes galore in Megadeth, no one's going to crap on Mustaine because at last the truth has come out--regardless of your preference for the two bands--which is Megadeth has proven to be the more metal band between itself and Mustaine's long-time rivals Metallica. Megadeth may never lurk in the Grand Poobah tier of famous rock bands as Metallica has achieved by appealing to a wider demographic over the years, but there's no denying that Mustaine has stayed truer to the metal cause, even though many were worried where he was going on the appropriately-titled Risk album.
By the time The System Has Failed came out in 2004, Dave Mustaine had reportedly given up on music, even having auctioned off a large chunk of his guitar artillery. With a short layoff and devoid of the focused bass rhythm of David Ellefson, who many (correctly) cite as having the talent equal to Mustaine to sustain Megadeth over the years, the odds for an effective comeback was decidedly against Mustaine. 2001's The World Needs a Hero is a pretty solid album that at least told the metal world that Mustaine still had his heart in the right place, but neverthless, old-time Megadeth fans were slowly trickling away, convinced that they'd never hear anything of progressive magnificence such as Megadeth's thrash opus Rust in Peace or at least their rocksteady and infectious Cryptic Writings.
Who in their right mind could've predicted that The System Has Failed would not only be as terrific as it turned out, but also feature the mentality of both Rust and Cryptic Writings? As most fans had come to expect a guessing game with each new Megadeth album (though most of us are finally coming to terms with Youthanasia, another underappreciated slab), Dave Mustaine delivered the goods in 2004, and how...
Hearing the thrash breakaway in the final stanza of "Truth Be Told" alone is enough to put the pride back into your chest if you wore Vic Rattlehead on your denim-clad back (as I did once), but even before that, Dave Mustaine, with a set of floater musicians (including his early years shotgun rider Chris Poland) puts together a stamping crush ode "Blackmail the Universe" that is simply jacked up and by this point, The System Has Failed is established upon contact, complete with the political sarcasm of the lyrics and on the album's cover with our boy Vic sentencing Emperor W and Washington bureaucrats to exile for flushing the government down the toilet. It might as well have been 1986 all over again...
Depending on who you ask, some people trip on the album's first single "Die Dead Enough," while some scoff at it for being melodic and indicative of Megadeth's mid-nineties work. My stance is that Dave Mustaine found a proper vehicle with which to propel that sound and "Die Dead Enough" is a wonderfully addictive song with a thumping beat, a heavy coating on top, and a beautifully forlorn chorus that speaks of frustration and regret in a way I personally jive with. No, I can't kick high enough and I can't stay down enough, nor can I bleed fast enough, and yeah, I want to run from it all just like Mustaine's muse, but in turn, I keep fighting like we all must, and that's the point of the song, finding your nerve to carry on against adversity.
"Kick the Chair" is another one of The System Has Failed's standout tracks, complete with mosh tempos, brutal double kicks, massive riffing and terrific guitar solos that makes it one of Megadeth's most titanic songs of the past ten years. Afterwards, the songs that most people forget to address are of equal worth, such as the menacing melody of "The Scorpion," that is luxuriated with synths put to noble use, a harrowing clock tick and soundbytes of news bits that collectively ushers us to a hypothetical holocaust the more we ignore the scorpion swiping at our obtuse heels, as Mustaine warns.
"Back in the Day" is a shout-out to the old school that sustained Megadeth in the eighties and Mustaine's choice to use a familiar metal/punk tempo for the verses is slick enough, but then he stylishly switches the pace to a Manowar and Saxon-like power metal groove to give us a varied and harmonious into glory ride soar that is a loud and proud look back at the glory days for all of us.
While "Something That I'm Not" comes off like a Zeppelin cut with its Page-esque riff, Dave Mustaine keeps this thing humming with a rock-minded focus that makes the best of its core melody and never loses stride. While he's in a classic metal mind, keep a close ear out for a sneaky spot ode to Sabbath in a cleverly-disguised note sweep from the song "Black Sabbath" on "The Scorpion."
The thing with The System Has Failed that almost everyone fails to notice is that Dave Mustaine finally publicly beat his old bandmates with this album in comparison to Metallica's universally-rejected St. Anger released the same year. As I've historically pulled for Mustaine and Megadeth over the years in comparison to Metallica, there's not too many out there you can convince of Megadeth's superiority. At least on this album, Mustaine demolishes Metallica and though the feud appears well over (if you've watched Metallica's Some Kind of Monster), there's no denying Mustaine has found a reversal of fortune in street cred against Metallica. Megadeth's latest album United Abominations has been a large success and perhaps Mustaine now commands the respect elusive to him over the years with his return to the scene, as well as his well-attended Gigantour festivals the past couple years.
Nevertheless, I'm not feeling as much love for The System Has Failed from people as it deserves. In my opinion, it actually supersedes United Abominations, though the latter album was recorded with a regular Megadeth lineup instead of the unique way The System Has Failed was executed. Regardless, System is one hell of an album, and most certainly one of 2004's biggest surprises. Let the truth be told...
Friday, January 18, 2008
Last seen together publicly at a benefit gig August 17, 2006 in honor of Max Cavalera's slain stepson, Dana "D-Low" Wells while performing a cover of Bad Brains' "Attitude," the Cavalera brothers, Max and Igor have taken the next step outside of their original Sepultura homebase to form Cavalera Conspiracy. Their debut album Inflikted will be released by Roadrunner on March 25th.
The brothers will be joined by ace guitarist and Soulfly regular Marc Rizzo as well as Joe Duplantier on bass.
Max comments, "Cavalera Conspiracy is about a sense of being unleashed. You bottle a monster for 10 years and then let it out. It’s explosive, and we waited a long time for this beast to be set free. There was over 10 years of not seeing or talking to each other at all, which is a long ass time. That’s what made it more special when it did finally happen."
Commenting on the now-historic gig in Tempe, Arizona that brought the Cavaleras together again, Igor adds, "Once we hit the first note, it felt like a bomb had dropped on stage. From that moment on, I knew we needed to do something together musically.”
Former Machine Head guitarist Logan Mader and Lucas Banker of the Dirty Icon production team handled the recording duties of Inflikted. Pantera and Down bassist Rex Brown cameos on the song "Ultra-Violent," while Incite's Richie Cavalera joins the gang vocally on "Black Ark."
Here's the track listing for Inflikted:
The Doom Of All Fires
Hearts Of Darkness
All you Whiffleheads and Betties strap it on and get on the floor... The Metal Minute goes psychobilly today....
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Indian - Slights and Abuse / The Sycophant
2008 Seventh Rule Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Mark my words; Chicago's Indian is destined to become one of America's future cult legends. Theirs is the sound of brute ugliness in a barely controlled low-tuned chaos scheme that is punishing and impudent in one sense, elevated soulful in another. While technically considered a doom band, Indian contains within their disorderly metal strikes a possessed command of rapid, circling tempos and pinpointed note crunches. Additionally, they generate a subliminal ghostly reverie beneath the mathematic beat structures, hungry note bites and Dylan O'Toole's out of control yelping that's oddly reminiscent of Brian Johnson and Tom Kiefer. Shudder to think upon Cinderella going doom; we'd then have "Don't Know What You've Got Til It's Simpering On Its Knees and Begging For Death."
All punning aside, this disc collects two of Indian's vinyl releases Slights and Abuse and Sycophant, and at times Indian plays with the energy and bombast of Remission-era Mastodon (such as "Second Death" or "Cursed Reform" from Slights and Abuse) along with doom plods ala Electric Wizard ("Fatal Lack" from Slights and Abuse as a good example). The difference between both albums is slightly striking as the songs on The Sycophant are grounded with the same inspirations, but also with a slightly stripped feel and a concentration on repetitious menacing grooves as on "Pigs In Your Open Wound" and "Lust."
Sycophant is also more experimental with dabblings in electronic squibs and coldwave tweaks amidst the tonal crushes Indian expels, perhaps reminiscent of Botch and mid-term Isis. Be it the haunted key compositions of "Allotriophagy" or the Boris-like note stretches on the lumbering "Gloat," Sycophant is the more artistic of the two albums, while Slights and Abuse is the heavier and more driven album.
In either fashion which Indian chooses to create their loud and nearly holistic art, this will be a name to contend with, and not because they may or may not draw the ire of AIM. There's nothing sacrimonious or condescending about this Indian; if anything, they present a blaring and angry vehicle to give a metallic, protesting voice against the continued genocide of a race that rooted and cultivated these lands generations before the Anglo occupation.
After the Ceiling Cracked DVD coming your way January 20th....
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Napalm Records issues the following announcement and comments about the addition of legendary drummer Nick Barker to Leaves' Eyes and Atrocity:
"The news is official: The new drummer of ATROCITY and LEAVES' EYES is Nick Barker, who was the former drummer of CRADLE OF FILTH, DIMMU BORGIR and TESTAMENT. Says ATROCITY/LEAVES EYES vocalist/producer Alex Krull, "It's with great pleasure that we can announce Nick Barker is joining the ATROCITY & LEAVES' EYES family! We always were great fans of his way of drumming, and we are happy that we will kick some ass in the future together! Nick was our No.1 choice! When we heard he would join us, we invited him right away!"
Here's a first statement from Nick Barker about joining the two bands:
Nick, how long do you know Alex and the guys of ATROCITY and LEAVES' EYES? "I've known Atrocity for many years, I think the first time we met was on the Deicide/Atrocity tour in 1992 when I was the drum tech for support band Cancer, and since that time we've always ran into each other on the European summer festival circuit during the years that followed. Whenever I would play in the Stuttgart area with any of my previous bands, some of the guys would always be there and show their support."
How did it come about that you joined the two bands now? "Alex (Krull) approached me at the Metal Hammer award ceremony in London last June (2007) and said that he was looking for a drummer that could handle the complexity and savagery of Atrocity as well as the softer, more groove-laden beauty of Leaves' Eyes, and he thought I could be the right man to do both jobs. I had some prior commitments and obligations to fulfil at that time, but we spoke over the Christmas period and arranged for me to come to Stuttgart and audition; everything was fantastic both musically and from a social and personal aspect."
How do you like the music of both bands? They are quite different from each other. "I absolutely love the diversity of both bands. With Atrocity, you have such brutal songs from the Atlantis album such as 'Reich Of Phenomena,' 'Apocaplyse' and 'Clash Of Titans,' which I can't wait to play live and sink my teeth into. Then, on the other hand, you have Leaves' Eyes, which for me is something very new and very exciting as a drummer coming from a mainly black/death metal background. Liv has the most beautiful voice in the whole world within this genre, and the music is very moving, beautifully crafted and almost spiritual."
You just jammed the first time with the guys at Mastersound Studio. How was it? What are your impressions? "When I first arrived at Mastersound Studios, my first impression was 'WOW!!!' I had no idea of the sheer scale of dedication, time, money and professionalism that had been invested into the studio itself. Over the years, I have been in many first-class recording studios myself, but I have to say, Mastersound is a cut above the rest.The whole band were extremely friendly and there was an overwhelming sense of 'family' among them all, which made me feel very relaxed and at ease almost immediately. We jammed some classic songs by Metallica, Slayer and Morbid Angel to warm up before concentrating on the more serious matters of Leaves' Eyes and Atrocity, and like I said earlier, everything was fantastic, both musically and socially."
What are you going to do next with the two bands? "Next up is a video shoot with Atrocity in Berlin next month for the Werk 80 II album, and then in March, Leaves' Eyes will play in Mexico City. April we will be working our asses off writing songs for the new Leaves' Eyes record in the brand new, relocated Mastersound studios. In May, Leaves' Eyes and Atrocity will tour Asia (China, Taiwan, etc) for the first time ever. Upon our return from the Orient, we will continue to work hard on the new record, which is planned for an Autumn 2008 release."
Photo by Stephanie Shoulders
SoCal ambient metal favorites Intronaut have inked a deal with Century Media Records following their previous one shot EP The Challenger for Translation Loss Recordings and a successful European tour with The Ocean this past fall. Having previously released their 2006 recordings Null and Void with Goodfellow Records, the signing to Century Media offers Intronaut a chance to reach a broader audience as their sound evolves with deeper intricacy in Isis-like fashion.
After The Challenger was released, Intronaut guitarist Leon Del Muerte departed the band and has since been replaced by longtime friend Dave Timnick. Sacha Dunable (vocals/guitars) states: “There is a level of chemistry that we’ve never had before now with our new guitar player Dave in the band. The new ideas that are flowing out of us are totally destroying everything we’ve done prior to this, and we can’t wait to hear what will come of it.”
Intronaut will also be playing a small short run of gigs as they prepare to deliver their first album for Century Media. Dates as follows:
1/20 Los Angeles, CA - Relax Bar w/Book Of Black Earth, The Funeral Pyre
2/8 Mesa, AZ - Hollywood Alley w/ Zoroaster, Sourvein, Landmine Marathon
2/10 Oklahoma City, OK - The Conservatory w/Destroyer Destroyer
2/11 Tulsa, OK - The Monolith w/Destroyer Destroyer
2/12 Memphis, TN - Black Lodge Microdrome
2/13 Dayton, OH - Jimmy’s Cornerstone Tavern w/Mouth Of The Architect
INTRONAUT W/High On Fire, A Life Once Lost, Saviours
2/14 Pittsburgh, PA - Diesel
2/15 Columbus, OH - Ravari Room
2/16 Louisville, KY - Uncle Peasants
2/17 St. Louis, MO - 2 Cents Plain
2/18 Iowa City, IA - The Picador
2/19 Lawrence, KS - Bottleneck
2/20 Denver, CO - Bluebird
2/22 Sacramento, CA - The Blue Lamp
2/23 Oakland, CA - Uptown
Once again it comes around to Wednesday. Not much of a preamble this week, especially after the pointless bitchery last week, heh. This week is pretty much survival mode; get up, work the hours, pay the bills, pray there's enough food and money to get through the month. I will add that as cold as it's been, I think about the homeless, especially the ones in Baltimore City I used to take coffee to when I worked downtown. With a shaky heating unit that's going to have to be replaced soon with no way of paying for it yet, then I think upon the homeless out there in the direct freeze and I pray for their salvation or at least a warm spot to crash and food in their stomachs.
So with that, this week's playlist is probably as smashed-up long as last week, though honestly the past couple days have been something of a haze from a fast-paced week and no energy evenings. I was riding Kiss through the end of last week and blasting through many discs over the weekend to wrap up my column for AMP magazine (even with the playoffs and lots of house projects to contend with as well) but it's been likewise so busy since that the tunes are secondary noise, save for when I'm on the road and either gearing up or settling down from the day. If there's any front-runner for the week, it's probably Rock and Roll Over as I rediscover what it was about Kiss that made me love them with all my heart so long ago. Wish that it was 1977 right about now...
Kiss - Rock and Roll Over
Kiss - Dressed to Kill
Kiss - Hotter Than Hell
Kiss - Destroyer
Kiss - Dynasty
Fight Amp - Hungry For Nothing
Matadors - Flame the Whisper
Intronaut - The Challenger EP
Warbringer - War Without End
Electric Wizard - Witchcult Today
The Knack - Get the Knack
The Orb - Toxygene EP
KMFDM - Tohuvabahu
Isole - Bliss of Solitude
Loom Angler - S/T
3 - The End Is Begun
Monster Magnet - 4-Way Diablo
The Ocean - Precambrian
Irepress - Samus Octology
Madness - Madness
Nashville Pussy - Let Them Eat Pussy
The Turtles - 20 Greatest Hits
Between the Buried and Me - The Silent Circus
Gang Green - Can't LIVE Without It
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Megadeth architect Dave Mustaine announces that this year's Gigantour will be scaled from eight bands down to five on the North American leg, which includes In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job For a Cowboy, High On Fire and Megadeth as the headliners. The tour will run from April 12th through May 22nd.
Dave Mustaine also recently announced the addition of former Jag Panzer and Nevermore guitarist Chris Broderick to Megadeth's lineup after Glen Drover departed the band in November. Mustaine comments, "I’ve noticed [on the Internet] that people are pissed with me over the way things were handled with Glen quitting the group, but they’re gonna be pissed even more when they hear how fierce we are with Chris! Megadeth is playing at a new level." Broderick's first live date with Megadeth will be February 4th in Finland.
Here's a full Megadeth tour itinerary:
Mon 2/4 Helsinki, FIN Old Ice Hall
Wed 2/6 Stockholm, SWE Arena
Thu 2/7 Oslo, NOR Sentrum Scene
Fri 2/8 Copenhagen, DEN KB Halle
Sun 2/10 Berlin, GER Columbiahalle
Mon 2/11 Dortmund, GER Westfallenhalle
Wed 2/13 Luxembourg City, LUX Den Atelier
Thu 2/14 Amsterdam, HOL Paradiso
Fri 2/15 Antwerp, BEL Hof Ter Lo
GIGANTOUR UK - Megadeth, Job For a Cowboy, Evile
Sun 2/17 Norwich, UK UEA
Mon 2/18 Nottingham, UK Rock City
Tue 2/19 Glasgow, Scotland Academy
Wed 2/20 Newcastle, UK Academy
Fri 2/22 Birmingham, UK Academy
Sat 2/23 Manchester, UK Academy
Sun 2/24 London, UK Brixton Academy
Tue 2/26 Paris, FRA Elysee Montmartre
Thu 2/28 Barcelona, SPA Razzmatazz
Fri 2/29 Madrid, SPA Macumba
Sat 3/1 Bilbao, SPA Santana 27
Mon 3/3 Zurich, SWI Rohstofflager
Tue 3/4 Milan, ITA Alcatraz
Wed 3/5 Pordenone, ITA Palasport
Fri 3/7 Zlin, CZE Zimni Stadion (Metalmania 2008)
Sat 3/8 Katowice, POL Spodek (Metalmania 2008)
Mon 3/10 Munich, GER Zenith
Tue 3/11 Frankfurt, GER Hugenottenhalle
Fri 3/14 Bangalore, IND Rock In India Festival
GIGANTOUR - Megadeth, In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job For a Cowboy, High on Fire
Sat 4/12 Denver, CO The Fillmore
Sun 4/13 Albuquerque, NM Journal Pavilion
Tue 4/15 Dallas, TX Nokia Theatre
Wed 4/16 Corpus Christi, TX Concrete Street Pavilion
Thu 4/17 Houston, TX Verizon Wireless Theatre
Sat 4/19 Louisville, KY Louisville Gardens
Sun 4/20 Atlanta, GA Tabernacle
Tue 4/22 New York, NY Hammerstein Ballroom
Thu 4/24 Worcester, MA Palladium
Sat 4/26 Baltimore, MD Merriweather Post Pavilion
Mon 4/28 Quebec City, QC Pavilion De La Jeunesse
Tue 4/29 Montreal, QC Bell Centre
Wed 4/30 Toronto, ON Arrow Hall
Thu 5/1 London, ON John Labatt Centre
Sat 5/3 Detroit, MI DTE Music Center
Sun 5/4 Cleveland, OH Time Warner Cable Amphitheater
Tue 5/6 Chicago, IL Aragon
Wed 5/7 Milwaukee, WI Eagles Ballroom
Fri 5/9 Minneapolis, MN Myth
Sat 5/10 Winnipeg, MB Convention Center
Sun 5/11 Saskatoon, SK Prairieland Exhibition Hall
Mon 5/12 Edmonton, AB Shaw Conference Center
Wed 5/14 Calgary, AB The Corral
Fri 5/16 Vancouver, BC Pacific Coliseum
Sat 5/17 Salem, OR Salem Armory
Mon 5/19 San Jose, CA Event Center @ San Jose State
Tue 5/20 San Diego, CA Cox Arena
Wed 5/21 Los Angeles, CA Long Beach Arena
Thu 5/22 Phoenix, AZ Mesa Amphitheatre
Monday, January 14, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream
2007 Starz Home Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Perhaps there's one in your local town, but like drive-in theaters, the midnight movie playhouse is practically extinct. From the late sixties through the eighties, a cult phenomenon known as "midnight movies" tollboothed select theaters throughout the United States. Perhaps yours showed A Clockwork Orange or Last House On the Left or Easy Rider or even Blue Velvet. Maybe you had Monty Python and the Holy Grail or the original The Hills Have Eyes. At one point or another, you most assuredly had The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the Grand Poobah of midnight films.
In suburb Baltimore, Rocky Horror played relentlessly every Friday and Saturday at the now-demolished Golden Ring Mall from the seventies until its demise about a decade ago, and during my college years at Towson University, a brief revival of the Rocky Horror midnight practice began at a newfangled cineplex in the nineties. The tour was brief, however, considering the angst of the employees who got the shits of cleaning the theatre of popcorn and toilet paper flotsam along with reported bodily fluids slung on the floor. Most assuredly, part of the campus gossip was who scored with whom at Rocky Horror over the weekend. At least in Baltimore (the whereabouts of renowned midnight marauder John Waters), Rocky Horror has time warped on outta here along with the tradition of the midnight feature.
Considering we live in a 24-7 American society, it's odd that the midnight movie hasn't caught back on at-large, though in independent filmhouses and off-the-beaten-path screens, you can still check in at the wee hours of the night to catch a flick if you're an insomniac bored with your cable t.v. The thing is, the midnight movie in essence was a social hub; the more our computerized world conveniently allows us to stay at home, so too does it strip down our propensity to gather amongst ourselves, and not just in the caves of our neighbors' basements.
Midnight Movies: From the the Margin to the Mainstream is an in-depth glance at a bold topic: geek cinema born from avant garde (and sometimes twisted) minds presented for discrminating tastes who'd soon gag on the same dog shit as Divine in Pink Flamingos than stomach commonly-embraced chick flicks that copy the same formula as When Harry Met Sally. The midnight movie gave birth to the David Lynches, the Quentin Tarantinos and even the Eli Roths of the future generation of filmmaking. In this DVD documentary, six films spanning the era of the midnight movie are examined: El Topo, Night of the Living Dead, Pink Flamingos, The Harder They Come, Rocky Horror Picture Show and Eraserhead, all low budget movies built of no design other than to express the visions of their creators, and all movies that have enjoyed rabid cult audiences of their time and even still today.
These gonzo films are widely considered cutting edge, visionary, radical, even exploitive by some, but the common thread is that they were each rescued from certain death at the pens of the critics that loathed them and the ordinary walkaday society that ignored them by finding new life amidst the vampires and night owls prowling theaters in search of that something different.
Be it a zombie apocalypse, a western showdown against amputees with more splatter than The Wild Bunch or tranvestites gone wild, these subculture films are not for all tastes, which is why they found safe haven outside of the normal prime time lifestyle schism. As metalheads and punk rockers have to seek out places that cater to their specialized needs and desires, so too did film heads have to work a little extra hard to satiate their cravings for non-commercial dweeb reels. To strap on Magneta and Dr. Frank-N-Furter gear (with many suddenly liberated gay and crossdressing men having full license to parade without persecution) is in its own way similar to strapping on the studs and denim when going to a metal show. Rocky Horror was intended to be a sex-laced rock musical with a roasting of classic terror lore, but instead it was hijacked by an obsessed legion of vamps and tramps catwalking the after-hours scene.
This DVD paints a broader picture behind these movies, such as the Vietnam era that Night of the Living Dead was filmed in and testifed by George A. Romero as being an intentionally ugly rendition of the turbulent sixties, released in the aftermath of the assassinations of the Kennedys, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. The Harder They Come at face value appears to be a Grade B Shaft set in Jamaica, yet it was the first actual film to come out of that country and its cross-culturalism ushered in the reign of Bob Marley in the west, along with an entrenched appreciation of reggae culture--for better or worse.
Midnight Movies: From the the Margin to the Mainstream features commentaries from the directors who engineered these cult legends: George A. Romero, David Lynch, John Waters, Richard O'Brien and Alejandro Jodorowsky. Just hearing Romero use the word "fuck" is worth every cent, but it's also fascinating to hear John Waters (who has enjoyed mainstream success with two filmed versions of Hairspray and a runaway Broadway adaptation amongst his many credentials) talk about traveling to New York to catch films that never made it to Baltimore. As a Baltimore native, I can testify that outside of The Charles and Bengies Drive-In, very little connection to the old filmgoing ways exist (which is likely the story of everyone's city) and still to this day the independent film struggles to catch on around here, though it was one of the few areas where Hatchet ran due to overwhelming demand by local horror fans.
The midnight movies were intended to play through the murk of a mary jane haze, which this documentary astutely recognizes as having stemmed from the 1937 propaganda film Reefer Madness, which should be considered the godfather of cult movies, along with its 1932 predecessor Freaks, still today one of the ultimate mondo films. As Midnight Movies: From the the Margin to the Mainstream touches on the mutant climates presented in El Topo, Pink Flamingos and Eraserhead, other movies come to mind, such as the savage Basket Case movies, for example. All birthed from the midnight movie scene along with the chop sockeys and the "art" films brewed for the coffeehouse literati.
The point to all of this is that mankind at heart is susceptible to its own curiosities, which most people try to hide in the pointless effort to maintain appearances. Whether we openly embrace it or not, we're all in awe of what lies behind the tent flap the barking carny huckster is trying to usher us into. We're fascinated to compulsion with weird behavior, outlandish stunts and most of all, sex. If society didn't deem porno houses as domiciles of the depraved, there'd be as many tickets sold as a Star Wars film. While the porn industry is its own beast of a subculture, the midnight movie was (for the most part) a gathering of the castaways and the societal dregs, a place to escape the diatribes and norms that said you needed to be in bed fast asleep when the VHF channels signed off at 1:00 a.m., all in a pre-cable, pre-home video, pre-surround sound, pre-hi-def world. We cue up our catered selections using on-demand services or we simply buy the product to consume to our heart's content, to be discussed amongst ourselves a day or two afterwards in our cubicles. Now you tell me; what's the better way, ducking popcorn showers or falling asleep on the sofa with microwaved Orville Redenbacker spilled in your lap at 2:00 a.m.?