Howdy-do, faithful lot... Hope the week is being kind to you. Typical end-of-month frustration this week, but that's to be expected in the mortgage business.
This past weekend I was down at the ocean and though the only time I had a chance to drift away by myself and sort out my always jumbled thoughts was for a long stroll at the tide on Saturday morning (where a school of dolphins jumped out near the tide's rolls, easily the closest view I've had yet), I still managed to do a slight bit of sorting out. Some adjustments to my life and schedule will be forthcoming as soon as I can stop having to react to immediate pressures that's holding me up, and luckily that's a foreseeable prospect.
Over the weekend I had a chance to spend time with multiple people down at the beach, but I had the most fun in the company of an old friend of my wife's who I finally got to sit down and know a little bit after hearing her name for over a decade. Turns out she's a small bit of a metalhead herself, point in her favor. Let's just say Saturday night was one of the craziest I've had in a bit and though I'm no lush or regular drunk, what I put down that night borders on ridiculous. A lot of laughter, a couple of spilled beers and though I was woken up without mercy a few hours after getting back to the hotel, I pushed and crawled myself back on sleep deprivation and the trails of a hangover that fortunately never came.
Sometimes you need to be a bit of an idiot in order to preserve your sanity, so long as you're not being a douchebag in the process. Luckily I was just a bit klutzy and very goofy instead of brawling it out like the pair of jerks were doing outside the bar. I sometimes wonder what the whole point is in going out to drink socially if you're going to maul someone else in the process. Oh well, guess one can't alter centuries of ingrained human behavior.
Lots of music spinning in my various rooms and the only television I've managed to watch outside of The Perfect Storm (appropriate after returning from the beach and wanting to wrap myself in a cocoon the rest of the day) is the Stanley Cup playoffs. I also had a very enlightening phone conversation the other day with someone I've interviewed already and I feel as if the decisions I'm about to make in my part-time life are validated. It's nice to speak to established musicians as regular joes with no agenda; it's a reminder that they're people like everyone else, despite the sometimes larger-than-life stature being or having been in a well-known band tends to carry.
This week I've been spinning the new King's X album XV quite a bit. Always reliable, always on-point, never stretching beyond their already formidable capabilities, King's X is like the music friend that's always there, even if they're in the grand scheme of things, a cult rock band. Still, they command serious industry respect and whether you're a fan or not, you have to admire their musical conviction. I've likewise been spinning quite a bit of Crimson Glory on one extreme, the new Ihsahn on another and if that isn't varied enough, how about some electro-pop-surf-twang from the duo known as Electrocute? It's a weird world living in my shoes but ultimately rewarding...
King's X - XV
Ihsahn - Angl
Crimson Glory - S/T
Crimson Glory - Transcendence
Opeth - Ghost Reveries
Cursed - Two
Cursed - Three
Spiritual Beggars - S/T
Scorpions - Love at First Sting
Motley Crue - Theatre of Pain
Korn - Issues
Korn - See You On the Other Side
Faithless - Insominia CD single
Ice Cube - War & Peace Vol. 2 (The Peace Album)
Electrocute - On the Beat EP
MSG - In the Midst of Beauty
Warrel Dane - Praises to the War Machine
Benedictum - Seasons of Tragedy
The Cult - Sonic Temple
36 Crazyfists - The Tide and Its Takers
Mortal Kombat Motion Picture Soundtrack
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Howdy-do, faithful lot... Hope the week is being kind to you. Typical end-of-month frustration this week, but that's to be expected in the mortgage business.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
A large part and parcel of eighties heavy metal was rested on the shoulders of the later-dubbed "Monster Ballad." It got to the point in the decade where every metal band that wanted to not only score but keep themselves on a record label deal had to tap into their Romeo's soul (or pretend it existed) and find a way to charm the ears of the ladies, because after all, women had just as much buying power--if not more--than men.
The Scorpions proved you could write a titanic love song, one that was seductive, romantic, hot and loud in the same breath. Of course I'm talking about 1984's "Still Loving You," to this day the measure to match if you're constructing a heavy metal love ode. Very few, if any ballads that followed "Still Loving You" could match its anticipatory nature and its stringalong foreplay with each verse that pays off with a literal climax as Klaus Meine hits a captivating alto that personifies release and orgasm as he wails the song title in the chorus.
I've mentioned before that when I interviewed Scorpions guitarist Mathias Jabs, the spoke of a time when the band met a family of fans from France who had named their son "Sly" after "Still Loving You." In joking that the Scorpions had their hand in a mid-eighties baby boom, there is a slight truth to the matter in the fact that "Still Loving You" is the ultimate makeout rock song, and its sheer jeans-popping power instigated--for better or worse depending on your point-of-view--a five-to-six year strain of amped up love rock that unfortunately had its role in killing off the first metal scene.
When you stop and recall monster ballads such as Kix's "Don't Close Your Eyes," White Lion's "Wait," Winger's "Headed For a Heartbreak" or Warrant's "Heaven," for the majority of the headbanging devout, this was all way too much to digest. When Def Leppard turned from the gut-wrenching and mostly sincere "Bringin' On the Heartbreak" to the softsoaped "Love Bites" and when Whitesnake drifted a tad bit from the sleazy "Slow 'n Easy" to the love-starved "Is This Love," it was a bit of a shakeup in the metal kingdom and it announced that a bona fide recipe for staying power in a money-driven rock game was in effect.
Nostalgic songs like Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" and Dokken's "In My Dreams" are tunes that get pulled off because they were effective in communicating to both guys and gals in the eighties. Every guy wanted to be the weary road dog on the Crue's tour bus aching and pining for his true love (though probably dipping his wick a few times along the way to ease the pain), while the ladies considered it the penutlimate declaration of devotion. To send her man out on the road on tour is akin to the coastal wives waiting for their fishermen to drift back from sea.
So where is the fine line, or the zen if you will, of a good monster ballad when the majority of it can be dismissed as fluff?
Largely the answer lies in the ear of the beholder, and whether or not it's constituted as good taste is perhaps a mitigating factor, yet there's no denying that a billion girls fell hook, line and sinker for Firehouse's "Love of a Lifetime" while most dudes wretched in response. On the other hand, take a respectable band like Tesla. Because of their integrity and subscription to solid and well-written rock tunes, when they hit you with "Love Song," it comes off as harmonious and memorable and there's plenty of people who can attest to simply snuggling up and letting the airs of romance hit them in this song's presence. In other words, Tesla is a working class bunch of average Joes who once hit it big in the mainstream, but in general they speak volumes through simplicity. It's a bit easier to fall into the swoon schism as a result. Not so easy when a falsetto-driven panty hunter is obviously appealing to one sex over the other.
As life goes on and I meet new people and find out what makes them tick, sure, it's sometimes hard to accept they would rather choose Slaughter's "Up All Night," "Fly to the Angels" and "Spend My Life" over Dokken's bricks-heavy and far superior "Without You." Still, what clicks with some people isn't always the jive for others. I've had to reconcile the fact that a large part of the populace want the basics, something identifiable if not singable. If anything, the monster ballad does provide that. You can scour the memory banks and instantly sing the majority of those tunes in your head because they're tailored that way; at one time they were the formula for success in heavy metal.
Me, I'd rather daydream while listening to Doro Pesch croon sweetly to "Let Love Rain On Me" or "Fur Immer" and I would prefer to wax over Cinderella's surprising philosophical dabbling with "Don't Know What You've Got 'Til It's Gone," and I most certainly would rather cuddle up and maybe play a little grabass to the Scorpions because to my ears, no one ever will get within striking distance of Klaus Meine's bait and trap vocals as well as Rudy Schenker and Mathias Jabs' troubadour solos amidst the raw boom of what I'd consider the true zen of the monster ballad...force and might assisting the almost desperate outcry of affection. How can you beat that?
Monday, April 28, 2008
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Cursed - Three
2008 Goodfellow Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
You know the melody, so sing along if you feel so inclined:
"Don't you wish your 'core band was fierce like me? Don't you wish your 'core band could pierce like me?"
Remember that pinhead ghost chaser in Poltergeist that was tricked into thinking he was tearing his face apart into an oozing, sinewy mess? Picture yourself in that mode after listening to the new Cursed album Three. Seriously, no joke; the hardcore hellions from Canada are back once again and though the band has seen a major overhaul since 2005's blistering Two with only Christian McMaster (guitars) and the howling wolf himself Chris Colohan left in the flock, the new Cursed is slightly more jacked (if you're familiar with this group and can get your head around that prospect) and you'd better hold onto your skin.
As one of the angriest vocalists in metal and hardcore, Colohan swallows a few extra bitter pills in the studio to record the loud-as-fuck Three and when this album really turns on its jets, it'll be hard to sit still. Three is a carpe diem moment seizure of bloodthirsty screaming and bone-splitting aggression that continues to bewilder the listener into wondering if Cursed is a hardcore punk band at heart or a blaring agro tempest.
The elementary answer, Watson, is that Cursed exhibits both in boisterous strides. On scorching songs like "Into the Hive," "Magic Fingers" and "Hegel's Bastards," Cursed comes off like the downtuned hardcore band they've always emulated, but the kicker as usual is that Cursed is far more ferocious than your prototype one-trick-pony Agnostic Front wannabe. Striking some inhuman chords courtesy of Christian McMaster and Dan Dunham's gristly bass, Three is just plain sick, straight up.
Three crashes at breakneck speed on the aforementioned songs, plus "Dead Air at the Pulpit," "Antihero Resuscitator" and the grind-esque "Night Terrors," slowing down in a few increments such as the winding "Unnecessary Person" and the hilariously sarcastic swipe, "Friends in the Music Business."
With an escalated degree of truth, Cursed is hardcore analyzed and reinvented. There's nothing traditional about these guys, there's no plying for scene unity and assuredly Chris Colohan might consider taking a shit in your oatmeal before grabbing the mike and making it his bitch much in the way Casey Chaos does. In both cases, you have a vocalist with no fear and no inhibitions. Fortunately for Colohan, Cursed is up to the task to matching his blaring tirades and in turn Three is a monster album of resculpted hardcore that more fans ought to take note of instead of worrying about adopting to the pseudo unity of contemporary hardcore that has simply borrowed its shtick from Biohazard, Throwdown and Agnostic Front.
Suffice it to say, the punk and metal underground should have no excuse in not joining up with the Cursed brigade. Obviously not to be confused with the Dan Lorenzo (Hades) and Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth (Overkill) side project The Cursed, this hardcore anathema will quite literally peel your face off and apart with each brutally contaminated cut.
Spiritual Beggars - S/T resissue
2008 Regain Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Most people know Mike Amott strictly as one of the twin terror axe slingers for metal juggernauts Arch Enemy, while a lot of people recall Amott's time amongst death metal legends Carcass in the band's waning years. What many probably do not know is that Amott formed a stoner rock (though the tag hadn't been invented at the time) trio in Sweden known as Spiritual Beggars.
The year is 1994. North American audiences had jumped on board the Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden train, leaving behind the heavy metal depots they'd previously crashed at for awhile. As grunge, hip hop and alt rock became an escalating status quo in the confused and disaffected American territories, the reinterpetive birth of a sludge rock underground was under way. Kyuss were considered the acknowledged forerunners already on their third album Welcome to Sky Valley, while Clutch, the ambassador poster children for the downtuned vibe were still putting together their act following two albums including 1994's Passive Restraints. Their seminal Elephant Riders album was still four years coming. Of course, Fu Manchu was just getting started the same year with their bombastic and fuzzy debut No One Rides For Free. Other bands like Acid King, The Obsessed, Orange Goblin and of course The Melvins were likewise turning the apathetic rock underground on its ass by taking what Redd Kross had initiated one step further.
Mike Amott, Ludwig Witt and Spice were apparently keying in to the primarily California-based buzz bombs that would be labeled stoner rock once hazy and sonically-abusive acts like Weedeater and Bongzilla entered the scene. To think of a death metal guitarist literally stepping as far to the left as possible from his core existence is probably preposterous to some, but undoubtedly what Amott and his cohorts in Spiritual Beggars have accomplished on the side over the years is something special. When you take a skilled and proficient technical guitarist then have him strip down and hunt for grooves while displaying only hints of his inherent flash, then you've got something to talk about.
Not that Carcass or Arch Enemy are to be downplayed. Certainly Mike Amott knows where his bread and butter lies, however for his true rocker's soul, it's crystal clear the Spiritual Beggars is his joyful outlet. Re-released for the second time, the self-titled Spiritual Beggars album from 1994 is making its way again through demand and back orders from newly-ordained Arch Enemy fans as well as the sludge underground seeking out one of the real artifact gems of the style.
With no doubt, Amott and his brothers in distortion dial in and amp up on Spiritual Beggars. Though the band would later add keyboardist Per Wilberg, the base element to their sound is a Blue Cheer (and occasionally Hendrix)-driven rockfest filled with mega riffs, bluesy note yanks and a psychedelic boom that, in retrospect, can be given its fair share of credit with Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Clutch as a pioneer in the evolution of stoner rock.
In some ways Spiritual Beggars are a shade more talented, largely due to Mike Amott's pedigree. Undoubtedly his death metal extractions taught him how to dance all over a fretboard, and on Spiritual Beggars he naturally reveals his expertise. The difference maker, however, is Amott's discipline to completely dispel with all theories of conceptual metal and let rock instinct be his guide.
That's the biggest compliment one can pay Spiritual Beggars, the fact that it just rocks. Never once does this album fail to bounce atop its banging grooves and massive fills, pinpointing "Yearly Dying," "Pelekas," "The Space Between" and "Under Silence," the latter song giving early hint to what Clutch would ultimately develop into "The Soapmakers" on The Elephant Riders. Even the slower-paced nine-minute "Magnificent Obsession" keeps on top of its game courtesy of Amott's swoony, translucent and note-happy guitar work.
As before, this second reissue of Spiritual Beggars boasts four bonus tracks and by no means are they filler. "Blind Mountain" chugs and blares like a lost Leslie West cut while "Nowhere to Go" and "Sour Stains" stomp along at mid-tempo with some huge riffing and psychedelic soloing.
If sludge and stoner is your bag and Spiritual Beggars isn't already on your shelf, consider this one mandatory. If you're coming to this album expecting another "We Will Rise," then, well...
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Greetings, all... Hope your week is moving along to your favor. A lightened posting schedule certainly doesn't stop the avalanche of things from pouring down; in fact, it seems my personal being is in more demand becuase of it, but really, when you stop and think about it, we're put on this earth to serve a purpose and serve others, so you just try to think of it in those terms and try not to grunt and grumble along the way. The opposite would be less preferable, I'm sure.
The Stanley Cup is well under way and the first round just ended last night. Since my wife incessantly watches what I refer to as "crap t.v." as in these confounded reality shows, I jokingly told her I lost respect for her when I found her watching Tela Tequila (or however you spell it) after she complained there was a second run of A Shot of Love. Let her and this sadly lost generation of "reality" junkies be suckered like the zombies they are. Me, I decided to give myself some hockey time. As I used to be a game analyst for an online hockey site, I've been occasionally bummed that I missed the majority of the NHL season with all of my obligations and pursuits, but if I can sneak in some ice time (and it doesn't seem like ol' wifey's gonna cave on those awful shows), that'll be to the good.
As I step back a little on things to regroup and refocus, I'm trying to drag out more items from the shelf just to freshen up my ears with familiar tunes and reconnect with the music fan that birthed the part-time music journalist. I mean, let's face it; after awhile, crunching out review and review does take its toll. After reviewing a Doors DVD over the weekend, I went straight for the first Doors album, which I found had a stabilizing effect on me musically, but it also gave me inspiration for a new piece I hope to fine-tune for whenever I make it out to open mike next. Jim Morrison may have been a prince of darkness, but his gift with words is undeniable and he is quite inspirational upon my work from time-to-time.
So let's rock 'em, flock...
The Doors - S/T
Six Feet Under soundtrack
Guns 'n Roses - Appetite For Destruction
Opeth - Damnation
Opeth - Ghost Reveries
Spiritual Beggars - S/T
Depeche Mode - Ultra
Depeche Mode - Exciter
Dead Man - Euphoria
Blue Skies For Black Hearts - Serenades and Hand Grenades
Experience.Hold - S/T
Ted Nugent - Sweden Rocks
Overkill - Immortalis
Century - Black Ocean
Volbeat - Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil
Today is the Day - Supernova
Patsy Cline - Anytime
Cursed - Three
Monday, April 21, 2008
Brassai - "Lovers in a Cafe, Paris, c. 1932"
I've come to the realization that one person can't do everything and try to live a balanced life when it is routinely presented with new challenges. In the interest of catching up my existing obligations and preparing for a specific new opportunity, I have decided to scale back my posting frequency here at The Metal Minute.
Yesterday we went and saw an exhibit on photography from 1900-1960 at the Baltimore Museum of Art and it made me realize in some strange fashion that in order to achieve the things I need to accomplish as well as those I desire to accomplish, I need to employ some simplification in order to give proper attention in a more widespread manner.
Sometimes pride throws one into such a rut in other avenues of life where other things are unintentionally put on the back burner. Having an existing plate overflowed with responsibility and an overambitious spirit can not only create an insurmountable backlog, it can eventually trigger a feeling of desperation when the clock is your enemy and you measure your worth according to the rapid ticks of time.
That being said, I've been proud to keep a daily schedule to The Metal Minute but sometimes you have to recognize and re-evaluate in order to preserve your sanity. Thus, a little less frequency here at The Metal Minute, but please continue to check in as you can expect the same order of business with reviews, interviews and such. As always, I thank you for your continued support and extend my gratitude for your patience to those of you on my regular reading block.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Korn - Live at Montreaux 2004
2008 Eagle Eye Media
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
In case you're unfamiliar with it, the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland has been an annual event since 1967. Originally the festival was stabled on the shores of Lake Geneva in a casino that has long since burned down. In its early years, the festival lasted three days, but now as one of the premiere music gatherings in the entire world, the Montreaux festival, held every July, lasts up to two weeks. Back in the day, Montreaux was strictly a showcase for jazz, however over time, Montreaux has broadened its horizons so much that heavy rock bands such as Deep Purple, Canned Heat, Yes, Jethro Tull and Alice Cooper have played the festival along with Carlos Santana, Marvin Gaye, Bo Diddley, Dizzy Gillespie, Eric Clapton, BB King, James Brown, Charles Mingus, Van Morrison, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash and a wide-berthed mix of genre artists. For you trivia buffs, the burning of the original casino at Montreaux is the inspiration to Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" as the Purples were scheduled to play the evening it torched.
Suffice it to say, the Montreaux festival is of such elite standing to think of say, the Dead Kennedys or Napalm Death playing (despite the broadened vision of festival wrangler Claude Nobs) is unfathomable. Still, did anyone ever really expect to see a blaring crunch chord band like Korn on this bill? Perhaps the festival hasn't recovered yet from the belligerent smash-up the Bakersfield bangers left in their wake after literally ravaging Montreaux with a mega-sized crowd that not only pogoed inside Stravinski Auditorium for 75 minutes but also assisted in Korn's lewd larceny with perhaps a record for more F-bombs in one set than the festival has ever seen.
Certainly the addition of Korn to such an esteemed music celebration was probably looked down upon as lowbrow from the festival's more posh attendees, and make no bones about these guys; they're not about to downplay or censor themselves in the interest of good taste. Korn do what they do, they do it loudly and they do it with spiteful tongues and measures. At least they bring the noise and they put on an energetic crowd-pleasing show.
If you're still scratching your head wondering why Korn of all bands was recruited to play the prestigious Montreaux Jazz Festival, perhaps it's the madcap slap funk of Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu's five string bass or even the fact that James "Munky" Shaffer can put on a few demonstrations of guitar ingenuity, particularly with his wah-tube bullroaring distortion on "Dead Bodies Everywhere." For what some listeners view as a one-trick-pony script, Korn does manage to dazzle beneath the tonal blats of mayhem they're most noted for.
Korn: Live at Montreaux 2004 is a surprise at face value, but by all means does Korn live the moment and as they get their venue-packed audience to scream "fuck that shit!" in tandem during the finale "Y'all Want a Single," you will have realized that Korn has managed to touch so many lives as one of the instigators to the metal revival, and those primarily disaffected lives literally find release with what Korn expunges through their detonative music.
Featuring one of their last performances as a quintet before Brian "Head" Welch departed to seek religion, Korn: Live at Montreaux 2004 becomes an immediate artifact since Munky has been handling all of the guitar duties since. Maybe Head was ordered by a chiropractor to get out and rescue his back since he spent half of his time onstage in his reknowned hunched over position, but despite his personal reasons for walking out of the band, the fact remains he was a tremendous force to Korn's sound. Certainly they've lost a part of the aquatic ambience that Head could frequently produce with high note tweaks and otherworldly distorted keys. If there was anything that gave balance to the massive singular punch of Korn's streamlined metallic odes to hatred and self-awareness, it was Head's trippy lines. Not that Munky isn't capable of creating hypnotic moodscapes on his own, as evidenced by a quick little jam session between him and Fieldy during this set before launching into Korn's fan favorite tune about egotistical masturbation, "A.D.I.D.A.S."
Korn: Live at Montreaux 2004 is a live hits package up through Korn's 2003 album Take a Look in the Mirror. Obviously wanting to appease as many of their European fans as they could in what may be their only invitation to the famed Montreaux Festival, expected tunes such as "Blind," "Freak On a Leash," "Got the Life," "Shoots and Ladders" and "Falling Away From Me" peel off in layers while including a hefty portion of songs from Take a Look in the Mirror such as "Right Now," "Break Some Off," "Did My Time" and of couse "Y'all Want a Single."
Once you get over the oddity of seeing Korn in such an un-metal-like venue, you fall instantly into the set as the original five members pound aggressively and swing their pigtails to blazes. Expect to see Jonathan Davis hate fuck his cyberslut microphone as well as pull out his bagpipes, to which the primarly Euro-based crowd goes bonkers with appreciation.
Korn: Live at Montreaux 2004 is professionally executed, professionally captured with multiple camera angles and it perfectly captures the boom of one of metal's more historic units. Even when they blare out Metallica's "One" and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," the dominant statement is that, whether you're a fan of Korn or not, you have to give them thanks for partially reintroducing metal music to the North American territories. Even as a stripped foursome (See You On the Other Side was a damned fine rebound after Head took off), Korn's presence is a reminder that metal in its revival stage might not've reached the same broadened capacity if not for the lingering tension of the intro notes and the "Are You Ready?" scream that launches "Blind" from Korn's self-titled debut from 1994.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
It's no secret I'm partial to Doro Pesch. Having interviewed the still-reigning Queen of Metal three times including a memorable face-to-face last summer in Virginia, my respect for this endurant lady of the realm has grown (grown up being questionable) from that hormonally entranced teen headbanger of the eighties. Like most of us disaffected grits and slobs of the original metal scene, we all entertained massive crushes on the Teutonic femme fatale who once led genre favorites Warlock. In transit between being dumped by my high school sweetheart and those I dated later, I'll admit to having a brief infatuation with Doro, and yes, I was goofy enough to tell her so in our first interview. Of course, when you've been in the business for over two decades and still possess the beauty and moreover, the grace that has carried you as monarch over of a fringe culture, I feel safe in saying I wasn't the first guy to come clean to her about a silly, rigamarole crush.
What I like best about Doro is her gentle and kind persuasion. To this day nobody has melted my heart with her mere speaking voice like Doro has on three occasions now. To interview Doro is truly an experience in the human connection. If anyone out there lives for the moment and genuinely appreciates those who sustain her career, it's inarguably Doro Pesch. Album after album the queen finds ways to slip love letters into her music and she'll be the first to tell you her ballads aren't aimed towards one specific person; Doro addresses her fans when she gets all sweet on us musically. Truly this industry warrior belongs to the world and not one person, if not even herself. In other words, Doro is genuine.
Though her first solo album after departing Warlock Force Majeure gained her nationwide attention and acclaim, the sad fact like most heavy metal acts that once prospered in North America is that the majority were forgotten and swept into the reminiscence cabinet, to be brought out on occasion over brews and barbecues amongst former Gen X headbangers. "Remember that chick Doro Pesch and Warlock? Dude, she was hot!" Sound familiar?
Well, Doro has stayed hot over the years but in terms of maintaining a music career in an already competitive business for males alone, this continuously aspirant lady has had to fight for the rock in her native European regions while being flat-out ignored in the country where she's recorded a lot of her albums over the years, the United States.
2000's Calling the Wild was one of those albums. In one of our chats, Doro mentioned that a number of her albums were recorded in the U.S. but frustratingly never released here. As an official New York resident these days, how frustrating must it be to pour your heart into your work and have it shipped overseas where the only way to get it back from its originating spot is through the import trade?
Though Doro is enjoying (finally) a small revival in North America courtesy of her most recent album Warrior Soul, a lot of solid releases by the never-say-die German vocalist such as Fight, Love Me In Black and Calling the Wild have been delegated to diehard collector pieces that have fetched top dollars in certain avenues.
Calling the Wild is an album out of time, granted, but other things being equal, there's no reason it shouldn't have been given proper due and respect. Amongst other notables (namely a guest list including Slash, Lemmy Kilmister and Al Pitrelli), at this point in time, Doro had lost her father and she was carrying an emotional burden she relayed to me in Virginia as being one of her darkest hours. Doro then told me the story about how Lemmy Kilmister rang her up shortly after her father's passing and essentially revived her spirits. Doro used the word "rock" when mentioning Lemmy, not necessarily of the music variety, but of the spiritually-grounding nature.
Doro's friendship with Lemmy is well-known and it's loaded in full on Calling the Wild. The famed Motorhead bassist is certainly a creative spark for Doro on this album, not just because of the duet he shares with her on "Love Me Forever" (a song that creeps into both Doro's sets as well as Motorhead's) and not just because of "Alone Again," which Lemmy co-penned and lays down an acoustic solo (!) for. Lemmy's mere presence behind-the-scenes of Calling the Wild lends the project a cumulative effect from which Doro breathes and revitalizes herself.
The album radiates of the grief Doro was feeling during the time it was recorded on heavy mashers like "Now Or Never," (which Slash lays down a slick, prolonged solo that carries well into the final chorus) "Pain" and "I Give My Blood (Dedication)" as well the snyth-driven soul searching ballads "Give Me a Reason" and "Scarred." Of the ballads on Calling the Wild, it's the acoustic-guided "Constant Danger" where Doro relinquishes her agony and plays the role of seductress as she does to romantic measures on future songs like "Love Me in Black," "I'm In Love With You" and "Let Love Rain On Me."
On the face, Calling the Wild is an entertaining rock engine driven on pumping blocks such as "I Wanna Live," "Terrovision," "Kiss Me Like a Cobra," "Fuel" and the Warlock-esque "Burn It Up." Beneath the surface, however, Calling the Wild is a therapy piece in which our beloved Doro literally exorcises and expunges personal demons that she admits nearly destroyed her. Calling the Wild is an emotional listen if you know the story behind it.
Hearing Doro literally draw strength and heal through "Scarred," "Pain," "Give Me a Reason" and "I Wanna Live" is worth the invested time. The fact this album, like many of Doro's records got carted out of the country it was recorded in perfectly illustrates the shabby and impersonal nature of American music market values. For the artist herself, at least Calling the Wild helped her move into the third decade of her inspiring career.
Century - Black Ocean
2008 Prosthetic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Further proving that Botch, Today is the Day and Snapcase are pivotal figureheads in the evolution of a specific sluice of metal, grind and hardcore that has been gradually sculpting since the mid-nineties, central Pennsylvania is erupting throughout Amish country with the boisterous yowls and squeals of Century.
Embodying the brutal Centaurian clash on the cover of Century's full-length debut album Black Ocean, this quartet--led by graphics designer and ArmsBendBack guitarist Carson Slovak--summons the bleed and pillage aura of a Roman garrison on this crushing ten track album that is gaining such quick press momentum the band has already been played on Headbangers Ball.
In three short years, Century has transmuted from one man show to powerhouse metal co-op, and having immediately hedged their sound through two EPs (their self-titled release from 2005 and Faith and Failure the subsequent year), a deal with Prosthetic Records (who have given us visionary bands such as Byzantine, Yakuza and of course genre-sovereigns Lamb of God) has now put this band into prime position to clout new disciples over their heads and gouge out their eardrums with the sonic tidal crash of Black Ocean.
Though Black Ocean adopts a primary menacing tempo structure that the album rides its flanked and weighty shoulders upon, Century has the tendency to veer off course with random speed blitzes and hardcore moshes, as well as modified breakdowns that mostly emphasize the disorderly rhythms instead of creating aggravating disorder themselves. The majority of the pace on Black Ocean is relegated to a stalking sensation that allows Century to explode out of cracks and crevices at their own whims on songs such as "Rising Sun," "Pantheon" and the symmetrically savage blend of Rosetta and early Mastodon on "Monolith." The latter song is an inspired mix of atmosphere and hostility it's an ambience unto itself.
The most pleasant aspect to Black Ocean (if pleasant is an accurate adjective in this band's case) is the flamboyant and effectual guitar work spread throughout these belligerent compositions. Amidst the relentless tonal destruction meted out on Black Ocean are ruddy and melodic high-note guitar lines that undermine the feral bluntness Century pounds out unapologetically. Study closely the counter melodies beneath the slow and tumultuous "Daylight Algorithm" or the thrash collision wreckage on "Drug Mule." This stuff isn't your standard bulldog hardcore, even if a song like "Drug Mule" could certainly put Century on the same venue with Terror or Throwdown.
While some writers are going to be dragging this band into the already-teemed metalcore sanction, they should exercise more discretion, because Century is hardly Hot Topic filler fluff, nor are they death metal tech dweebs. This is a band that has spent time emulating bands of the genre that matter and in their fastly-realized construct, Century has instantly become a band to watch out for in their own right.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Volbeat - Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil
2007-08 Mascot Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Consider this one The Metal Minute cool slice of the week...
Before he drank from the proverbial chalice of blood and swam in darkness, one of the biggest appeals to Glenn Danzig and The Misfits was their affinity for 1950's rockabilly and rock 'n roll. It wasn't so much that Danzig sounded like a mesh between Elvis and Jim Morrison so much as it was the idea of rootsy American tumbleweed music being force-fed into a screechy punk rock schism. After all, rock 'n roll was officially born in the fifties, even if its genesis was rooted long before that in the Mississippi deltas and dustbowl deserts. If you stop and think about it, this is why The Misfits were such an easy sell, outside of their cartoonish love of classic horror films, which is an effective glue for fringe culture.
Somewhere that spirit of fun was lost once The Misfits partially split and became Samhain and ultimately Danzig. While Glenn Danzig has put out some interesting and sometimes very rocking material, only on occasion did we hear that love of old-time rock 'n roll spill into his later endeavors.
Copenhagen's Volbeat obviously has that essence of North American rock and twang on their brains, despite their album Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil being at its heart a stampin' metal record. One thing about Volbeat, if they could take the jacked up tattooed blare of metal into a wayback machine and drop off onto a rock 'n roll revue with Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy and Elvis on the same bill and play "Radio Girl" from Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil, then they would probably scare these godfathers out of their peglegs and pleated slacks. Still, there's something pretty schway about the way "Radio Girl" adopts a primary throwback three chord chorus to give the metallic verses a dreamy, nostalgic essence.
Volbeat is so smart about what they're trying to accomplish with Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil they never forget to be metal even when fusing yummy, melodic structures and soaring vocals from Michael Poulson (who sounds a bit like a higher octave and fast-lipped Peter Steele). At one point Volbeat kicks the double hammer on the pulsing thrashers "Devil Or the Blue Cat's Song" and "A Moment Forever," while at another they soak up cuts with country and swamprat twang that open both "Sad Man's Tongue" and "The Human Instrument" before both amp up and run for the money with catchy grooves and blaring metal that comes more from a Texarkana roadhouse than from rolling mountains of the gods. In every case though, Volbeat executes as tunefully as they can without turning starchy.
Still, Volbeat is thunderous when they want to be. They punch and march on songs like "River Queen," "Mr. and Mrs. Ness" and "You Or Them" where they sound more like a conventional metal band that happens to have a scat-minded crooner leading the way, but in the same breath, Volbeat turn into honeydrippers on the mostly sweet "The Garden's Tale," skipping along with an acoustic thread before turning the song into a swooning rocker that you can almost get cozy with your steady to. Ditto for "Soulweeper #2" with its lobbing breeziness.
One of the savviest qualities to Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil is the fact Volbeat utilizes just enough of the past to elevate their music beyond the ordinary and in turn avoid novelty. If you want to call these guys pop metal, they probably wouldn't be at odds with that because seldom do you hear music that has a dedicated focus upon loudness that doesn't forget to be memorable in the processs. First and foremost, Volbeat remembers to have fun with what they're doing and that, in turn, makes Rock the Rebel, Metal the Devil equally fun for the listener.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
June 17th is the release date for Saints of Los Angeles, Motley Crue's first studio album featuring the original lineup of Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars in more than a decade. The single "Saints of Los Angeles" premiered yesterday and is currently available for download at iTunes. The song includes backing vocals by Josh Todd of Buckcherry, Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach, James Michael from SIXX:A.M. and Chris Brown of Trapt.
This summer, the Motleys will headline their dubbed Crue Fest through North America with the same cast of Buckcherry, Papa Roach, SIXX:AM and Trapt in support. The band reports that on-site activities will include a 2nd “Stage” presented by Rock Band where fans attending the show can play the part of “rock star” while playing the game. A special Crüe Fest CD featuring tracks from all of the bands on the tour will also be available exclusively at Best Buy beginning June 17th.
Crue Fest tour dates:
July 1 - West Palm Beach, FL - Cruzan Amphitheatre
July 3 - Tampa, FL - Ford Amphitheatre
July 5 - Charlotte, NC - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre Charlotte
July 6 - Virginia Beach, VA - Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater
July 8 - Wantagh, NY - Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
July 9 - Buffalo, NY - Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
July 10 - Sarnia, ONT - Bayfest
July 12 - Philadelphia, PA - Susquehanna Bank Center
July 13 - Washington, DC - Nissan Pavilion
July 15 - Detroit, MI - DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 16 - Chicago, IL - First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
July 18 - Indianapolis, IN - Verizon Wireless Music Center Indianapolis
July 19 - Milwaukee, WI - Marcus Amphitheater
July 20 - St. Louis, MO - Verizon Wireless Amphitheater St. Louis
July 22 - Houston, TX - Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 23 - San Antonio, TX - Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
July 24 - Dallas, TX - Superpages.com Center
July 26 - Albuquerque, NM - Journal Pavilion
July 27 - Denver, CO - Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
July 29 - Salt Lake City, UT - USANA Amphitheatre
July 31 - Phoenix, AZ - Cricket Wireless Pavilion
August 1 - Las Vegas, NV - Mandalay Bay Events Center
August 2 - Los Angeles, CA - Glen Helen Pavilion
August 5 - Sacramento, CA - Sleep Train Pavilion
August 6 - Mountain View, CA - Shoreline Amphitheatre at Mountain View
August 8 - Seattle, WA - White River Amphitheatre
August 9 - Portland, OR - Rose Garden
August 11 - Vancouver, BC - General Motors Place
August 13 - Edmonton, AB - Rexall Place
August 14 - Calgary, AB - Pengrowth Saddledome
August 15 - Saskatoon, SK - Credit Union Centre
August 17 - Winnipeg, MB - MTS Centre
August 19 - Cincinnati, OH - Riverbend Amphitheatre
August 20 - Cleveland, OH - Blossom Music Center
August 22 - Boston, MA - Tweeter Center for the Performing Arts
August 23 - Holmdel, NJ - PNC Bank Arts Center
August 24 - Uncasville, CT - Mohegan Sun Arena
August 28 - Toronto, ONT - Molson Amphitheatre
August 29 - Albany, NY - Saratoga Performing Arts Center
August 30 - Scranton, PA - Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain
August 31 - Pittsburgh, PA - Post-Gazette Pavilion
Another midweek is upon us and I'm trying to push out a headache as it's been a mixed bag of positivity and the dumpers, and as a good friend told me, good things happen to good people who wait, so as I have a lot of questions I'm riding the fence on or simply wondering how to make sense of them altogether, I stay the course and strap on the crash helmet.
Hope all is well with you, faithful lot. This past Saturday I had an interview with lead singer French of the Hollywood rock band Palmerston for AMP magazine and it was a refreshing chat in which he spoke candidly and we discussed poetry and its translation from standard open mike to the music forum, as he is known to recite prose and even paint onstage while performing Palmerston's music. Gives me a lot of respect when an artist can effectively cross mediums without losing his or her audience like that.
This week's listening selections has been heavy and diverse as I try to nurse my voice within and find productive channels with which to express myself. Been studying the lyrics and music of Jim Croce, partially because his voice and those fabulously-penned tunes bring me comfort from my childhood, but with ears attuned to more life experience, Croce is like a road dog kindred soul who speaks to me from the afterlife. Then there's The Beatles' Rubber Soul, which has put me into sweet, romantic moods that has me thinking about the future and how better it all must be in its due time.
In the same breath, I assembled a 41-song CD full of angry music for someone close to me who's been going through a hell of a lot. The funny part was I put that collection together in a good mood, heh. If I'd have done it yesterday, it might've been 41 death metal songs, but instead she's getting songs by everyone from Bad Brains to Black Flag to Cro Mags to Slipknot to Pailhead to GBH to Chris Caffery to Tori Amos to Sepultura to Amen and so on... These are songs I feel are very confrontational and perhaps dangerous to some, but in the same breath they are all therapeutic and emotional. Leaving yesterday in mind-addled frustration, I spun one of the discs and felt some of the funk lift off my shoulders, the same way punk and metal has historically done for me in my life. People ask how one can listen to music that makes them want to hurt and destroy; for me, this music has a counter-effect as I'm sure it does for all of you. It squeezes the hatred right on outta me and helps stabilize me. That's why I keep seeking this kind of music out, even though I have a wide diversity of music tastes. Some music just defines your soul and in turn cleanses it. Crazy, but it's true.
Alright, crew, serve 'em up...
The Beatles - Rubber Soul
Jim Croce - The 50th Anniversary Collection
Tiger Army - Music From Regions Beyond
Testament - The Formation of Damnation
The Melvins - Nude With Boots
The Doobie Brothers - Best of The Doobies
Guns 'n Roses - Appetite For Destruction
Farflung - A Wound In Eternity
Nine Inch Nails - With Teeth
Nine Inch Nails - Year Zero
Cro Mags - The Age of Quarrel
Soundgarden - Louder Than Love
Volbeat - Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil
Palmerston - S/T
Dokken - Lightning Strikes Again
Overkill - Fuck You
Sepultura - Chaos A.D.
Soulfly - Dark Ages
Cannibal Corpse - The Wretched Spawn
Anvil - Plugged in Permanent
GBH - Midnight Madness and Beyond
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Testament - The Formation of Damnation
2008 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
The clock has been kind to some in this metal revival game where a hefty percentage of the original bands are resurfacing like legion to reclaim what was lost to them in the early nineties when North America had said enough is enough to heavy metal. Of course, this meant the dissolution of some many fine bands whose work was hardly finished, and though some continued on in various incarnations, few managed to keep the air of respectability as Testament has.
Granted, there hasn't been a ton of new albums released by these thrash lions since journeyman guitarist Alex Skolnick drifted on his own after 1992's somewhat controversial The Ritual, an album that takes more lumps than it should. Of course, when the handful of albums you've released since then are more than up to snuff with Low, The Gathering and the ratchety Demonic, then the idiom of quality over quantity most certainly applies. The Gathering is Testament's best non-Skolnick album and perhaps their second best album overall behind The Legacy.
As many new thrash and metal revisionists are seen citing Testament as a major influence (and moreover you can hear it in their music), it was no fluke that the keepers of the watch, Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson, lured the three remaining core members (Alex Skolnick, Greg Christian and Louie Clemente) back to the fold to settle differences and rekindle the thrash magic on the shoulders of their best-known tunes from The Legacy, The New Order, Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black. These inspired reunion gigs showed the original inception of Testament still had the mojo, and though Clemente was there more in a ceremonious role to play half sets with his Testament brothers, most certainly a catalyst effect took over and lo, Testament 2008 with 4/5 of the original lineup and the always-exciting Paul Bostaph (well-known to Testament, Slayer and Exodus fans) are back and very much in-your-face with one of this year's most anticipated albums, The Formation of Damnation.
The biggest question on most people's minds with this album obviously is what Testament sounds like with a 16 year gap since the core rhythm section worked together. First, if you're expecting the fountain of youth aura that is definitely prevalent in Testament's camp to cough up a relentless thrash attack ala The Legacy, then hold your horses a minute. These guys didn't officially unite just to clock and clobber themselves and their listeners for 45 minutes of repetitve speed, though certainly if The Formation of Damnation was thus we'd all be standing on our feet in sheer admiration.
Still, each of these guys have come strides in each of their careers. Perhaps Eric Peterson has the most brutal of external backgrounds with his side black metal unit Dragonlord, while Alex Skolnick is known to hang in multiple stables such as Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, his own jazz trio and even as part of a symphonic ensemble. Greg Christian's Havochate is a pretty chunky unit, and of course Chuck Billy has kept himself busy in an underground Bay Area thrash tribute group. What this means is that the members of Testament are--and should be--seeking a somewhat different approach to their first collective project in over a decade and in that capacity, The Formation of Damnation is a balls-out, pleasantly meaty album that essentially picks up where Souls of Black and The Ritual left off with egos checked and maturity levels raised so that the fans win out as much as the band itself.
Much of The Formation of Damnation is going to recall the midtempo crunch that Testament tapped from its dark sieve on Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black, though the overall projection is much heavier. Songs like "The Persecuted Won't Forget," (which has a nifty double-timed intro and bridge sequence) "Killing Season," "Dangers of the Faithless" and "More Than Meets the Eye" are all steady and familiar to those who followed Testament back in the day, but the added bonus is that these songs are played with the experience and confidence of an embodied life journey to give them extra depth.
Fear not, though, thrash monkeys, because Testament can still fly and they'll jerk you by the collar with "Henchmen Ride," which they give rousing personfication to with nearly the same tempestuousness as "Raging Waters" or "C.O.T.L.O.D." from The Legacy, as well as the title track, which keeps its foot on the pedal until pounding the snot out of you with an extensive breakdown section towards the end (complete with a wonderfully gory solo) and then bringing this one home at top speed. For good measure, they stir up the mutant mosh on "F.E.A.R.," so get them pit shoes warmed up...
God bless Chuck Billy; he's really one of the unsung heroes of metal. Having survived a battle with cancer, if there's anyone making the most of this reunion aside from Alex Skolnick (who simply shines as one would expect), it's Billy. Still able to mix it up vocally with the demon growls he uncorked to dramatic effect on Low, and his more-affiliated raspy cleans, Chuck Billy gives a clinic on hard vocal projection on this album and it's glorious to hear him having so much fun. With the confident beat patterns of Paul Bostaph (who might be used to playing at jacknife velocity most of the time), The Formation of Damnation gives him a chance to glue with the rest of the original band as he formidably did on The Gathering.
By all means check out The Formation of Damnation. Come to it with no expectations and you'll go home plenty satisfied and refurbished from its energy. You can't say that about a Red Bull.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Photo credit: Gutierrezray@strangebeautifulart.com
Fear Factory guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers and drummer Raymond Herrera, along with Threat Signal vocalist Jon Howard have officially announced the formation of their new entity Arkaea.
Their publicist reports, "Arkaea has just finished up preproduction and are scheduled to enter the studio to begin recording. This album promises to be as pummeling as anything the gold-selling team of Olde Wolbers and Herrera has ever written.
Olde Wolbers comments: “These songs were designed like the Fear Factory songs that Raymond and I always wrote. However, we’ve been able to push the boundaries and go out of that context, while remaining heavy.”
“Christian and Ray have been writing together for many years, so the music does have a lot of Fear Factory elements,” adds Howard. “However, we’ve been open to trying different things. It basically fuses what I have been doing vocally in Threat Signal with driving Fear Factory rhythms, along with some of our own experimentation. The idea behind the project is to be heavy, but maintain melody at the same time.”
Howard has been a part of the Fear Factory family ever since Olde Wolbers served as producer for Threat Signal’s debut, Under Reprisal. Given that connection, the chemistry was there the instant the band started playing together.
The band’s yet untitled album is due out fall 2008 on Koch Records and plans for touring are under way in support of the record."
To listen to demo samples of Arkaea, visit their MySpace page: Arkaea MySpace page
WARNING: Not for the squeamish or easily offended. Goreheads and Conan junkies dive right in!
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Hate Eternal - Fury & Flames
2008 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Death metal has frequently carried many adjectives bearing the suffix "less" such as cheerless, hopeless, hapless and emotionless, and while the majority of the genre's practitioners do nothing more than create the aural embodiment of the gut-twisting splatter flicks they're addicted to, sometimes death metal can be so expressive you know something else is going on beneath the fanstastical element to such brutality.
Can you find it within yourself to look beyond the overt, almost incomprehensible speed and blunt aggression to recognize honest and sincere pain beneath the grinding cacophony? Yeah, you might be too busy submitting yourself to the inflictive, constantly-generating thrash that makes Hate Eternal's Fury & Flames one of the most severe listens you're going to get this year, but stop and reflect a moment that what exists behind the scorching velocity of this album is a man in agony.
Is death metal potentially emotional? Is there something of depth beneath such antagonistic and cruel music? The answer, when you realize what Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal has been going through of late, is a resounding yes.
The recent death of Rutan's best friend and five year bassist for Hate Eternal, Jared Anderson, has had such a dramatic impact you'd be another "less" adjective--heartless--to be unable to comprehend Rutan's outlay of sorrow when he literally wails on his tragically beautiful solos on songs like "Hell Envenom," "Para Bellum" and "Proclamation of the Damned."
Rutan and Hate Eternal (which includes Cannibal Corpse's Alex Webster fielding bass on this album) inflict a grossly tortuous set of songs on Fury & Flames, and the collective telepathically assists Rutan in his personal exorcism, so much that a hammering song like "Whom the Gods May Destroy" contains double the intensity almost to the point the listener can hardly withstand it.
If Rutan wants us to understand the despair he's feeling, then he's way on point with Fury & Flames. It's a rare thing when a death metal album assumes a personal feel and transcends the geek factor of being in essence a tributary to the horror genre. Indeed, Fury & Flames is tributary, but it's for a far different calling, suffice it to say...
End of Level Boss - Inside the Difference Engine
2007 Exile On Mainstream Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Here's one from last year that slipped through the cracks, the British metal hybrid unit known as End of Level Boss.
Picture if you will, the prospect of Kyuss, Weedeater, Atomic Bitchwax or Fu Manchu opening for Voivod. Trust me, stranger things have happened since I was there to witness both Faith No More and Soundgarden opening for Voivod in 1990 and neither of the former two had broken out yet. A historic and exciting night of metal, to say the least. Now let's suppose a mutual respect calls the opener onstage with the headliner into a free-spirited jam. Now you're getting your head around what End of Level Boss is about.
Though End of Level Boss isn't exactly a hypogeal merge yet-to-be-labeled "cyberpunk stoner," you somehow conjure up the image of a droned-out Josh Homme and Denis "Snake" Belanger lackadaisically going with the flow at center stage to a vibe that carries more of a sludge rock haze that is open-mindedly structured to host random bits of intense prog structuring, just to use the opening bars and the final stanza of "Mr. Dinosaur is Lost" for example.
As Inside the Difference Engine is the second album from End of Level Boss, the forward-thinking genesis between this album and their debut Prologue does indeed possess a carryover effect, as if this band has already conjured an extensive creative vision to be carried out over a series of albums.
One thing about the immortal Voivod is that they could rock out with the best of them, but at their core, they are the ultimate thinking man's metal band. What End of Level Boss seems to tap into is more of the rock element Voivod has been capable of displaying, more so on albums such as Nothingface and The Outer Limits, and in End of Level Boss' case, they generate a slightly lowbrow working class riff-oriented empathy to amp things up.
Get yourself into the monster crush of "Reticence" or "Corners" and appreciate the fact that End of Level Boss can string you along for minutes with abusive crunch chords and stoner rock laces that are assembled with more precision than your prototype fuzz distortion band. The complicated grooves of "Words Have No Meaning" and the marriage of cybernetic pandering and psychedelic doom on "End of Line" give further evidence that this band is on the verge of creating an anti-complacent sound that will have some folks soon calling "groundbreaking."
The fact End of Level Boss boldly pushes the envelope with existing groundwork so as to create a higher degree of intellect in a sound normally so primal, welp, folks, that's the kind of thinking we need around these parts.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Hell, this could very well be Underappreciated Artists Saturday with today's selection, the Canadian juggernaut Anvil. Like his contentinetal brother Jeff Waters, Steve "Lips" Kudlow has been keeping the heavy metal faith for decades and like Waters' Annihilator albums, ol' Lips never could seem to catch a break, except for a sliced demographic that has at least heard of Anvil, much less recongized them as one of the forefathers of thrash metal.
Though Anvil had a quick-flash flirtation with widespread recognition in 1987 courtesy of their more streamlined Strength of Steel album--in particular their hilariously cartoonish video for "Mad Dog" that was a Headbanger's Ball favorite back in the day--if you do your homework, you'll discover that Anvil and fellow Canadians Exciter were a couple of thrash metal pioneers who influenced everyone from Metallica to Exodus. In a sense, thrash was partially cultivated in Canada before finessed in the U.S. Bay Area and New Jersey regions.
Nearly-forgotten albums such as Forged In Fire, Metal On Metal and Hard 'n Heavy remain some of the earliest examples of monstrously-paced metal albums and perhaps it was Lips and company's crack at the mainstream with Strength of Steel that was partially the reason it took them four years to release another album, Worth the Weight and then another six before Anvil decidedly to trip the double hammer once again on 1997's beastly Plugged In Permanent.
Aside from inclusion in the opening credits of Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers with "Straight Between the Eyes" from Strength of Steel, Anvil had already been relegated to the cult ranks, along with their host label Metal Blade, which was simply holding on for life during the metal phase-out of the nineties. That being said, despite it being one of their loudest and fastest albums in years at the time (not to mention all of Anvil's career), Plugged In Permanent had little-to-no-chance to survive.
Not that this album isn't fucking heavier than your girlfriend's purse, but Plugged In Permanent was unfortunately out-of-step for its time, even as metal was starting to slowly surge back in North America on the shoulders of Korn. The figureheads of thrash that still had some sort of career like Megadeth, Metallica and Anthrax were still in a tempered and market-dictated artsy-creative mode that rarely allowed them to hit the gas. In that respect, serious kudos to Anvil for saying fuck you to all of that and keeping more in line with Motorhead than straggling through power metal grooves or something altogether out of their norm that would assuredly have killed them off in 1997.
Plugged in Permanent is absolutely merciless; there's frankly no other way to put it. Though Anvil has always operated in a snub-nosed, less articulate fashion than their peers, an album with fearless crush such as Plugged in Permanent is worth its mass, particularly because it has no pretentions whatsoever. It's fast, ugly, a complete mess and gloriously so in all cases.
Hitting the gear into fifth on "Racial Hostility," "Truth Or Consequence," "Face Pull," "Smokin' Green" and the outrageous "Doctor Kervorkian," Anvil sonically states they have more stones on this album (and the subsequent thrasher Speed of Sound) than the majority of the metal-flavored bands floundering around in 1997. Slowing down only for the cumbersome "Guilty" and the clunky and nutty "Destined For Doom," Plugged In Permanent is simply about blunt force and overt speed. For good measure, Anvil includes a proper, menacing use of the breakdown on "Racial Hostility" before such use was en vogue in metal.
Lips is his usual gravelly self on this album, and listening to him scrape for higher octaves is going to give you the willies, but otherwise, he and Ivan Hurd shred with everything they have, while Robb Reiner pounds the tar out of his kit, and though his two-for-one snare strikes on the main rhythm lines of "Killer Hill" throws it askew, the track does scorch from otherwise abusive tempos and some wicked solos.
You have to love Lips for writing a nonsensical song like "I'm Trying to Sleep" set to a blasting Motorhead drive (is he also trying to sound like Lemmy on this one?) as well as the shucking and jiving tone he implements amongst the mosh-up of "Five Knuckle Shuffle." Even though Jack Kervorkian is out the news these days, if you're not at least guffawing at Anvil's fast-as-hell death metal jibe with "Doctor Kervorkian," you're missing the point.
As always, Lips and his wrecking crew in Anvil waste no opportunities to goof it up with Plugged In Permanent, an album that in title is taking a mocking swipe at the grunge generation and MTV Unplugged that was the rage in the nineties. This album is a sheer roast and its spit turns faster than the axles of a stock car. Pretty it ain't, and that's freakin' fine in this writer's opinion...
2008 Image Entertainment
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
If anyone's learned a thing or two about the crossover impact of a festival tour, it's Dave Mustaine. As ringleader of Gigantour, there's something about the packages Mustaine assembles that boils down to one word he repeats like a mantra: Respect.
In an economically-strapped environment as we're experiencing in the U.S., the already fiscally-drained music scene at-large surely doesn't need to compete against the economy itself when it has other enemies, such as fickle tastes, technology veritably stripping the soul of music product through MP3 and digital downloading, not to mention corporate exploitation that still runs rampant even in tough times.
For a genre like metal that, despite the benefit of a growing allegiance by the month, is still fringe culture, the ultimate survival mode comes via the road and the marketability of a tour package. So many great bands of today are playing to anywhere from a dozen to a thousand people in small venues, and if they're unlucky enough to score the big dream gig of Ozzfest or Sounds of the Underground, they straggle and scrape until there's nothing left to sustain them.
Dave Mustaine has obviously seen the ups and the downs in his decades-plus career in metal music, and while his selection process for Gigantour is as scrutinized as any high-profile tour (Mustaine relays that his bands for consideration are heavily-skewed towards guitar-oriented bands), one thing nobody can deny; the man knows a good band when he hears one.
As the next inception of Gigantour is pulling itself together with Megadeth headlining once again and a supporting cast consisting of In Flames, Children of Bodom, Job For a Cowboy and the mighty High On Fire, Image Entertainment is giving us a glance back at Mustaine's second metallic romp, one that had to have been nothing short of monstrous at the time.
The respect factor Mustaine professes consists of giving his fans the most explosive product for their budget-tightened ticket money in addition to respect ushered to his traveling ensemble, everyone from the bands to the road crew. In the special features section of this Gigantour 2 DVD, Mustaine makes special note that he ensures his crew eats before he does. Suffice it to say, Mustaine has come a long way from the eighties and perhaps his unfortunate separation from David Ellefson has given him extra humility since. Despite the fact that it seems like a new band member manifests every time Megadeth has hit the pavement since releasing the grossly-underrated The System Has Failed, there's something almost mystical about the man these days. Certainly he appears to be a sensei amongst his admiring hirees and listening to the testimonials given by the bands who performed on Gigantour 2 (The Smash-Up, Sanctity, Into Eternity, Overkill, Opeth, Arch Enemy and Lamb of God), Dave Mustaine has learned wisdom that generates respect in response to what he reportedly issues out.
The Gigantour 2 DVD spotlights selections from the participants, giving a song apiece from the three openers, then throwing the limelight on the ambassadors of the tour and of two generations of metal. Though Opeth is only featured once with "Window Pane" from their breakthrough Blackwater Park album, certainly the song is lengthy enough and assuredly a demonstrative statement that Opeth is one of true artistes of heavy metal. Lamb of God manages to usurp their audience through their famed controlled chaos on songs like "Vigil" and "Now You've Got Something To Die For," while Arch Enemy is almost surreal with the alluring Angela Gossow possessing the stage, herself, her band and her demonic growls, yet
the most humbling element (especially if you're over 30) to Gigantour 2 is the reception the old school is given from a decidedly young crowd.
Always on point, Overkill systematically rips through "Necroshine" and the vintage era mosh anthem "Rotten to the Core," and it's absolutely fun to watch a new generation absorb and learn a little thrash history and though it takes them a few bars of "Rotten to the Core" to respond to Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth's cues, eventually they get their act together. Ditto the ovation for the headliners, Megadeth; to see a capacity-filled arena of new leaguers chant out the band name and know exactly when to shout back lyrics when Dave Mustaine goes quiet, it's very refreshing.
As guitarist Glenn Drover has parted ways with Megadeth, Gigantour 2 is one last glimpse at a pretty solid running mate as Megadeth delivers the goods with "Take No Prisoners" from their masterpiece album Rust in Peace as well as "The Scorpion" from The System Has Failed and "Washington is Next" from Megadeth's most-recent offering United Abominations. As a bonus item, there's a fun do-up of "Peace Sells," which sees Blitz from Overkill jumping in at the end along with a literal gang of members from the Gigantour ensemble, all set to blazing pyro and a master of ceremonies who's obviously eating it up like a sacrifice to the gods.
The other cuts from Sanctity, Into Eternity and The Smash-Up are likewise very cool, with a tie between Sanctity's "Zeppo" and Into Eternity's "Timeless Winter" for most intense. Mustaine also gives us insight into his band invitations in the special features, which presents a humorous story about how he approached Sanctity, as well as his appreciative tale about Into Eternity being forced to play as a foursome following a potentially-crippling mid-tour walkout. The show must go on, naturally, and Mustaine wastes no opportunity to praise Into Eternity on the DVD.
Though this year's Gigantour has been pared down to five bands (probably through simple law of current economics), one thing is obvious; the second round was as memorable as any tour package put together in the metal revival. I had the chance to speak with Blitz of Overkill after this tour and he not only saluted Dave Mustaine for keeping things real with the old school and the new, but Blitz also marveled at how today's metal acolytes took to Overkill, especially noting that Gigantour was one of the band's biggest exposures since the glory days of the late eighties.
Amen to that...
Friday, April 11, 2008
Sweet Child On the Pole
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
That Jim is such a letch
he really needs to get laid
another Saturday night
and here we are again
the ladies know him by name
only because he’s a big tipper
for me there’s only so many times
you can see the same chicks naked
who you’re not allowed to score with
before the novelty wears off
so I shoot pool
while Jim plays pocket pool
on his rickety stool
at the end of the catwalk
a Miller Lite in his right paw
popcorn filtering through his left
a stack of greenbacks sitting on the edge of the stage
Jim’s lucky no one conks him
he’s not much of a fight
there’s a new girl this week
and she goes by “Cherry” on the catwalk
I hardly notice her
because my quarters are up
and the current table champ is waving me over
he offers me a gentleman’s break, I thank him
not a bad one; I drop the 13
I’m stripes, he’s solids
I hear the intro note plucks of “Sweet Child ‘O Mine”
and the bar starts falling into a rhythm
as does Cherry
Guns ‘n Roses is all the rage these days
the previous dancer came out to “Paradise City”
I flub my next shot, the eleven for the side
and the shark shows me yellow teeth
pulls ceremoniously on his Moosehead
and proceeds to wipe me out
he points to various pockets
and follows through each time
I nod respectfully and take my whipping like a man
but I can’t watch him drop the eight
an easy shot in the corner even for a hack like me
I shake his hand prematurely, good game
not really, I hardly showed up
and as I hear the black disappear with a plunk
I drift away from the table with my cue stick
and get a better look at Cherry
what I didn’t realize
was that Cherry had spotted me first
and oh my God, I know her face
just as she knows mine
it’s been many years
but I can tell you her real name is Nadine
Nadine Up the Street
I won’t tell you her last name
because I’m sure her family has enough to deal with
I remember the time we kissed
on your back patio
a quiet, simple little kiss
nothing heavy, nothing passionate
probably the most innocent kiss
I’ve ever received from someone
I’ve kept that memory in my pocket
like an old photograph I rarely show to anyone
or “Cherry” if you like
has her eyes fixed on me
man, the years have slipped away...
and judging by the angry stares of the other patrons
it might be the last time we see one another in this life
Nadine swoops around the steel pole on the catwalk
while Slash plays sentimental swoons
and Axl sings like he’s positively lovesick
Nadine pirouettes and starts working her crowd
but she continuously hunts my attention
this may her debut performance at this joint
but I can tell she’s been around-the-way
not just up-the-street
her hips cut the air with sexual tension
giving teasing glimpses of what lies outside of her g-string
at the moment she’s otherwise covered
with a man’s white button-down
I’m still holding my cue stick
and unaware I’m making an obscene shafting gesture
Nadine doesn’t miss this
and she flashes me the raunchiest smile I’ll ever see
nothing like the puritanical shy grin
after we kissed and left each other so many years ago
she tears open her shirt forcefully
the buttons flying into the drinks
of Cherry’s new devotees
and I see all that I never did when we were much younger
part of me feels titillated
the rest of me feels sick
because the Nadine I knew
had a bobbing brown ponytail
and day-glo sneakers like Punky Brewster wore
but the Nadine I see now
is being pelted with Georges and Jeffersons
from the howling wolves
one who gets too close
and is roughly jerked back
and escorted to the front door
his beer falling to the floor with a glassy shatter
raises her sinful eyebrows up
in expectation of my approval
silently saying “Like what you see?”
I’m getting uncomfortable
knowing this dance is strictly for me
my three Molsons don’t sit well anymore in my stomach
there’s Jim holding up green paper to her
which Nadine clutches with her breasts
and then she forces me to watch her take it
out of her generous cleavage using her teeth
while Axl ponders “Where do we go now?”
a sheer prophet, that guy
I’ve seen enough
so I get Jim’s keys
telling him I’m going for a drive
I give Nadine my back
partially to show the angry mob
they stand a chance without me in the way
but mostly because I’m embarrassed
when I turn around
Nadine has completed a tremendous
standing backflip from the pole
which generates roars of approval
the Guns guys are putting on a heated climax
to the final stanza of the song
and I fish out my last ten
keeping a twenty for myself
and I place it on the stage
obviously Nadine needs it more than I
“Thank you, Ray,” I hear
I nod once and leave the bar
vowing never to return after I pick Jim back up
Damn, I used to love that song...
Thursday, April 10, 2008
A little free writing quasi- essay today. Yesterday I had off from my day job to take my wife to a doctor's appointment but later that afternoon I booked an interview with David Coverdale with Whitesnake for Hails & Horns magazine, which was a sheer pleasure, and that evening I decided to end a two-year hiatus and return to the open mike. It was like a coming out session for me as I debuted new material and subconsciously began to perform the words (with no previous rehearsal), and though it had been so long since I've put myself out there before the public, I overcame the initial jitters and turned it into a personal therapy session. The response was overwhelming as old friends and new faces received me enthusiastically and I was humbled beyond words after the event when a gentleman poet asked if I was an actor and suggested I should pursue that route. For me, a personal triumph was winning over an English professor in the audience who was a thunderous orator in his own right. Thus it was a splendid evening filled with reunions and the introduction to new friends.
With the successes of yesterday, followed by a good prognosis for my wife, I was in the right frame of mind to accept a long lost musical friend back into my life, one I can easily say hasn't been in close quarters since the mid-nineties.
Last week I wrote a review of Marc Canter and company's book about Guns 'n Roses, Reckless Road, and in that review I made note about a distinct personal aversion to Appetite For Destruction. Perhaps one day I'll write about the times and the people that have a lot to do with my past refusal to touch this indisputable rock classic, but having eased my way back to Guns 'n Roses with the Use Your Illusion albums this past week, and riding the high of last night with a crisp but not chilly feel to the air (as well as recalling a good friend of mine wearing a GNR shirt the other day as if the universe and in her unconscious way was nudging me along), it was a perfect atmosphere and frame of mind to lock the ghosts up and remember why Appetite For Destruction is the amazing slab of rock 'n roll it is.
I can only imagine all of the chaos involved in producing an album of such combustible energy, where a band that was performing the majority of these rebellious tunes long before they were committed to record had these licks and grooves down so pat that to have any external influences could've quite potentially wrecked the fireball puissance of "It's So Easy," "Nighttrain," "My Michelle" or "You're Crazy." When you had a quintet of young bucks who were undeterred in their instinctive approach to rock 'n roll, I suppose you simply had to have been there to witness the conflicts mentioned in Reckless Road between Guns 'n Roses and the flotilla of would-be producers who all failed to generate the trust of the band until Mike Clink became the man.
With a band possessing the reported debauchery and slouching skills outside the stage and studio as the Guns guys were noted for in the Appetite days, you had to wonder if there was a method to the madness or a madness to the meth with a band having such self-possession as to show up when they were ready. Moreover, you have to salute Clink for dealing with a rambunctious crew that was already familiar with the LAPD and already on the road towards their own destruction. The fact he was able to corral most of the band and keep them on some sort of schedule is rather noteworthy.
Can you put yourself into the moment when Slash would be in the studio laying down guitar tracks for hours and then disappear for the night to party up until the next day, all the while Axl Rose would later come in and groove out some vocals, much less the rest of the band coming in for their parts? How much of the recording process was spent in a live situation with all five guys there it at all? To imagine them all together in the studio putting down "Paradise City" during the climactic bridge sequence where Slash's high note squeals are held and sustained for a moment of tension before the band explodes into a mosh pump for the song's finale... Wow. It's a romantic rock 'n roll image at the very least. If you were Clink at the console, such a prospect might've made for a creamed jeans moment.
Given the fact most of the recording process these days and in the case of Appetite For Destruction is spent by generating individual parts and then brought together in the final mix, there's still a real-time rowdiness felt on Appetite when "My Michelle" snarls on the verses and wails like an audile narcotic (pun intended if you know what the song's about) on the choruses, so much that you wish your girlfriend's name was Michelle because you want to scoop her into your arms and go to town from the exhilirating rush of the tune.
One thing about Appetite For Destruction that I rediscovered on a pitch black road as the hour came upon 11:00 is that this is one emotional rock 'n roll exhibition, and whether or not substances were consumed during the playing, there's something endearing of "Think About You" and the way Axl swoons and pulls on long vocal notes like a lovesick puppy about his muse and instantly you're conjuring up times spent in brain-addled obsession over that significant other or one-time lover. It's the perfect lead-in to Axl's famous love letter to a past girlfriend, "Sweet Child O' Mine," and I'm pleased to know that after running like hell from this song on the radio and MTV over the years due to personal reasons, I just fell into this tune like an easy chair last night. Having performed a poem I wrote about being 17 and walking the train tracks in the middle of the night after leaving the grocery store I once worked at and mulling over the fact my high school sweetheart was leaving for college and ultimately my life for good, it was like Axl was suddenly my good buddy. When I think about last night at the open mike and the imaginary rock I threw in frustration at the tracks while reciting the poem last night, I could relate to Axl's drippy waning about a past love at the borderline of slipping away. Where do we go now, indeed? Right on.
The biggest resonance for me in letting my guard down to Appetite For Destruction after so long is that 20 years later (it'll be 21 years next month, oy) I've been through a lot as we all have when surviving the planet for so long, but suddenly there's that excited, rebellious teenager wanting to dive into the pit to the blitz tempo of "You're Crazy" and bounce around behind the steering wheel to the Aerosmith-laced "Anything Goes" (even getting stupidly giddy at the opening licks and the cool rasping of the rhythm sticks that reminded me of Big Brother and The Holding Company's "Combination of the Two")
I was happy to put my old hockey analyst jacket into the closet as soon I hit play and Slash sets the mark and puts this thing into action as "Welcome to the Jungle" slinked and blared like a "Remember me?" moment. It was a total rush to bob my head vigorously to "Nighttrain" and "It's So Easy," even slipping into my beat-up high tops from 1987 during the latter song and instinctively yelling with Axl "Why don't you... fuck off!!!" Jesus, that felt good, even though I was already in a terrific mood.
As I pulled into the driveway in the middle of "Rocket Queen," I sat there in my truck slapping the steering wheel until the breakdown sequence (laughing knowingly at the sex moans because I'd read the story behind them in Reckless Road) and bits of my life flashed in front of my eyes while prospects of my future likewise manifested. How can an album do that to you, especially one you'd deliberately pushed from your life, though not from your collection? Guess it was a universe thing and a right time at the right moment thing, and while a large part of this has to do with nostalgia (a recurring theme of the week, you might say), it's also about dispelling with the ugliness of the past and finding the proper peace of mind to get reacquainted with some old buds who used to make me very happy back in the day, though they'll likely never know that. No worries; some friendships work from afar, even after a long estrangement...
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Farflung - A Wound In Eternity
2008 Meteor City Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Consider this one The Metal Minute's Cool Pick of the Week...
From an LA garage to the center of the minds of this space truckin' trio, Farflung returns for their seventh release, one that is, at its heart, inspired by stoner, grunge, Cali skate punk and most certainly the otherworldly pages of Heavy Metal magazine.
By now Farflung has become the way-out poster children for the recently-dubbed "space rock" subgenre, and the prevailing vibe on A Wound In Eternity is that one can certainly rock the hell out like Fu Manchu and put a little trippy psychedelic cool whip on top of the sludge pie.
While Farflung is hardly of the same bombastic caliber as the glorious Fu's, they nevertheless bring their own stamping blare on songs like "Unborn Planet," "Endless Drifting Wreck" and "Invincible," which keeps A Wound in Eternity throbbing like one great car jam, at the same time heaping on electronic sequencing and some insanely trippy guitar yanks to give you bloom on top of the boom.
A Wound In Eternity does slow down frequently but this is to bake Farflung's haze-laced grooves on tracks such as the drone-ohm of "Ix" or the transfixed embodiment of Pink Floyd stoned on "Silver Shrooms," the latter song utilizing a Jane's Addiction-flavored guitar spelunk sequence that heightens the inherent high of tune.
As the term "stoner rock" has become a generic tag to describe low-tuned rock and metal ranging from Weedeater to Clutch to Spirit Caravan to Ramesses, so little of it bears an actual translucence where the music is the drug from which to reach an altered mind flux. Give Farflung credit in that respect; their senses-distorting electro dubs and banging riffs is all the toking nirvana one needs without a drag on a doobie. That says something, don't ya think?
Top 'o the hump day to you, faithful readers...
Not a lot to say though there's plenty on my mind, some good and some bad, thus I'm going to begin the process of self-cleansing to make sense of it all as soon as I can implement it. That'll hopefully start sometime this week as I'll attempt to make it out to an open mike event and read some new poetry I've written and sort of reconnect with that particular part of my soul that I've lost over the past couple years. There's some changes coming in my future (many very exciting) so it's time to sweep the clutter out and get a fresh attitude with which to embrace it all.
A mixed bag of old school rock and metal along with some cool new vibes in Promoville such the space rockin' new album from Farflung, which you'll be reading about shortly, the coolly complicated cyberstoner of End of Level Boss and a few others.
Mostly it's been about getting in touch with that 17-old-headbanger and remembering who he was and who he's become now, so expect to see a heavy dash of the old school in weeks to come. This week Guns 'n Roses gets dibs as I start making my way towards dragging Appetite For Destruction off the shelf and giving it a long overdue listen through older ears. For this week it's been the Use Your Illusion trip, mainly the first one and I've been singing "Shotgun Blues" in my head most of the week and "Bad Obsession" quite a number of times as well. I'm drowning in "November Rain" and still in awe of it since the first time I ever heard it. Could it be in the top ten of all-time greatest rock songs ever written? Maybe. I can say that Slash's emotionally gut-wrenching solo in the final stanza ranks as a top five in that department. Brings a slight mist to my eyes when I hear it, daaaamn... For the length of time I'd pushed Guns 'n Roses out of my life, it feels pretty good to have 'em back...
Guns 'n Roses - Use Your Illusion I and II
Farflung - A Wound In Eternity
End Of Level Boss - Inside the Difference Engine
Judas Priest - British Steel
Judas Priest - Point of Entry
Judas Priest - Stained Class
Whitesnake - Slide it In
Whitesnake - Whitesnake
Whitesnake - Good to Be Bad
Annihilator - Schizo Deluxe
Annihilator - All For You
Glenn Hughes - Songs in the Key of Rock
Hughes-Turner Project - HTP2
Century - Black Ocean
The Backsliders - You're Welcome
Today is the Day - S/T