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

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Monday, March 30, 2009

Static-X: Stingwray video

Sunday, March 29, 2009

CD Review: Mastodon - Crack the Skye

Mastodon - Crack the Skye
2009 Reprise Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Of all the bands to be suddenly under the scrutinizing eye of the metal and rock public, Mastodon has found themselves in such a position, largely for having the good fortune to make it to the majors. You can already hear the echoing gripes and unfortunate accusations of heresy from the Remission-era fans of Mastodon, those who might not wholly appreciate the gained maturity of this astounding band out of the land Tecumsah Sherman once barbarically leveled. On a side note, in an interview I did with drummer Brann Dailor at the time of Leviathan, I posed Mastodon do an album based on the burning of Atlanta, which he entertained with laughter and admission his band would be the right ones for such a task.

Mastodon have borne crowns of iron as one of the heaviest bands to emerge in this generation, which does leave those who've been following them since the early days at particular odds. Even this writer once turned his nose briefly at Celtic Frost's Into the Pandemonium before later realizing its genius. Hopefully the same will come to fruition with those who might scoff at Mastodon's glorious expansion of sound and theory with their latest epic Crack the Skye.

If you're from Maryland or certain regions along the east coast, you're going to wonder how Mastodon derived an album titled Crack the Skye in relation to its subject matter about the downfall of the czar era in Russia and a lingering mysticism therein. Particularly since there once was a local legend of the eighties who still gets together for reunion gigs in the Baltimore region called Crack the Sky. Coincidence? Hardly.

That being said, wherever Mastodon paralleled their muse to this title matters not because Crack the Skye is pure brilliance from a band destined to be--along with Opeth and Isis--masters of their generation.

Forget "Crusher Destroyer" or "Iron Tusk" when coming to this album. If you thought Blood Mountain was an introduction to a new order in the Mastodon camp, you're going to want to let Crack the Skye spin a few times before passing final judgment. Hell, you're going to want to spin this baby plenty because the winding details expunged on Crack the Skye are so much you're going to vaguely remember the crunch chords found at random on "Oblivion," "Divinations" and the title song.

The thing this time is Mastodon has evolved far in advance of the low-end cacophony that won them notice. It's fun to hear Brent Hinds twinkle banjo notes at the beginning of "Divinations" while Brann Dailor serves up savory drum rolls like he's issuing them for free (on "The Last Baron" he's absolutely possessed for 13 minutes). As "Divinations" switches between aggression, appositely uplifting choruses and impressively tasty psychedelic twangs and tugs, so too do the vocals change agreeably. Thank God Mastodon allowed themselves the confidence of embracing their Southern-baked cleans. Some argue that the growling of the past is their true identity yet the more Hinds and Troy Sanders (with Dailor chipping in some pipe work as well) let themselves go vocally in the direction of discernable Ozzy-like swoons (there are scant few deep growls on this thing, for the record) the more textured the band responds in progressive accordance.

"Quintessence" is both delicate and bombs-heavy (those breathy guts and swirling guitar weaves make the louder parts far more impactful with letter-perfect juxtaposition) while both "The Czar" and "The Last Baron" are marathon opuses in the senses-overload tradition of Rush. In between are the translucent "Ghost of Karelia" and the gorgeously bellowing title track, the latter of which ought to appease the monster metal devout.

The thing to stress about Crack the Skye is its unbelievable punctilio. If Mastodon takes any cue from Rush on this electrifying album (consider the broken segments comprising "The Czar"), then it might be daringly said that the band has created sludge rock's very own 2112 or least Hemispheres.

Far from conventional for a band some were cheesed at for signing with a corporate label, Crack the Skye is not an album chained and restrained by the machine. In fact, give Reprise a big hand for bravely leaving Mastodon to their own designs. If there's any commercial stakes to be had with signing a titanic band like Mastodon, it's because the world is recognizing these guys as lords of their sound and their place in music history. Having the guts to stretch their sludge-belted base with multilayered dynamics is the sign of a band poised to become the Yes of their time and style if not Rush. The prolonged, exquisite guitars rounding out the final couple minutes of "The Last Baron" is all the proof you need...

Rating: *****

Friday, March 27, 2009

CD Review: Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague

Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague
2009 Metal Blade
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Since the passing of Chuck Schuldiner, death metal has thankfully been nurtured in the deferential hands of peers and disciples such as Vader, Slayer, Destruction, The Rotted (formerly Gorerotted), Amon Amarth, Black Dahlia Murder, Demiricous and The Absence amongst others. One of the inarguably best death squads in metal's history outside of Death and Slayer is naturally Cannibal Corpse.

What else do you say about a band who evokes the celebratory mayhem of Fulci and Deodato splatter through one of the most extreme metallic sounds in the world? Cartoon Network's riotous Dethklok: Metalocalypse is the animated extension of the pus, blood and excrement squished out of Cannibal Corpse's skewered and piked lyrics. Nathan Explosion is one hardcore motherfucker but he would hardly be a doodle on the storyboard without his identifiable mortal muse, George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher. Hell, Dethklok themselves are the brought-to-life marriage of Dimmu Borgir and Cannibal Corpse, which leads us to the possible conclusion that if not for Slayer, the Corpse would be the indisputed champions of death metal, bar none.

Then again, the heralds of Slayer may be the finest of the form, yet Cannibal Corpse has managed to take them toe-to-toe in terms of ultra-violent penmanship, not to mention grossly faster algorithms (even if Dave Lombardo remains one of the greatest to ever stamp down on a bass pedal). Put against one another, the fan selection would heavily favor Slayer yet Cannibal Corpse could crack whips over the masters' heads on the velocity scale.

Why Cannibal Corpse is so freaking badass aside from their insanely graphic album covers (which have been noticeably censored now that the band is one of Metal Blade's franchise groups) is their relentless power from album-to-album. Sure, any Cannibal Corpse album is mostly predictible where you can expect beat-ripped songs about pain and suffering featuring brutally imaginative mechanisms tooling sadistically through the group's gore-loving heads. Craniums, limbs, eyeballs, tongues, genitals, you name it; all cannon fodder for a band that has probably seen Make Them Die Slowly, Dead Alive and I Spit On Your Grave more times than anyone on the planet. As a matter of fact, when I interviewed Alex Webster for Cannibal's previous release Kill, he was talking about Hostel well before it ever struck American shores. In other words, these cats know their horror business inside and out, emphasis on the insides...

Keeping that in mind as Cannibal Corpse strikes again with their latest thrash, bash and slash opus Evisceration Plague, the only mystery coming to this thing is how well its mad-strung components can keep up with each other. It seems with each album, Cannibal Corpse challenges themselves within to maintain the rattling, coin-scattered pulse they've customized better than damned near everyone except maybe Vader.

Though Cannibal Corpse may be starting to run out of offensive, Grand Guignol-esque titles such as "Stripped, Raped and Strangled" and "Force Fed Broken Glass" from The Bleeding or "Entrails Ripped From a Virgin" off of Tomb of the Mutilated, you still get some juicy ditties on Evisceration Plague such as "Beheading and Burning," "Evidence in the Furnace," "Shatter Their Bones" and "Skewered From Ear to Eye."

As the Corpsegrinder bellows out his customary chest-heaved belches, he pulls a hellcat yelp straight out of his spleen on "Scalding Hail" that makes you laugh in a sinister manner. Almost every album George Fisher has commandeered for Cannibal Corpse has at least one of those shrieking projections yielding the capacity to produce a sicko chuckle from the listener. Call it Fisher's shtick.

As nonchalantly as Fisher and his bandmates view themselves, it's easy to get stupidly captivated by Cannibal Corpse's tone-heavy shredding and ass-on-fire beat spewage to the point you sing depravedly along as everyone listening to "Make Them Suffer" from Kill must've done in private or in venue parking lots. This time around, expect to growl along with the Corpsegrinder to "A Cauldron of Hate," "Beheading and Burning," "Carnivorous Swarm" and the title track.

Also expect much of the same mosh-march-blast sequences you've always heard from these guys on Evisceration Plague. Many non-fans make the mistake thinking there's no buried artistry beneath the will-smashing velocity of Cannibal Corpse's music, but take one look at the making-of DVD accompanying The Wretched Spawn, or simply watch this band decimate their competitors onstage and you'll realize this is no easy task these guys delegate unto themselves. Playing an appropriately winding set of maniacal guitar strikes to give aural character to "Carnivorous Swarm" is as hard as could be expected from any band on the scene, much less those around as long as Cannibal Corpse has been--just query Joey DeMaio of Manowar about his bass-bombed interpretation of "Flight of the Bumblebees."

Asking Paul Mazurkiewicz to be on the ready with knee-popping triple hammers and ratchety snare strikes then slow his provoked limbs to a steady crawl on "Evisceration Plague" before erupting again with little room for hesitation is for some people like asking reality t.v. junkies to watch a factual documentary on Discovery Channel. Nonetheless, Mazurkiewicz has long been the unsung hero for Cannibal Corpse and as the band attempts ever-so-slight variances on Evisceration Plague, the destined-for-arthritis Mazurkiewicz proves his salt as always on this album. In particular the songs he wrote or co-wrote such as "Carrion Sculpted Entity," "To Decompose" and "Carnivorous Swarm."

Cannibal Corpse's meathead show is blatantly wrong on all accounts, but if you can take your metal tailspun through sinew-tearing claustrophobia and chord-crunched abuse, Cannibal Corpse reliably offers the best hellride out there.

Rating: ****

Thursday, March 26, 2009

CD Review: Lamb of God - Wrath

Lamb of God - Wrath
2009 Epic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Taking nothing away from Lamb of God as they have remained one of the consistently heaviest bands of the modern metal age, there has still been something a bit too polished and refined for a band recording one of this generation's bona fide gems, the hellacaustic As the Palaces Burn.

What made Palaces such an immediate classic is its roughshod urgency. Its clankety cacophony and hurried inventiveness whipped a torrential blend of death metal and metalcore yet to be exactly replicated, even by the band themselves outside of their live presentation. Sure, both Ashes of the Wake and Sacrament are nut-busting heavy, but neither album matches the searing, grandiose cataclysm of "A Devil in God's Country," still to this day Lamb of God's inarguable masterpiece.

Though Lamb of God traded in the backwoods clamor of As the Palaces Burn for the jokey, moonshine-soaked "Redneck" from Sacrament and ran all the way to sold-out gigs and a Grammy nomination, let's face the facts... Sacrament was a solid slab, yet its sparkled perfection straight to the you-are-there-beneath-the-splash-cymbals audibility spiffied up the scruffy Virginia metal mongrels to a level of near-discomfort. As unbalanced a prospect as bringing The Three Stooges into high society with the expected disastrous results as occurs in their halcyon comedy short "Hoi Palloi." As commercially suspect as strapping Michael Myers into a tuxedo (much less Moe, Larry and Curly) and ordering him to restrain his killing hand in polite company.

While nobody's going to accuse the mighty Lamb of God of wussing out since As the Palaces Burn, someone must've shit on their Cracker Barrel shingles because their latest album Wrath comes out bearing great titular fortitude.

Truly, Lamb of God hasn't sounded this motivated, like they're actually on the bottom of the totem with something to prove to the metal community. For a band bearing the distorted audile equivalent to piss streaming and steaming down an icy dumpster, as of their past two albums, the piss has collected into more agreeable indoor toilets. Come on, we want Randy Blythe and his demolition squad breaking the law with their beer-clogged dicks and thanks be to the Lamb, Wrath helps them unload their flogging cranks. Maybe not with the congruent fury of Palaces, but Wrath is still one angry beast of an album itself.

If there's any complaint to Wrath (and if you've been reading this site awhile, you know what's coming), it's the fact Lamb of God can't altogether let go of the breakdown chug that crops up on a fair share of the album. Okay, maybe the kids still crave such mindless joy in repetition, but like Unearth, Lamb of God has reached such a high level of musicianship those danged breakdowns cheapen their otherwise red-hot attacks.

Taking a chance at alienating maybe a pocketful of train jumpers to Sacrament, Wrath goes full monty with bazooka-boomed and snare-smacked thrash lines from Chris Adler, antagonistic string slaughter from Willie Adler, Mark Morton and John Campbell, blood-curdling yelping from Randy Blythe and some fabulous acoustic lavishment to sweeten the deal.

Almost everyone is daydreaming of Ride the Lightning-era Metallica with Wrath's swooning two-minute opener "The Passing," which ignites the abrupt speed collisions found on the subsequent "In Your Words." Though "In Your Words" (which also features a guitar line akin to Metallica's "Battery") might've been better served to stick with its primary thrash melding, the decree is served instantly on Wrath that Lamb of God is intent on going bare-knuckles, even with gradual sonic waves sculpted out of "In Your Words'" initial stripped essence.

Much of Wrath feels like Lamb of God chucked the flash and poured in the grease on cuts such as the fast and brutal "Set to Fail," "Contractor," (one of the band's fastest tunes ever) "Dead Seeds" and "Fake Messiah." As Chris Adler is routinely called upon to lead Wrath's songs with wrist-wrangling distemperment, Lamb of God takes cue by carving the gristle and sinking their teeth straight into the meat, ravenously scraping the T-bone along the way. As Randy Blythe mixes his trademark growls with a bit of Phil Anselmo and George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher nuances, ironically he hasn't sounded this coherent while yelping his bowels clean out until now.

In the past, producer Josh Wilbur has allowed Lamb of God to sound as major league as their label benefactor, however, now he residually lets them scale down to a more agreeable din still bearing sharp finesse. "Redneck" has forever doomed Lamb of God to cough up a similar party instigator to keep the check-writers happy, Wrath scorns such a prospect impudently. While always melodic (particularly with the elegant lead to "Grace" and through differing exchanges of aggression and tranquility on "Reclamation"), Wrath stamps on its own toes spitefully if it gets too close towards anything resembling mainstream. Even the shuck and jive tone of "Everything to Nothing" gets smacked around as quickly as it sets its bobbing groove to task.

Right on to that, because as they say, sometimes you have to step backwards to move forward. Lamb of God needn't drift back to their Burn the Priest days because a song like "Grace" featuring pinches of everything this band has tinkered with sound-wise is all they need to stay relevant.

Still one of the best in this scene and it's because Lamb of God values their reason for being enough to piss in public once again.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 3/25/09

Hola, chums, here we are at another midweek check-in, hope y'all are doing good around the globe.

Keeping things rolling as steady as she can although production was slow this week at The Metal Minute. A special thanks to my bro Scott Alisoglu for his contributions here. You can find Scott all over the place in Metal Land including Blabbermouth, so it's been a real pleasure having his words keep the gears cranking.

As a last-minute surprise night out, I ended up downtown with a buddy of mine to catch a Maryland metal and punk festival in Baltimore which featured local bands but was headlined Saturday by Darkest Hour and Sunday by Soilwork. Though I'm sure Soilwork ripped, I have to give Darkest Hour my fullest compliments for an outstanding set. As the group is recording their new album here in Baltimore, it was fabulous they agreed to attend this gig as they were obviously the class elite of Saturday's lineup. A scorcher of a set, I assure you. Don't miss these guys if they hit your town.

Otherwise, trying to stay on course with my life's responsibilities and assignments and hopefully carve out some time to hedge some short fiction in preparation of getting on those two books I've dallied way too long with. Horror has me busy with a big load of Asian horror films which I've started on with the violent Japanese shocker All Night Long and a beautifully done Korean dark version of Hansel and Gretel. Also for you gorehounds, I reviewed Laid to Rest, a very brutal slasher flick with a tech-oriented killer named ChromeSkull and it also has Lena Heady of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Pretty well done and I'm looking forward to an offered future interview with leading actress Bobbie Sue Luther.

I've had my nose in the latest issue of American Short Fiction but as always my reading time is way short, but on the flipside, the music is just flowing all over the danged place. Though I'll be prepping for upcoming interviews with Isis and Scale the Summit, I hope to get out some reviews of the previously-promised Rhino plus the new Mastodon, Cannibal Corpse and Lamb of God albums here at The Metal Minute. Lots of booming tunes out there and I'm excited to talk about these suckas.

Spin-wise, hard to say who led the charge since I dragged out a lot of promo and other stuff but I'd have to say by attrition from keeping a calm vibe at work and on the road with my partner, Thievery Corporation got the most plays. But then I had some MC5, Curtis Mayfield, Tiger Army, Generation X, Thompson Twins, Bob Marley, the Dead Kennedys and Bruuuuuuuuuuuce going in addition to all the metal. Fun--if not a goofy--place to be in my listening world, eh?

Thievery Corporation - The Mirror Conspiracy
Mastodon - Leviathan
Mastodon - Crack the Skye
Cannibal Corpse - Evisceration Plague
Lamb of God - Wrath
Tiger Army - Music From Regions Beyond
Generation X - s/t
Generation X - Valley of the Dolls
Curtis Mayfield - The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield
Thompson Twins - Into the Gap
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Legend
Amon Amarth - Once Sent From the Golden Hall
Derek Sherinian - Molecular Heinosity
Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska
Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On the Edge of Town
Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe
Wolf - Ravenous
Filter - Anthems of the Damned
Queensryche - American Soldier
The Dresden Dolls - s/t
Dead Kennedys - Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables
Lard - The Last Temptation of Reid
MC5 - Back in the USA

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Guest Writer: Scott Alisoglu - HeXen

HeXen: May the Thrash Be With You
By Scott Alisoglu

“Basically, I think it was around the beginning of this decade when a whole generation of kids our age started looking back into the metal because everywhere was just BS music.” The words from HeXen vocalist/bassist Andre Harroonian are familiar ones. This year in particular it has become blatantly apparent that a new generation has looked to thrash metal’s glorious past for inspiration. The market may be on the verge of flooding, but if the waters cleanse the streets of prefabricated, soulless metal, then so much the better.

“You’d hear it on the radio and on TV,” Harroonian continues, “and basically America just became so saturated with all these corporate, mainstream bands, the pop bands and the rap bands. Here there was always an underground and metal never died, but I just got so sick of all the Limp Bizkits and Korns and all those things. So we basically looked backwards trying to find good music in metal. We all got interested in it together in middle school and high school.”

After forming in 2003, the teenager thrashers of HeXen began furiously writing and releasing demos, ultimately landing a deal with, appropriately enough, Old School Metal Records early this year. The quartet’s [also including drummer Carlos Cruz and guitarists Ronny Dorian and James Lopez] full-length debut, State of Insurgency, is a 56-minute tour de force of sharply arranged, up-tempo thrash metal with strong melodies, sociopolitical lyrics, and one hell of a lot of shred. Owing as much to early Megadeth and Testament as the more common reference points of many of today’s cherubic bullet-belters (Exodus, Kreator, second-wave thrash, etc), HeXen strove to up the ante in composing its music.

“In the end, our core is still thrash,” assures Harroonian. “We could sit down and write simple, two power-chord riff thrash songs, but we aren’t fulfilled in the end doing that kind of stuff. No matter what happens, we always end up spicing it up, throwing in melodies and harmonies, and the lyrics have to be more serious than what a lot of thrash bands tend to write about. Especially when it comes to the arrangements I think what we have in some of our songs more than any other thrash band is a lot of overdubs, really making the music polyphonic, and orchestrating sometimes, especially in the title track. Most of the time some thrash bands are just no-bullshit and bare bones with two rhythm tracks and a solo track on top and that’s basically your song. We like to go in and lay on a lot of tracks and really make the music sick and have a lot of stuff in the background, sometimes keyboards, sometimes acoustics, and produce a big product. That’s why our debut album is 13 tracks long.”

Reading that description, one might assume that State of Insurgency is a bloated mess that would never translate in a live setting. That’s certainly not the case, as Harroonian affirms.

“If someone really listens and analyzes the music and comes out to a live show, he might feel like some stuff, like a little counter melody or harmony that made things sound sexy on the CD, is not there. Obviously, we only have two guitars to play that live. We’re not a studio band that tries to do a million different things though, so that if people come out to see us live we don’t suffer from the same thing that a lot of three-pieces or Pantera suffer from; when it cuts to solos and whatnot the rhythm cuts out and you only have this bass to hold up the bottom end.”

In further demonstration of the seriousness with which the members of HeXen take their metal, Harroonian goes to great lengths to write lyrics with depth. The young man’s intelligence comes across in a big way and his left-wing political commentary on the state of the nation is damning, to say the least.

“I figure if I don’t have the most talent in my voice, just screaming Tom Araya-esque thrash vocals, I might as well make the lyrics worthwhile. I spent a lot of time with them. At times it will take me weeks to finish off the lyrics for a song. They say that two things that people should never really discuss because they are endless debates are religion and politics. But I think they say that because those two things mainly rule the world. We have such vast problems and worldwide events in front of our eyes. I find it extremely irrelevant and insignificant to be singing about stuff like death, darkness, Satan, and fear, like a lot of thrash bands. I draw inspiration from a lot of documentaries that I watch. A couple that inspired me for some of the lyrics that I wrote were the movies Zeitgeist, Taxi to the Dark Side, and The Esoteric Agenda, which is great eye opening stuff. I don’t want to sound like a traitor or anything. I just give you the most negative outlook on all of America’s endeavors.”

Copyright 2009 Scott Alisoglu

Friday, March 20, 2009

CD Review: Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe

Les Claypool - Of Fungi and Foe
2009 Prawn Song Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Not that Primus is what any sane person would consider a conventional rock band, but you might say the future was staked at least for Les Claypool when he revealed not only his affinity for Parliament-blazed funk, but also cello fugue with Primus' avant-guarde hit "Mr. Krinkle" from their frequently goofy Pork Soda album.

Already proving himself modern rock's most innovative and eccentric bassist, the manic funk punk of Primus was hardly enough to contain the swirling bughouse straining Claypool's teeming temples, much less his dexterous hand grips. The grinding and joyously disturbed cello of "Mr. Krinkle" should've been considered fair warning. Never mind Claypool's doings in Oysterhead and Sausage; it's the unchained freewheeling of his solo albums which truly reveal how twisted this cat is. You'd never guess one of Les Claypool's first music gigs was in an obscure metalpunk band from the mid-eighties, Blind Illusion, not when you hear him scat gibberish galore in an exaggerated redneck swill on his latest album Of Fungi and Foe.

A sequel to Claypool's 2006 album Of Whales and Woe, you may ask? In sound theory, sure. In a daft and cracked egg demeanor? Absolutely. One thing's for sure about Of Fungi and Foe, Les Claypool hasn't lost his disorderly sense of humor. Whether he's bitch-slapping elitist progheads on "You Can't Tell Errol Anything" or he's painting a seemingly cutesy ditty about a comely girl who just so happens to pee on the sidewalk for fun on "Kazoo" or whether Claypool is torching doobie suckers on the hilarious "Primed By 29," Of Fungi and Foe has its cheek slammed straight to the pavement.

Regarding the conception of this album, Claypool relays being contracted to do music scoring for the Mushroom Men video game and an underground film Pig Hunt, which spilled straight into this hazy and syrupy funk rock endeavor. Consider Of Fungi and Foe something along the lines of George Clinton blowing benevolent ganja smoke into an already laced-out looney bin soundtrack and accented by martini-swigging marimba swirls, weepy cello slides and big-top drum blats.

Claypool creates a continuous calliope of the damned vibe to Of Fungi and Foe on other songs such as "Roscoe," "What Would Sir George Martin Do" and the zany tabla-lounge lunacy of "Red State Girl," the latter being an ode to a backwoods white trasher with an affirmed crush on do-goodie conservative chicks with "tits made out of recycled bottles" and who "want to grow up to be Sarah Palin."

"Mushroom Men" kicks the album with a whumping tempo, xylophone-tingled mayhem and Claypool's otherworldly bass akin to off-kilter heart murmurs, while "Booneville Stomp" is the closest nod to Primus with its swampy bass and rhythmic funk twangs. Then there's the rhumba-flavored mutant mosh of "Bite Out of Life" that radiates disco hell, frying pan clatter and cuckoo's nest groaning as the song jives nervily along.

Baked out of the conjugal drag of Claypool's weedy sideshow microcosm, Of Fungi and Foe is trippy but moreso it's daringly punchy and unashamedly dweebish. Anyone following Claypool all this time is going to oblige his toiled, burping vocals on "Kazoo" because it fits his screwy, moonstruck candor, particularly with the concentrated chimes and strutting violins assisting this cool little number.

Of course, when you have a line like "Jeeze what a horrible song, it stinks like a big wet donkey dong" from the backwashed "Primed By 29," it's not going to take much else to win over Claypool's devout, much less mere fans of knucklehead art rock. A tune where Claypool subliminally comments that smoking dope or doing 'shrooms alters perceptions to the point of idiocy, "Primed By 29" may just be the declarative anthem to Claypool's batty career.

Rating: ****

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 3/18/09

Erin Go Bragh a day late, all you Irish and Irish wannabes! Me, I'm only a quarter Scot-Irish, but All-American Mutt when you add the British, German and Dutch lineages to the mix. As I like to say, that explains why I'm constantly at war with myself...

Thanks to wifey for hooking a tired pup up last night with some of the best corned beef and cabbage I've ever had, plus rounds of Guinness waiting for me at home. As I struggle with a few growing pains of daddyhood, this diversion was terrific, to say the least. Also thanks to my cousins Ang and Andy for the Murphy's on keg this past Sunday; a Christening party was never so loose! Then of course, mad love to my folks for their continued support and love with everything, including a musical St. Patty's card, considering I forgot to get the Chieftains off the shelf this week... It was also nice catching up with the in-laws for a couple hours this past Sunday while they were in town. We've come strides, haven't we?

For the remainder of the week, be on standby here at The Metal Minute for reviews coming your way of doom blasters Rhino and hopefully a look at the new Les Claypool album Of Fungi and Foe. Special thanks again to Ruyter Suys of Nashville Pussy for checking in. Ruyter shared with me yesterday a killer live photo of the band playing at Wacken in front 100K people, hellacool. For those of you in proximity of the greatest metal festival in the world, I envy you for the music and the camaraderie...

Spin-wise this week, it was a mega dose of Jimi and Lemmy with the Hendrix Experience running away with tons of listens, particularly from getting the baby acclimated to the most influential guitarist of all-time. Plus I finally caught up with the new U2 album and feeling shaky with it at first, I really came to appreciate their Radiohead-esque spirit of reinvention. The new Queensryche album American Soldier came in, which is built around Geoff Tate's series of interviews with the troops in Iraq. What I've heard sounds similar to the past few albums with a midtempo pace and a decidedly melancholy tone, not far off from the new Filter album, which is also in deference to the Iraqi conflict.

Still putzing through Stephen King's latest, though I've had my nose buried in some literary and writer's magazines to try and dig up new opportunities. Just got done watching an Iggy Pop DVD for review and otherwise, there's only been time to watch Tokyo Zombie and that's basically it.

It was cool talking with the delivery man about Jimi on Saturday, even if the baby had to interrupt our music-oriented chat by voicing himself accordingly. Little spud's been quite loud lately, ripping my ears apart at bedtime in ways they haven't been since the 1988 Monsters of Rock fest. Maybe he'll be a death metal singer in sixteen or so years, you never know...

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis: Bold As Love
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced
The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland
Motorhead - Ace of Spades
Motorhead - Overkill
Motorhead - Overnight Sensation
U2 - No Line On the Horizon
Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
The Cars - Candy-O
Rhino - Dead Throne Monarch
Queensryche - American Soldier
Stemm - Blood Scent
Static-X - Cult of Static
Derek Sherinian - Molecular Heinosity
Lauryn Hill - The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Ian Gillan - One Eye to Morocco
Billy Sheehan - Holy Cow!
Monster Magnet - Spine of God
Mike Oldfield - Tubular Bells
Yes - Symphonic Live

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Take 5 With Ruyter Suys of Nashville Pussy

Whether their name offends you or the title of their 1998 debut album Let Them Eat Pussy makes you skittish, once you step up to this Southern raw bar where the proverbial clams are the menu's calling card and the white lightning essence is so residual you can taste the bathtub rust, you'll likely become a regular customer.

Over the course of their decade-plus of whiskey-sprayed hellraising, Nashville Pussy may have scaled back the hardcore-tinged pace from their early years, but they sure haven't skimped on their mad dog work ethic. The band has generated more than a slew of gigs since their last album, 2005's Get Some as the name Nashville Pussy begins to haunt the collections of metalheads, punk rockers and rebel yellers from many walks of life. Doing so has cost the band a pair of bassists along the way and as you'll read further, gross bodily infliction while belting out sweathog rock 'n roll at their customarily fierce tempo.

This year The Pussy delivers their latest album From Hell to Texas, one of their leanest and loudest efforts to-date. Ruyter Suys, one of the most underrated guitarists in the business, amps up her game on From Hell to Texas with her husband vocalist/guitarst Blaine Cartwright and her rounded posse of drummer Jeremy Thompson and bassist Karen Cuda.

Telling these motherfuckers to go with some Nuge, AC/DC and The Ramones whipping their seats into action is elementary for Nashville Pussy. As Nashville Pussy gains widespread attention in increments, be on the lookout for this group in respectable rock clubs as well as weed-choked redneck dives the world over. Success is in the hands of Ruyter and company, or as she told me in this Take 5 interview, "Fuck it making it step-by-step, where's the damn elevator?"

The Metal Minute: A few years ago I interviewed Blaine and he spoke highly of you as both his wife and bandmate. As Nashville Pussy continues to slug it out on the road, you guys are finally starting to build your audience, even on a global level. You two have been at this for over a decade now and you're still going strong in both relationships. How do you feel your mutual roles together have kept Nashville Pussy alive and with all of your public attention, how crazy has life been for you with all the sex-crazed men in your audience?

Ruyter Suys: Me and Blaine get along real good so for the most part our easy ass relationship as a couple makes it much easier to be in a band together. Besides, I am his biggest fan so I love to watch him perform every night from the best seat in the house, right next to him onstage. As far as the sex-crazed men goes, I have been attracting them long before I was in a band so I'm pretty used to it. Being in a band just lets me even take more advantage of them and I get to leave town the next day! We are a strange couple and honestly unless a couple gets along really good I would never recommend being in a band with a spouse--being on the road amplifies more than just the music--it will amplify any little problem as well. It ain't for the weak of heart, and yes, it gets as crazy as you think!

MM: I'll leave that to my imagination! (laughs) We have always felt a certain amount of stability with all of our bassists but too much comfort doesn't necessarily make for an exciting band. Karen has the perfect blend of stability and wild ass untamable spirit which makes her energy undeniable. Karen is the most perfect bass player for this band. The foundation of this band has always been Blaine, myself and Jeremy on drums - Karen is the perfect addition to our rock solid trio and we are a pretty tough unit to break into. Her "breaking in period" lasted about five minutes she's been breaking us in since then.

RS: We have always felt a certain amount of stability with all of our bassists but too much comfort doesn't necessarily make for an exciting band. Karen has the perfect blend of stability and wild ass untamable spirit which makes her energy undeniable. Karen is the most perfect bass player for this band. The foundation of this band has always been Blaine, myself and Jeremy on drums. Karen is the perfect addition to our rock solid trio and we are a pretty tough unit to break into. Her "breaking in period" lasted about five
minutes she's been breaking us in since then.

MM: (laughs) I think From Hell to Texas is your most-stripped album to-date still bearing affinities for punk as well as Aerosmith, Nugent, Kiss and still a good chunk of that hellraising hillbilly flavor. I also think you guys sound like you had a hell of a lot of fun with this album, even more than on Get Some. Would you agree with that?

RS: Yes, I totally agree. This album was kind of a breeze to write and record. For the first time I managed to write a few tunes and Jeremy and I came up with "Stone Cold Down." This was the first time the rest of the band contributed this much. So hell yeah, it was fun. Being in the studio always is. Plus we got to hang at Willie Nelson's ranch! How cool is that?

MM: Very! I was heading down the road the other day with "Lazy Jesus" playing in the truck and I got passed by some speed freak who ended up cutting things too close and he slammed on his brakes in front of me and what do I see on the hypocrite's bumper, a sticker praising Jesus. Divine intervention, maybe? Seriously, that song is really addictive for the rhythm and the melody, but the envelope sure got pushed on that one, eh?

RS: "Lazy Jesus" kicks ass! Blaine purposely saved that song for last when he was showing us songs for the new album. Usually Blaine writes a Ramones style song and Jeremy and I turn it into and AC/DC style song. With "Lazy Jesus" he wanted us to leave it alone and leave it real stripped-down and sparse. It is totally infectious and not overplayed in the least. We weren't allowed to turn it into an arena rock song like we usually want to do. I recorded with a beautiful old Fender Telecaster we borrowed from Jeremy's dad in Austin and I left the old crusty strings on it for the recording even. It gave it a certain tarnish and age that you can't create except with the real deal. And between Willie Nelson and Lemmy, I think we've met the best the Lord has to offer on this planet.

MM: We can see that a Nashville Pussy gig is balls-out, pardon the pun, from your recently-released Live in Hollywood DVD. Has there been a gig that has just socked and drained you from all of that insane energy, and what show from the early years of the band really stands out in your mind as a learning lesson for today?

RS: One time in Lisbon, Portugal I was slowly getting electrocuted on stage but kept playing. My transformer was not working at capacity and bit by bit released more and more current into me but I kept playing. At one point I even got shocked when I picked up a towel to dry off! By the end of the night I was throwing up blood and the promoters were asking "What did she take?" Needless to say I was drained but never stopped playing. It was a hell of a gig, though I hope to never repeat it!

Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ray's Reviews and Interviews Elsewhere...

Greetings, faithful readers, I have a generous smackerel of writings to check out at some of my other outlets: Horror, DVD and Heavy Metal.

At Horror I have a review of the nutty Japanese undead romp, Tokyo Zombie, which you can access in their Asian Shock section.

Also be on the lookout there for my interviews with Stevan Mena, director of the horror spoof Brutal Massacre as well as His Name Jason: 30 Years of Friday the 13th producer Anthony Masi.

At DVD, I have recent reviews of Metalocalypse: Season 2 as well His Name Was Jason, Tripping the Rift Season 3, Traitor and Living Colour: New Morning: The Paris Concert

Metalocalypse review: Metalocalypse Season 2

His Name Was Jason review: His Name Was Jason

Living Colour review: Living Colour

Tripping the Rift review: Tripping the Rift Season 3

Traitor review: Traitor

At Heavy Metal I have a slew of reviews of current releases from Static-X, Mantic Ritual, Revolting Cocks, Nashville Pussy, Ephel Duath, Psyopus, The Amenta, The Eyes of a Traitor, Zombi, Scale the Summit, Iron Fire and Dimension Zero

Static-X review: Static-X

Mantic Ritual review: Mantic Ritual

Revolting Cocks review: Revolting Cocks

Nashville Pussy review: Nashville Pussy

Ephel Duath review: Ephel Duath

Psyopus review: Psyopus

The Amenta review: The Amenta

The Eyes of a Traitor review: The Eyes of a Traitor

Scale the Summit review: Scale the Summit

Zombi review: Zombi

Iron Fire review: Iron Fire

Dimension Zero review: Dimension Zero

I have a review of the new Billy Sheehan album Holy Cow! coming up at Dee Snider's House of Hair Online in the immediate future, so be on the lookout for that as well. As always, thank you for your continued patronage!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

CD Review: Yes - Symphonic Live

Yes - Symphonic Live
2009 Eagle Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

By now, the whole rock symposium phenomenon has become sadly passe. Not to say that Metallica deserves credit for inventing the collision between sonic distortion and orchestral accompaniment, but rock and and metal hasn't been the same ever since S&M crashed the docks. Prior to this red-lit marriage which not only became an immediate cash cow for Metallica but provoked an entire movement of bands enveloping the practice of symphonic accentuation, you had Electric Light Orchestra, the most direct and addictive example. There's of course been Emerson Lake and Palmer and Pink Floyd and later on Savatage as well as Queensryche's Floydian love letter "Silent Lucidity." Celtic Frost naturally deserves mention, and while we can scour the history books for rock and metal units employing orchestral maneuvers within their music, suffice it to say one band comes sprinting to mind when thinking logistically about an endeavor between electric and traditional instruments: Yes

Despite the fact Yes' more recent bodies of work yield little of the flamboyant progression as their earlier, more reknowned masterpieces, they remain in the eyes of many the ultimate prog band. As pinpointedly narcissistic yet beautifully senses-bursting as Tales From Topographic Oceans is, admit it, you subliminally imagined a full orchestra blaring behind this album at least one time or another while spinning it.

Wish fulfillment be yours, then, as Yes corrals the European Festival Orchestra behind "Ritual" from Topographic Oceans on their frequently wondrous Symphonic Live album. A large contingency of Yes' formative lineup (remiss of only Tony Kaye and Rick Wakeman) are present for this ambitious show which leans heavily upon Yes' classic material, though they were officially in support of their 2001 album Magnification, which of course, marked the documented use of an orchestra on one of their studio albums.

Running on full steam with that conjecture, Symphonic Live may not be the grandest achievement in rock orchestration, but when it clicks, Yes sounds nearly as triumphant as their golden era. Simply having Jon Anderson's calming stability on vocals makes it worth the listen as well as Chris Squire's reliably slicing bass notes, which have historically been their own character for Yes. Steve Howe naturally is the deep-ingrained soul of Yes, really sparkling up his licks on "The Gates of Delirium" as well as during his crowd-silencing guitar solo.

The concert's watermark moment (and the point receiving the most generous accolade from the crowd) comes courtesy of the aforementioned "Gates of Delirium" from Relayer. Breathtaking and complex originally, Yes, which sometimes tends to keep the orchestra's role subordinate to their own projection (often to point of absenteeism), turns their guest performers loose here, as they do during the climactic moments of "Ritual" and "Magnification." "The Gates of Delirium" thus becomes more superficially magical as should be expected with this sort of venture.

As Yes dishes out a half hour of Close to the Edge along with "Long Distance Turnaround" and "Roundabout" from Fragile and "Starship Trooper" and "I've Seen All Good People" from The Yes Album, the core balance of Yes' original compositions are so strong the orchestra need not dial in necessarily. At times they simply provide subliminal earthy weaves that are mostly drowned out by Yes' determination to recapture the old rub, which they do admirably. Everything sounds as it should, even though the fugue organs during "Close to the Edge" provided by Tom Brislin are a bit understated, albeit this is a CD recording and we're to assume they were appropriately thundrous in the actual venue. Otherwise, Brislin does all that is required of him and Yes operates on full cylinders because of it.

On "Starship Trooper," the orchestra's involvement is slim at best, but some of the songs like this one are pinpointed with their intentions no further embellishment is needed. Honestly, there's no real reason for symphonic textures to a pop-driven post modern jive tune like "Owner of a Lonely Heart," while "Roundabout," one of the finest songs ever recorded, would lose something in translation with gross string glob melding atop Squire's busy bee bass lines.

That being said, while Symphonic Live is not exactly a hundred percent as advertised, Yes utilizes their orchestra's assets but only when appropriate. As a concert album in whole, it's as entertaining as you'd want it to be, Alan White drum solo and all. Now if Yes somehow drank the fabled elixir to write new material ala Fragile with an enamored symphony playing to them Wagner-esque, we could be able to truly say the glory days are here once again...

Rating: ****

Friday, March 13, 2009

Is Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells the First Official Death Metal Album?

Okay, the mind of Van Horn is a strange place to leave breadcrumbs for your exodus back out, however, try and ponder this one a moment if you will...

If the name of Mike Oldfield is new to you, fret not, you're more out of the dark than you realize, assuming you've seen The Exorcist. Remember that creepy piano ostinato from the film twinkling in your ears and down your spine, a candlelit melody of the macabre spawning a contemporary love affair with Satan? A-ha, there you go, got it? Good.

Of course, that haunted thread is called "Tubular Bells," or rather, it's one mere segment from Mike Oldfield's winding 48-minute prog experiment by the same name. Divvied out in two suites, if you will, the mood of Tubular Bells is ever-evolving from dreamy acoustic solitudes to chime-hallowed valor to distorted acid streams to Farfisa-laced fugue and everything in-between.

Oldfield, who is so perfuse with his Tubular Bells creation he's redone the damned thing not once but twice, doesn't always plunge his listener into the bowels of purgatory in Tubular Bells. Frequently the extensive composition is romantic and playful. At one point in the first half of the album, the multi-faceted Oldfield sets up a primary melody with various instruments from xylophone to grand piano to mandolin to distinct guitar pitches to the titled tubular bells, all called out piece-by-piece from Vivian Stanshall like those old music instruction records used by almost every band teacher in the seventies and eighties. All meticuloulsy sculpted together for a lofty and uplifting swoon set on repeat, ahhhhhh...


What is the likelihood Oldfield was subconsciously onto something in 1973, particularly in the second piece of his impressive Tubular Bells vision that set the course many years later for death and even black metal? As gorgeous as the acoustic-led intro melody is, particularly when peppered with mandolin sweeps, flamenco, Gothic piano and other assorted textures, can you not hear the subliminal dirge weeping beneath this exquisite sublet? Listen to enough black and death metal and you have to pull this selection alone into question, especially once Oldfield twists a spritely new course thereafter which then slides into a heroic, Renaissance-spirited ouevre. I'm telling you, this album's a wonderful mind rape.

You're buying into this, aren't you? Okay, I understand your doubt, despite the fact Oldfield wails out psychedelic electro slides and gets close to what would one day be known as heavy metal. However, the damning evidence--if there really is evidence with this admittedly silly postulation--comes when you're least expecting it.

Where in the hell was Mike Oldfield's mind when he turns Tubular Bells on its constantly-developing ear with plunging Faustian piano strikes and out-of-nowhere demonic puke growls? Considering this largely-instrumental body of work yields random vocal sections courtesy of recruited choruses in addition to the paired hymn and ohm chants of the "Girlie Chorus," comprised of sister Sally Oldfield and Mundy Ellis, what possessed Mike Oldfield to scare the living shit out of his listeners with these ghoulish death grunts?

No sale, you say? Yeah, you're probably best going that route. Nevertheless...

Death metal has many roots in many countries from Norwegian forests to tropical jungles to Oriental waters and even American suburbs. That being said, there's something to entertain from a stylish and extroverted English composer possessing backgrounds in jazz, classical and rock with the capacity to play 30 instruments who created a grand-scope of work best remembered for its opening five or so minutes. Those ghastly chimes and the upsetting organ flogs make you subconsciously recall the cryptic bark "The sow is mine!" snarling in its wake simply from its time-honored imprint on modern cinema. In other words, Black Sabbath and Pentagram had much to do with the entire genesis, but twirl about this other possibility a moment, eh?

Tubular Bells is the ultimate sensory overload, but it's a joyous excursion in sound, whether the tones alter from soft and grandiose to outright alarming. Oldfield's punctuated hellhound growls (listed as "Moribund Chorus") in the second part of this expository audile journey gives enough of a flag to at least consider it a birthright for death metal, if not new age, the latter being more rightly akin. I mean, someone has to be credited with instigating the rule that death metal must be roared and ralphed at will... Also consider Oldfield and Tubular Bells mark the birthright of Virgin Records, so take that little tidbit of knowledge as you will.

All I can say is there's a reason death metal bands over the course of two-plus decades have historically begun their sets with taped loops of Tubular Bells' chilling revelation before launching into hyperspeed...

Thursday, March 12, 2009

CD Review: Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade

Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
2009 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

To this point in their remarkable career, Olympia, Washington's Wolves in the Throne Room has proven they're not your typical black metal band. Their previous effort Two Hunters was a veritable masterwork of charred reinvention that succeeded in such stridence it was their devotion to granular earthbound textures which made the album so undeniably powerful.

Following up such a watermark for any band would never be considered an easy task, yet it stands to wonder why Wolves in the Throne Room has slightly waned from the grandeur distancing themselves (along with Nachtmystium, Fear of Eternity and Agalloch) apart from the worldwide black metal clique on Black Cascade.

Certainly Wolves in the Throne Room remains one of the contemporary elite of this genre merely for the canal-washing ambience sprinkled amidst the prototype triple-timed death pleas on Black Cascade customarily found in Burzum, Marduk and Leviathan. The fact "Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog" and "Ex Cathedra" rips and shrieks more uniformly with Scandinavian black metal influence leads to wonder if Wolves in the Throne Room has paid a price for their individuality from the royally devout of the genre and a token atonement has been offered accordingly. If such a thing as conformity exists in the most extreme form of metal, then Wolves in the Throne Room has a tendency to rank and file on these two tracks.

Fortunately, "Ahrimanic Trance" exhibits far more of the group's trademark character, blowing oxygenated ventilation through their massive composition as Wolves in the Throne Room changes tempos from breakneck anger to a valiant gallop, fusing gusty air projections into antiquated recording machinery, namely a vintage '73 Neve Console cast violently upon two-inch tape. In the means of utilizing analog, "Ahrimanic Trance" becomes both post-modern and traditional even as each stanza reveals a new texture said tape might've strained to possess in another day and age.

Repetitious loops characterized in today's black metal are a plentiful theme on Black Cascade. In some ways, the pounding ostinato of "Crystal Ammunition" creates hypertense agitation before Wolves in the Throne Room completely alters the scheme with luxuriant layers of distortion. At first coming off primitive and redundant, the majesty conveyed immediately thereafter is gracefully ground out in "Crystal Ammunition's" succesive, trance-weaving bars. By the time the song swirls into the album's first truly organic experience courtesy of a demure and droning acoustic interlude, you can expect Wolves in the Room to come out of their swoon with their feet tapping hedonistically on the pedals. Nevertheless, the methodic crescendo of "Crystal Ammunition" is one of Black Cascade's finest moments.

Though Black Cascade's dabbling with tried and true black metal motifs is slightly worrisome, no doubt this band is consistently inventive and devoted to creating genuine art amidst a tenebrous canvas of normally-implied hatred. Once again, Wolves in the Throne Room manage to provide quixotic wisdom and ambient dignity to one of the ugliest sounds filtering from belligerent amps, no matter which blackened forest of the perversely co-inhabited inspires them.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 3/11/09

Cheers, faithful rowdies, an exciting week personally and for The Metal Minute as the site's recent Metal Hammer nomination has produced a generous outpouring of support from the community. As I stated in a press release related to the nomination announcement, The Metal Minute was originally designed as a side project, namely existing as an overflow for the tremendous amount of promotional material coming across my desk. To see where it's gone to since going live has left me at a loss for words.

Then this week my wife and I learned the foster child we have been caring for is going to be offered to us for adoption. Amazing news, to say the least. Makes this past weekend worth the fight when I spent three days straight caring for the little man during his illness, only to catch his stomach virus myself with loss of sleep, 14 hours huddled around the bowl and still tending to the boy with my wife working most of the duration. You might say I've earned my daddy stripes now.

Thus I battled the shakes in bed after he went nite nite with Scanners, Mystery of the Wax Museum and Bubba Ho-Tep and one of the stories out of Stephen King's Just After Sunset, but then I came out a new man after a good night's sleep on Sunday. Considering I'd been invited to come out the Pentagram show on Saturday and had to bail, plus renege on a drinking outing Friday with an old comrade as well as family dinner for my wife and mom's birthday, I had a bit of an edge that was purged by my ralphing. Hey, at least my ladies gained little Troy as their birthday gifts!

Coming out of the raw determination of last week, I turned to some old angry friends to rejuice and get my fires back up, which called for some Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Ministry, Death and Bathory. I'm still chawing on Zombi and I had to turn to the working class laureate Bruce Springsteen for some writing inspiration.

This week I had a review of Mantic Ritual's thrash-erific debut Executioner up for Heavy Metal, so we'll give them honors as the week's top spin. Check these dudes out if you haven't already. Steeltown has the Lombardi again, they have the coolest synth prog duo around with Zombi, there's my boys Icarus Witch (hails, guys) and now Mantic Ritual.

Coming up here at The Metal Minute stand by for upcoming reviews of the new Wolves in the Throne Room album Black Cascade as well as Yes' double-disc Symphonic Live. Also be on the lookout for an upcoming Take 5 session with with Ruyter from Nashville Pussy. Get some!

Metal Hammer is running a new feature at their website called The Horse's Mouth where journalists are posed an open-ended topic for brief commentary. This week the question was posed as to whether or not Nine Inch Nails' announced hiatus is a good or bad thing. Drop by for mine and my colleagues' responses here:

Metal Hammer's The Horse's Mouth: Nine Inch Nails Hiatus - Good Thing/Bad Thing

Thanks as always to you badass readers of The Metal Minute. You're why I'm still here.

Mantic Ritual - Executioner
Zombi - Spirit Animal
Zombi - Surface to Air
Minor Threat - Complete Discography
Bad Brains - I Against I
Death - Leprosy
Type O Negative - Dead Again
Yes - Symphonic Live
Dol Theeta - The Universe Expands
Idols Are Dead - Mean
Revolting Cocks - Sex-O Olympic-O
High On Fire - Death is the Communion
Bathory - Blood Fire Death
Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
Static-X - Cult of Static
A Tribe Called Quest - The Low-End Theory
Ministry - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
Bruce Springsteen - Greetings From Astbury Park, NJ
Bruce Springsteen - Born in the USA
Bruce Springsteen - The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle

Monday, March 09, 2009

Saturday, March 07, 2009

CD Review: Dol Theeta - The Universe Expands

Dol Theeta - The Universe Expands
2008 Electronic Art Metal Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

No, Thanasis Lightbridge doesn't pocket a lightsaber but there might be a communicator lapel stashed beneath his sleek, futuristic jacket which is both Euro casual stylish as well a possible look at down-the-road military fashion.

In any case, Thanasis Lightbridge has been stoically looking to propel a brave collision between heavy metal, neoclassical reinvention and electronica off the blue-watered Aegean coastline and upwards into a welcoming stratosphere. Paradise inspires paradise in Thanasis Lightbridge's aesthetics where no rules constrict his art.

You might be familiar with his introductory entity Dol Ammad, a briskly-moving ensemble incorporating all of the above elements set to blazing speed with the accompaniment of choral projection, all to assist the majestic thrust of Lightbridge's space-raced vision. Further, you might say Dol Ammad is the three-steps-ahead progressive direction thrash metal could one day venture towards.

Lightbridge now offers the listening world Dol Theeta, a separate yet intertwined body of expressionism yielding all of the core tools of Dol Ammad but to a leaner capacity. The fiercely intelligent composer has relayed that Dol Ammad and now Dol Theeta are but two components of a three-piece "Dol" triumvirate in which to convey his celestial-borne ideas.

What we learn about Dol Theeta's The Universe Expands when placed immediately after Dol Ammad's Star Tales and Ocean Dynamics albums is that the senior entity represents Lightbridge's proverbial launchpad in which his earthbound exploration of the world we live prepares us for a leap into the next plane. In other words, consider Dol Ammad the rocket and Dol Theeta the free-float into an astral world so few of us have actually seen but many of us lull about.

This will explain why Dol Theeta focuses more on the electronic elements of Lightbridge's song crafting as well as his delineation of tempo. Yes, The Universe Expands does bear moments of speed projection, but most of the album is a weightless and lofty tumble through an anti-grav headspace filled with guitar weaves, pounding drum patterns and a heavy dose of translucent, psychedelic key structures.

Plucking guitarist Dim and soprano Kortessa from Dol Ammad for The Universe Expands, Lightbridge impressively utilizes the unique singular talents of his cosmic conspirators and in turn, projects even more of a far-flung essence in Dol Theeta.

Kortessa's towering vocals fill Dol Theeta's already expansive megacosm with triumphant octaves, so much you feel you have crossed into the outer regions Thanasis Lightbridge frolics inside of his mind and to where he so desperately wants other would-be space pilgrims to follow him along.

Throwing his well-chosen notes into hypothetical air ducts on songs such as "Afterlife Crescendo," "Nighttime," "Something Called Tomorrow" and "Goddess," The Universe Expands makes good in title, creating a gorgeous and trippy alterworld to get positively lost in.

Hardcore metalheads might have a tough time wrapping their heads around Lightbridge's insistence upon showing off his diverse instrumentation skills, driving his focus towards pure metal only when called upon to heighten periods of excitement, wonderment or agitation.

Sometimes his keyboards are reminiscent of Zombi or even The Goblins (on the terrific "Every Goodbye" they're so remiss of a metallic base minus a spectacular guitar solo the whirling and dreamy tune could be tucked neatly on a Thievery Corporation album), but Dol Theeta is hardly interested in creating a creepy ambience. If anything, the favored key and synth usage in Dol Theeta unravels the universe's infinite boundaries so that Dim can whip out luxuriant solos and Kortessa can keep the listener in uncontrollable suspension.

Wherever Thanasis Lightbridge wants to take us next, it ought to be one hell of a ride...

Rating: ****

Friday, March 06, 2009

CD Review: Idols Are Dead - Mean

Idols Are Dead - Mean
2008/09 Scarlet Records/SPV
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

The way the dial turns in metal music these days, you're never quite sure where trend indicators are going to settle. For most young bucks entering the metal game, metalcore has been a token entry vibe, but the form is starting to play itself out, if not to the ears of critics and the older set of metalheads, but even the newbie practitioners themselves.

Don't get me wrong; metalcore has its qualities when performed with care and an interest in elevating past the style's prototype scriptures. However, it's safe to say there's a bit of a stale conundrum left in the wake of these inferred chugging interruptions and exiled fret articulation that marks your average breakdown-ensconced band. Thus you have to give a band like Italy's Idols Are Dead a hand for their courage in belting out streamlined rockout tunes with little interest in showing how many differing algorithms they can court with and more into learning how to make an album's worth of songs.

Mean is a cruiserweight foot-tapper of an album with maybe a breakdown or two to be found, yet they reside within the flow of the primary throb of the band's no-nonsense tunes instead of skidding and careening them to the point of disjointedness. That being said, Mean's biggest asset is unfortunately its detriment, but only to a point.

Repetition is Idols Are Dead's lone Achilles' Heel as a singular rhyhtm largely dictates the course of Mean. Granted, you can't slap demerits on the band for their tasteful devotion to pounding rock that includes affinities for Metallica and the mid-tempo points of Trivium, not to mention a love of old school piss 'n vinegar rock courtesy of everyone from a stepped-up Alice In Chains to Velvet Revolver to Bang Tango and especially Guns n' Roses. Let their cover of GNR's "It's So Easy" be your indicator.

Guitarists Alley X and Ico peel chunk chords like bags of tangerines while cutting a number of impressively raunchy solos on songs such as "Pain For Sale," "Dirt" and "The Name of My Rage." The latter song features a particularly nasty groove, while Mean's slickest song, "Proud to Be Sick" steps on the gas in the opening stanza, then turns the track on its ear with a grinding Godsmack feel that's nonetheless too heavy to be AOR, particularly with Idols Are Dead's blindsiding riffs.

As Mean explores more of Idols Are Dead's capacities in the latter portion of the album, we're left with a notion this band is still dickering with their identity. An interesting listen for development purposes, Mean is like a bag of Cheetos you'll be wanting to comfortably dip into a number of times because that agreeable taste prevents you from cutting yourself off along the way.

Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 3/4/09

To quote the brilliance of a poet friend of mine, who ordered the chaos?

March is here and of course that always means winter faithfully likes to vomit another late-hitting spew of white shit all over the land, which in our area the predicted snowfall was well short of what actually dropped and the county was apparently still napping in bed once the event hit full blast. It's been ages since I fishtailed much of the way down a major interstate that hadn't been touched one iota. Not a fun ride with the typical morons closing in around you as if snowstorms produce magnetic conducive forces. Hope the kiddos had fun, I envy their innocent obstusiveness to responsibility and wish I was that age again to enjoy it.

Over the weekend I fell ill after running solo to entertain company, clean the joint up, grocery shop and of course tend to the baby. Just as this was happening, our refrigerator blows up. Never mind the dryer also blew and the dehumidifier in the basement as well. The baby's dealing with a double ear infection and handling it more gracefully than expected, particularly since the snowstorm ruined his specialist appointment, not to mention another appointment my wife and I had of great importance.

Then I found out this morning one of my first music writing outlets ever, Pivotal is closing up shop. Can't say I blame the site owner Leevan. Finding the motivation, much less the time in a quickly-changing climate with labels being forced to go all-digital in light of the economy and Generation Tech forcing its lazy will upon the industry does leave a soured effect. Thanks for bringing me along in the beginning, bro.

Who ordered the chaos, indeed?

So it was with grudging reluctance I crawled into bed whenever the baby napped during the weekend and plowed through some Vincent Price movies, soaking up his genius and trying to get the body healed, much less find the motivation to get my personal work done, which has been fruitless to this point. Somebody take this god-danged depressing chill out of the air, tell the real estate agents where to stick their god-danged commission checks and get my god-danged fingers moving on the 'puter once again, eh?

Thus the energy I came into the weekend after a fantastic interview with Anthony Masi, producer of the horror documentary His Name Was Jason, queefed on Saturday night and thus I've not been pounding out the promos as I was beginning to do effectively, although I've checked out the new Wolves in the Throne Room and whoo-whee...those guys are consistent.

In fact, I've been very stuck on the horror-tinged synth prog rock duo Zombi's albums throughout the week. I haven't heard the new U2 album people are buzzing about with different latitudes of appreciation, but I did spin Achtung Baby a number of times as well. I did play the piss out of Hell Bent for Leather, just to stay connected proper. Looks like there's a lot of exciting music in metal and the other genres starting to brew, so the next few months should be interesting, particularly once spring shoves this prolonged cold out of here with a bitchslap of positivity...

Zombi - Surface to Air
Zombi - Cosmos
Zombi - Spirit Animal
Judas Priest - Hell Bent For Leather
U2 - Achtung Baby
Chicago - II
Nashville Pussy - From Hell to Texas
Wolves in the Throne Room - Black Cascade
Billy Sheehan - Holy Cow
Alicia Keys - The Diary of Alicia Keys
Kreator - Hoardes of Chaos
JJ Grey and Mofro - Country Ghetto
Revolting Cocks - Sexo Olympico
Vader - The Art of War
The Turtles - 20 Greatest Hits
Whiplash - Power and Pain/Ticket to Mayhem
Carole King - Tapestry
Dustin Kensrue - Please Come Home
Hanoi Rocks - Self-Destruction Blues