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

Monday, August 31, 2009

Shadows Fall - "Still I Rise" video

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CD Review: Assjack - s/t

Assjack - s/t
2009 The Sidewalk Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If you're primarily a country musician and want to cross over, don't take the Shania Twain route and softsoap your stuff with a Top 40 gloss to the point you embarass yourself--albeit the paycheck at the end of the day sure eases your ego. Don't take the Garth Brooks route and release an apposite quasi-rock album with hints of country courtre under an alternate identity. On the flipside, don't be like Christina Aguilera and do the about-face tactic, transforming from digitally-baked pop diva to a quote-unquote "serious" country performer, because it simply backfires and as she found out, nobody listens anyway. Not everyone has the natural grace and charm of a Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton to make an easy transition to differing audiences without altering their schemes. Loretta Lynn may have benefitted from rubbing elbows with The White Stripes' Jack Black as Tony Bennett did with The Red Hot Chili Peppers, but Lynn changed not a stitch of herself, God bless her honest self.

Hank Williams III (known to the underground lovingly as Hank III or simply III) is no Chris Gaines, but he might be a Gibby Haynes at heart. It's no secret the hellbilly from Tennessee is one of the fiercest competitors on the scene, be it in a country forum or along the metal and punk avenues. Hank III staked his rep for the latter genres by ushering a crunky, curse-laden form of traditional country to the Warped Tour and hellhole bars thereafter. Whether you find his snarling attitude and sense of "fuck you" lurking beneath a sound more in tune with the Depression-era dustbowl country music Hank III's reknowned grandfather soothed a bruised nation along with Hank Snow offensive, that's your problem, were you to ask III. It's recession time in the 2000's and III would rather exhibit the modern sentiments with his music than pussyfoot about things.

As psychobilly has blossomed in the American punk underground on the heels of Reverend Horton Heat, Tiger Army, Koffin Kats and the Danish superstars Nekromantix (who've mastered the style better than anyone), it should've seemed logical a guy who drinks piss 'n vinegar from a Mason jar and then spews it out in his gnarled delivery would've taken on a psychobilly project.

Welp, Assjack is the extension of Hank III's more riotous candor, but psychobilly this is not. Yep, there's a polecat and huckleberry demeanor projecting through Assjack, but the end result to Hank III's one-man-show is more in tune with the Butthole Surfers (ala Independent Worm Saloon), latter-day Ministry and the long-ago Al Jourgensen/Jello Biafra collaboration, Lard.

Performing the whole damned thing himself, Hank III's Assjack rings like the instigation of a teenager blowing his load out a speeding car window and laughing irresponsibly at the sight of his spew slicking itself across some hapless schmuck's windshield.

In the past Hank III has been found onstage peeking from behind the drum kit in Arson Anthem as well as slapping the tar out of his bass in Superjoint Ritual. As much a fan of Pantera as Waylon Jennings, expect Assjack to be chocked full of Dimebag Darrell chunk riffs along with some rather proficient death metal shredding. Embodying everything relayed in this review on his album's closer "Doin' What I Want" where Hank III screams "don't give a fuck!" at the top of his lungs, you have to appreciate the meaty chugs and the sicko blast beat patterns the youngest Williams fuses together. He barks with all of his manhood and throws in dragged swill vocals as if Ozzy Osbourne had spent a weekend in the South and tossed back more Kentucky Gentleman than one could intake without bumbling straight into the grave.

"Tennessee Driver" kickstarts Assjack with a doom intro before taking flight on a banging rhythm ala the Butthole Surfers' "Who Was In My Room Last Night?" (just as the Surfers took on a country kitsch on the same album with "You Don't Know Me") "Wasting Away" subsequently crushes your subwoofers with a loud stomp and "Choking Gesture" is Hank III's declaration he can heavy things up with the best of them. The same guy who essentially told The Grand Ole Opry to screw itself on his current country album Damn Right, Rebel Proud wants metalhead haunts to know he can easily wrangle up a mosh pit with the same vociferous vengeance.

Hank III tears his esophagus out on "Gravel Pit" and the greased-lightning thrashers "Redneck Ride" and "No Regrets" (the latter of which shows III exhibiting some Jello Biafra gurgling) as well as scatting quickly-wrought lines like a man with the fuzz on his tail on the careening "Cut Throat" and "Smoke the Fire."

If you're skeptical about a country kid jumping ship onto a metallic plank, believe in Shelton Hank Williams, III. Assjack is as loud as advertised and III has more aptitude for this music than some spending their whole lives in it. While there's more than a share of digital assistance to this project, Assjack is mostly au naturale parts thrown into Hank III's audile meat processor and have faith he grinds it up to manic delight. Besides, he has a performing band he's taking on the road as Assjack, along with his "Damn" country band, both appearing on the same bill. That's a dude who really loves performing music.

Not really the big surprise to 2009 as much as it is the year's biggest "hell yeah!" Assjack is an industrial-metal hee-haw with its hooves raised higher in the air than Hank III's middle finger.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/26/09

Like Eddie Cochran and countless others after him sang, there's just no cure for the summertime blues. A rude awakening this morning with the fire alarm triggering off the house alarm, waking the baby two hours ahead of schedule in a house with broken a/c and a lovely clammy, hot air about the place. How other folks do it, I dunno, but my sincere respect goes out to you all.

No banter this morning, sorry, but here's my playlist for the week:

Michael Jackson - Thriller
Rammstein - s/t
Bigelf - Cheat the Gallows
Byzantine - Oblivion Beckons
Redd Kross - Neurotica
Lynard Skynard - Street Survivors
Halloween II (Rob Zombie) soundtrack
The Accused - The Legend of Martha Splatterhead
English Beat - Beat This! The Best of the English Beat
Andreas Kisser - Hubris I & II
Machines of Grace - s/t
Viatrophy - s/t

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CD Review: The Accused - The Curse of Martha Splatterhead

The Accused - The Curse of Martha Splatterhead
2009 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Cannibal Corpse and Gwar are the poster children of American splat metal, but running along with these over-the-top gore chompers--albeit with far less recurrence--is Seattle's The Accused. Forget Pearl Jam. Forget Soundgarden. Forget Nirvana. The Accused is Seattle's best homegrown product ever churned from its cloud-choked skies.

Okay, so maybe not, but guitarist Tommy Niemeyer and The Accused were well onto something when The Misfits and Cryptic Slaughter were amongst the few to get any notice for horror-themed punk and metal until Gwar came along and changed the ethos forever. Not that The Accused will be found tearing limbs and squirting their audiences in the face with colored water, but like Gwar, they've found their roots in the horror genre and likewise produce a fast-paced, heavy panting breed of punk-oriented metal. Both frequently sound like they've recorded their reckless noise at the bottom of a chum bucket and though Gwar have gotten more reputable at their instruments, neither relents an inch in the cacophonous disorder department.

Though it's been since 2006's Oh Martha when The Accused have been with us, Niemeyer resurrects The Splatterbeast into action once again, turning his mistress of mayhem Martha loose in a female version of Ed Gein on the band's latest hardcore-gore endeavor, The Curse of Martha Splatterhead.

Officially formed in the early eighties, The Accused drifted along with DRI, Cryptic Slaughter, Suicidal Tendencies and Broken Bones into the speed metal sweepstakes, albeit with far less obviousness than their peers. Both punkers and metalheads were found amongst The Accused's fans, even as they adopted a longhaired, leather and denim look. However, punk and hardcore are as much their identity (if not more in sound) as their eventual tidings in thrash metal. Today they receive more accolade than blame for their part in helping usher the two genres into harmonious discord. It's largely because they were truer about their intentions and it didn't hurt their splatter-lovin' hybrid was pleasingly dumb fun.

On The Curse of Martha Splatterhead expect nothing more or less than what The Accused have delivered in the past. Thank God, since Niemeyer is the only remnant of the old days after seminal Accused vocalist Blaine Cook (also of The Fartz notoriety), Alex Sibbad and Steve Nelson formed a mass exodus out of the band a few years back.

Worry not a drop of sweat about this album. You'll be headbanging within seconds of "The Splatterbeast" and "Stomped to Death" as The Accused 2009 rip and snort with the same propensity for distorted chaos as More Fun Than An Open Casket Funeral and Grinning Like An Undertaker. The Curse of Martha Splatterhead moves like a champ and seldom takes its foot off the pedal, save to interrupt the brisk thrash of "Bodies Are Rising" with a perfectly-timed, traditional hardcore breakdown (kids take note, please) on the finish.

New vocalist Brad Mowen may not be Blaine Cook, but he's a damned fireball in his own right. At times he sounds like H.R. of the Bad Brains only with less righteousness. Mowen is kept busy as The Curse of Martha Splatterhead shakes and bursts with brackish pounding and paint-peeling solos by Niemeyer. Drummer Mike Peterson and bassist Dorando Hodous likewise fill their slots with a determined resolve to replicate The Accused's glory days (if they ever really had one beyond cult status), cohesively booming in unison on "Elijiah Black," "Stomped to Death" and "Seriously Dead"

As The Curse of Martha Splatterhead gets into Murderous Martha's skin-tearing doings, complete with the sounds of a sewing machine on the bouncing "Hemline" forming a skin mask ala Leatherface and his real-life predecessor Ed Gein, the energy level The Accused expounds almost makes you forget there's an EC Comics story grinding beneath it.

"Scotty Came Back" sounds appropriately like a train wreck into an unkempt graveyard and "Die Violently" is perfectly titular with its careening tempo changes and shrieky dissonance. "By the Hook" is soundtrack to running into the steel girders of a bridge at 100 mph, catapulting through the windshield and plummeting into the drink below. "Fuck Sorry" is about as slow as this album gets, trying for a Black Flag-oriented spirit of lament for a few bars before picking things up in an abbreviated finale.

One of the most purely metal songs on The Curse of Martha Splatterhead is naturally "Martha's Disciples," a jabbing death march for much of the ride supplemented with doom grooves and a quick funk tweak from Niemeyer.

The more you spin this slab, the more it grows on you. Unapologetically old school with new blood steering The Accused's vehicle of tone destruction, The Curse of Martha Splatterhead might be the comeback of the year. Imperfections galore, headache-inducing lunacy, it's all as it should be in Niemeyer's scheme and it will still become addiction in the underground as The Accused were in the eighites; take it to the bank.

Rating: ***1/2

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CD Review: Halloween II: A Rob Zombie Film Original Soundtrack

Halloween II: A Rob Zombie Film Original Soundtrack
2009 Universal Music Company
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

A tale of a pair of Halloween II movie soundtracks...

As Hollywood and Rob Zombie by association veritably reinvents the entire horror noir of the past 25-30 years, which has already been done by the greats of the genre such as Carpenter, Romero, Coscarelli, Fucli, Gordon, Hooper, Deodato, Craven, Garris and many others, the question becomes whether or not its newer breed of directors want to tributize or actually rub out the past. The truth of the matter is, today's generation is jealous it wasn't alive or at least far too young when the classics were made, thus green envy becomes outright hijacking.

Zombie's remake of John Carpenter's halcyon Halloween was embraced by some, panned by others. One thing's for sure; Rob Zombie's Halloween is and isn't your daddy's film. Zombie took his favorite scenes from the original source, re-arranged them with an entirely new back story to the famed "Shape," aka Michael Myers and littered his characters and script with more baldfaced and forced profanity than 12-year-old boys in the back of school trying to prove their filthy vernacular prowess. It was to the point you could hardly sympathize with Zombie's Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton) because she was as much a potty-mouth as her modern-imbued "Linda" and "Annie." The latter lass also got topless in Zombie's Halloween, which is highly uncomfortable if you're aware Danielle Harris happened to play Michael Myers' waif-like niece in Halloween 4 and 5. This writer enjoys a good boobie scene as much as any other oversexed male, but oy, the discomfort...

Rob Zombie reportedly passed on the opportunity to direct the inevitable sequel of his remake due to exhaustion from the film along with his concert touring duties and El Superbeasto voiceover action which followed subsequently. Malek Akkad, picking up the reins from Mustapha Akkad, perrenial backer of Michael Myers' interminable legacy (Mustapha has said on camera he'd soon see 22 Halloween films made in his lifetime in support of statements made by the late Donald Pleasance), managed to coax Zombie back into the director's and writer's chair for the new Halloween II as Akkad's team of writers couldn't pull off a pliable script.

"Family is Forever" blares overtop the marquee poster of Rob Zombie's Halloween II, which appears to be veering far away from John Carpenter's 1981 sequel with yesteryear nods in the form of scenes in a hospital and the exposition of familial relations between Michael Myers and Laurie Strode. Preliminary reports indicate Zombie's Strode (unlike Jamie Lee Curtis' naive, virginal babysitter-turned-hellcat Laurie Strode) is going to experience a psychosis of her own. Blood is thicker than, well, blood spilled in Zombie's Halloween II as we're going to see things from Strode's point-of-view including a meltdown which we'll soon find out in theaters if it means she'll turn killer like her hulking broski, played by Tyler Mane--who enjoys a rare opportunity to play Michael in consecutive films.

So where does that leave us with the soundtrack to Zombie's Halloween II? One would hope it intended to mimic not the watermark spook notes of John Carpenter and Alan Howarth's terrifying synth score from '81 (albeit reworked from the first film), but at least the dark grace and creepy electro pulse giving it an alarming cadence and still standing as one for the ages.

Save for the unnerving coldwave hellscape of "Nurse Killa" by Tyler Bates, this Halloween II soundtrack is almost Quentin Tarantino-graced in its slick nuttiness. Rob Zombie's selections are hardly metal, save for the cool inclusion of Motorhead's "The Chase is Better Than the Catch" from Another Perfect Day. Thumbs-up to Zombie for picking a cut from one of Motorhead's lesser-heralded but arguably finest albums.

Largely Halloween II is a trip down the time warp as Rob Zombie pulls out the soft seventies soap of 10CC's "The Things We Do For Love" and the ambient fugue masterpiece "Nights in White Satin" from The Moody Blues. You can picture where Zombie might fit these pieces with snaggletoothed bravado if you'll recall his masterful touch of setting his explosive ending of The Devil's Rejects to the tune of Lynard Skynard's "Freebird."

Where Halloween II really confuses in a gleeful way is Zombie's punctuated picks of the MC5's brackish live classic "Kick Out the Jams" (which ought to ring fantastically in a horror flick) and Void's nerve-slitting "Time to Die." Few people forget that Rod Stewart used to rock back in the seventies before he turned adult contemporary, but not Rob Zombie. His use of Stewart's banging rendition of The Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You" is spot-on, particularly the chugging beat jam and the cataclysmic wah-fest after Stewart turns his band free. Very smart use of a hell of a good cover tune and the chaotic implications you can envision pounding on the screen behind the shoulders of Michael, Laurie or even a frustrated Dr. Loomis (Malcolm McDowell, the only logical successor to Pleasance).

The in-between skits and banter fused into the soundtrack indicates Zombie is going for another cuss-fest in Halloween II, and honestly, there's something disturbing about hearing sex moans and breathy "he's...fucking...dead..." on the opening segment. Likewise, the oafish "fucked by Frankenstein's monster" gibberish on "Ass Good" is simply whatever.

On the other hand, we get some ska punk from the Amerarockers with "Screams," some classic whitey funk with Foghat on "I Just Want to Make Love to You" and some very kickin' psychobilly from the fictitious Captain Clegg and the Night Creatures (created for the film and due for their own full-length album soon) with "Transylvania Terror Train" and "Honky Tonk Halloween."

What all of this says is Rob Zombie has appreciably diverse tastes in music. Even letting his current guitarist John 5 whip up a silky synth score "Laurie's Theme" which is nothing in accord to Carpenter/Howarth pinpoints a sharp musical mind who no doubt thought like the rest of us horror and rock dweebs did with Blue Oyster Cult's "Don't Fear the Reaper" whispering behind Jamie Lee Curtis and Nancy Loomis in Carpenter's Halloween: incredibly poignant and subtly unnerving. Also having an ethereal and shadowy cover of Nazareth's "Love Hurts" by Nan Vernon cements the deal on a very exciting come-together of apposite music to a film which might get down 'n dirty in a psychosexual manner as indicated by these tracks.

Then again, Zombie's fooled us before...

Rating: ***1/2

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/19/09

Howdy, howdy, readers, Wednesday already?

After awhile you start becoming numb to life's hardships, so I leave a dreadful week behind and subsequently watch my air conditioning die this week. Sure beats huffing around in a desert with fatigues and equipment strapped to my back in a strained environment, so I'll grunt quietly and bear this for the moment.

On the the flipside, I will be a guest tonight on The Ripple Effect web radio program at 8:00 pm PST or 11:00 pm EST, which should be hellafun.

I did managed to kick out lots of jams this past week to keep the spirits up and to get a little work done here and thar. Though not everyone thinks it's their best, I'm a sucker for MC5's Back in the USA, albeit all of their albums are cooler than cool. I've also fallen real hard into the new Chthonic album, which you can read my review in due time at Heavy Metal along with the new Gwar album, Pantheon I and Onslaught's Live Damnation.

I have a write-up of the 40th anniversary edition of the Woodstock movie for DVD, and the bonus features disc is faboo, just for the three Creedence Clearwater Revival cuts alone, wowzers. I might have to schedule a trip to the Woodstock grounds and museum to take my mama up there when times get a bit easier. At the very least, it inspired me to jot down a couple poems and get lost in nonsensical wish-I-was-there thoughts. Who wouldn't want to have been there bear witness to that comsic Jimi performance, sheesh?

MC5 - Back in the USA
MC5 - Kick Out the Jams
MC5 - High Time
Chthonic - Mirror of Retribution
Chuck Mosley and VUA - Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food
Judas Priest - British Steel
Judas Priest - Point of Entry
Onslaught - Live Damnation
Pantheon I - Worlds I Create
Gwar - Lust in Space
MGR/Destructo Swarmbots! - Amigos de la Guitarra
The Best of Woodstock
Halloween II (Rob Zombie) soundtrack
Loudness - Thunder in the East
Ozzy Osbourne - The Ultimate Sin
Machines of Grace - s/t

Sunday, August 16, 2009

CD Review: MGR y Destructo Swarmbots! - Amigos de la Guitarra

MGR y Destructo Swarmbots! - Amigos de la Guitarra
2009 Neurot Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

When your thank you list includes "anyone that might find the inner strength to make it through this release," you can take it as a caveat. In this writer's personal opinion, there are two artists where this warning should be taken strictly to heart outside of the Top 40 and corporate rap sector (the new Black Eyed Peas album carrying a strong advisory for blatant electro pop and dance huckstery to be herewith snubbed), Stallagh being one, and some Ukranian headcase (the name eludes, thankfully) who recorded nearly an hour of radio static and issued it as a full-length album.

Mike Gallagher of Isis has been doing some relatively strange work in his offshoot entity MGR, albeit his focus has been to create cerebral, sometimes serene and sometimes disarming soundscapes with his guitars and synthboards.

It helps his frontman/guitarist Aaron Turner not only owns Neurot Recordings, but is favorable to the weird, the noisy and the experimental-at-heart. Considering the rigid complexities Isis adheres to when writing their elaborate art metal scapes, it's amusing to see Turner enjoys exposing work that has virtually no structure but that which serves merely to explore in sound. Try some of his other roster acts like Chord and the microns-from-hell coplaner transmissions of KK Null if you seek further evidence.

Joining Mike Gallagher on Amigos de la Guitarra is Destructo Swarmbots! guitarist Mike Mare in an abstract enjoinder (you should read the hilarious press release on how dos Miguels came to work together) which both men bring their affinity for prolonged ostinato and buried coldwave in a singular track on their collective album entitled "Amor en al Aire."

Love is in the air according to the sordid details of that jokey press release, yet the love in this project is haunted, shivery and assumedly the result of "chaos" and "heartbreak" surrounding the four-day recording process for this project. The Mikes spend the first portion of their extensive collaboration in a tag team death swill with their weepy guitars, permitting themselves to let their sluggish melody grow in anticipation with fused coldwave accenting their hellish overture.

The remainder of the 42-minute composition is at hushed reserve, so much you really need to tune out the rest of your life. As Gallagher has done on past MGR projects and Isis itself by means of giving intentional pause to their often ferocious climaxes, the project settles on whispered, barely-thumbed notes and shrill synth drenches. If you're accustomed to eighties (especially John Carpenter/Alan Howarth) horror soundtracks, you'll settle in nicer as a result.

Absolutely Amigos de la Guitarra is an endurance contest for Mike Gallagher and Mike Mare's audience, but at least for the first third-to-half of this aloof (and decidedly quite personal) project, the unhinged melancholy produced here might embrace you as a friend depending on your mood. Beware at that point.

Rating: ***

Saturday, August 15, 2009

CD Review: Chuck Mosley and VUA - Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food

Chuck Mosley and VUA - Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food
2009 Reversed Image Unlimited
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

As the world awaits the return of Faith No More with its commercially-jacked lineup intact, it seems fitting by attrition the legendary art metal band's original vocalist likewise rises from the ashes of the rock underground.

Chuck Mosley vanished somewhat quietly after staking his reputation on Faith No More's debut album Introduce Yourself then a bit later holding down the hatches for HR in Bad Brains and also his own band, Cement. While Mosley was grossly upstaged by the dynamic and screwloose Mike Patton who has gone on to become an icon of individuality in music, Mosley apparently has been working hard on his own freewheeled independence as an artist.

Introduce Yourself is, admittedly a cult album in relation to Faith No More's reknowned future catalog, which naturally leads to wonder what Mr. Mosley has in store for fans coming to his anti-rock party as an alumnus of an enigmatic band changing its own tide over the years from what might've been a one-hit wonder bleep had it not done so.

Never let it be said Chuck Mosley doesn't have a sense of humor. If you're going to title your debut solo album Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food with the understanding most people remember your voice harrumphing and slugging overtop a breakout (though career killing for Mosley's purposes) rap-metal experiment such as "We Care a Lot," then kudos galore.

Despite the fact Mosley resurrects his claim-to-fame Faith No More cut on Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food in what rings like an intentionally mopey, slopped-up and outright dumb roast of "We Care a Lot" featuring his old running mate Roddy Bottum, there is far more to this album and to Chuck Mosley than a deliberate goof on the past.

For his return to the rock forum, Chuck Mosley brings aboard an impressive cast of characters on Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food. The highlight nu-metal-ish track "The Enabler" features Jonathan Davis of Korn and Marilyn Manson/Rob Zombie axer John 5, while Lynard Skynard's Michael Cartellone lays down licks all over the album along with Cleveland's Michael Siefert and Cobra Verde's Tim Parnin.

The tone of Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food ranges from metal to punk to alt in large, catchy doses. Creatively twining a rhythmic sequence of power chords, a couple of acoustic solilioquies and a wah-fisted solo by Tim Parnin on "Tractor," Mosley casually slips into a Lemonheads and Dead Milkmen-esque alt-punk diddy with "Punk Rock Movie." He might've kicked off his shoes while doing so, it's that relaxed a changeover.

If you're confused at this point where Mosley's direction is headed, forget it. Tapping another Cleveland product (along with Parnin), acoustic sweetheart Leah Lou for "Nameless," you might as well hop on the next cloud drifting into the seventies or at least one dumping you out in Manchester, England circa the nineties. Even Mosley's delivery on "Nameless" is full of breathy cadence next to Leah Lou on a soft yet addictive Sundays-Smiths vehicle which will catch you off-guard and pleasingly so.

Amping up on the head popping "Pile Driver," ripping out a screechy jam session on "Bob Forest" and digging out the surfboard for the slam-diggity hit-and-run jammer "King Arthur's Cousin Ted," Chuck Mosley turns his listeners heads yet again with the Stone Temple Pilots-ish unplugged stoop ode "Sophie." No doubt Mosley took a stab at Scott Weiland ala STP's Tiny Music era here, and not a bad one at that.

While you might've expected an entire album full of compounded aggression or at least jughead verses set to monotonous crunch chord sequences, what Chuck Mosley brings to the table with Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food is a brave, occasionally nutty yet warm and pleasant surprise filled with diversity and something rare in today's rock music... Fun.

Rating: ****

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chthonic - "47 Theurgy Chains" video

One of the most exciting metal bands on the planet...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/12/09

Howdee do, friends, thank you all for continuing to check in at The Metal Minute. I hope to sling out some business your way as a way of thanks.

Continuing to stay on a mad pace over here, even more fun after I contracted some very irritating junk on my arms after ripping out bushes over the weekend. And so we go.

Still plugging on the novel, wrapping Season 11 of Dallas and am reading Robert Bolt's historical play based on the life of Sir Thomas More, A Man for All Seasons. Gearing up for a couple of assignments while feeling out what I can in the time I have. Spinnerama on my side has the Jackson 5 getting a heavy lean since both the kid and my wife get happy listening, and a happy family is a happy daddy-o, so...

I shall see y'all here as the days progress.

Jackson 5 - The Ultimate Collection
Gary Moore - The Montreaux Collection
Anvil - This is Thirteen
Lillian Axe - s/t
Lillian Axe - Love + War
Lillian Axe - Waters Rising
Lillian Axe - Sad Day On Planet Earth
Air - The Virgin Suicides score

Friday, August 07, 2009

CD Review: Lillian Axe - Sad Day On Planet Earth

Lillian Axe - Sad Day On Planet Earth
2009 Blistering Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Though the name Lillian Axe never did roll instantly off the tongue of hard rockers and headbangers over the years, never let it be said Steve Blaze and Lady Lillian haven't given their all, particularly after exchanging a primary mode of melodic metal ala Dokken for something more progressive amidst their dedicated primer of tunefulness.

"Dream of a Lifetime" and "Show a Little Love" could've been greater than modest hits for Lillian Axe had Warrant and Firehouse (and the platinum angels with plastic faces Def Leppard before them) not stolen the limelight once Lillian Axe were kickstarted on the scene courtesy of the late Robbin Crosby and subsequent video plays on the original Headbangers Ball.

Many following Lillian Axe view Steve (back in the day known as "Stevie") Blaze and his group officially changing course as of 1993's strong and complex Psychoschizophrenia. Honestly, Blaze had already been tinkering with more elaborate songwriting as of Love + War with robust, mathematic tunes such as "Ghost of Winter" and even "Diana," the latter of which also yielded sugar cane choruses to offset the snarling bitchery of "All's Fair In Love and War" and "Down On You." Even Lillian Axe's self-titled debut from 1988 yielded the exquisite "Waiting in the Dark" to counter the bouncy Iron Eagle soundtrack flavor which became hipster chic in the rock community when it saw life.

2007's Waters Rising was one of the rarely-spoken feelgood stories as Steve Blaze officially resharpened the Axe and issued some of his most commanding and articulate music to-date. Wisely keeping the same ensemble for this year's Sad Day On Planet Earth, Lillian Axe may continue to be unsung heroes of a scene lately relegating long-existing acts as "Rocklahoma" worthy only, however, there shows no deterence whatsoever on Blaze's part.

Sad Day On Planet Earth is well-likely Blaze's most excavated work, even as he decidedly turns the pages back at times to the more elaborate moments of Love + War and continues the threads of twining harmony he struck gold with on Waters Rising. Better yet, Blaze concocts a spiritually-grounded metal epic about the collapse of Mother Earth in godless times and towards the end of this quite-long album, he projects hope and ambition towards better times under the eyes of God.

Starting on the heavier side with "Megaslowfade," "Jesus Wept" and "Ignite," Lillian Axe make a statement they're still no slouches on the amps while provoking the listener with sharp lyrics about a crestfallen society led into an abyss of chaos and hatred. However, the bouncing "Ignite," which would've sounded ultra-rad booming out of an '84 Mustang with custom mags uses its rhythmic tempo to "fire off a cosmic round that will blind every devil on a planet that's saved."

In the latter half of the album, Blaze repeatedly utilizes acoustic picking tapestries to set up random surprises such as the yummy fifties rock 'n roll sway on the choruses of the otherwise cautious and slinky "Cold Day In Hell." As he did on Waters Rising, Blaze capitalizes on sweet blends of 12-string plucks which sound like harpsichord as well psychedelic top layers on the verses of "Nocturnal Symphony." Happy to note this finely-written tune elevates into powerful, crunchy choruses. Put together, it is undeniably Beatles-esque as is the album's gracefully textured (and ultimately thunderous) "witness" finale "Fire, Blood, the Earth & Sea." If you were around the first time, did you picture Lillian Axe growing this lavish when you had the more basic "The More That You Get" and "Misery Loves Company" to roll over?

Granted, Lillian Axe does dip back towards a throwback metallic punch groove on "Kill Me Again," albeit the Steve Blaze penning this song is more in-tune with making a pact with his savior than goofily "Laughing in Your Face" in the old days. Such depth cannot be overlooked despite temptation to relegate "Kill Me Again's" old school riff trips, because Blaze turns to The Beatles, Megadeth and the bible to deliver an updated version of the past with far more relevance and revelation.

Only at times does Sad Day On Planet Earth betray a few loose ends such as transparent, muffly sound capturing of drummer Ken Koudelka's floor tom, but overall, Steve Blaze more than competently mixes his latest creation and lets his guitars sparkle and sizzle only when they serve the moment. Likewise, vocalist Derrick LeFevre suits this band better than anyone previously holding court, no disrespect especially to Rob Taylor, whose pipes breathe life into "Dream of a Lifetime" as if he forever owns the song. LeFevre was impressive on Waters Rising; on this album, he's downright passionate.

Whatever you do, don't dismiss this group because Steve Blaze is the only remnant from the old days, or just because you feel Lillian Axe is to be held in the same nostalgic regard as Bang Tango or L.A. Guns, two excellent bands in their prime and still capable of delivering a wallop today. Blaze and Lillian Axe are living in the now and Sad Day On Planet Earth is a striking example of doing something meaningful under the new guard of an old banner.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/5/09

Well, things are going slower than normal here at The Metal Minute, but I'm not going to rehash the issues, merely thank everyone's continued patronage and particularly the outreach of writers expressing interest in submitting material here. For those of you awaiting my response, please stand by.

At least this past Friday I had the pleasure of conversing with KK Downing of Judas Priest as the mighty ones gallavant through the country playing British Steel in its entirety. I especially enjoyed talking with KK about his memories of the Isle of Wight festivals of the late sixties and early seventies, particularly his ancedotes about "The Great Jimi Hendrix." Good stuff, I tell ya. Even better is watching the little man bang his head in the backseat while we pounded the latest Priest offering A Touch of Evil: Live. Does a soon-to-be-daddy proud...

Otherwise, I enjoyed a family outing to Washington, DC over the weekend and wifey and I were sprung free to catch the new Harry Potter flick, which was quite good despite some key elements being omitted. As I write my current novel, I'm sinking into Tom Wolfe, one of the finest social commenters of our time, which I'm hoping will rub off on me while I belt my own words out.

Trying to pick up the pace with the albums, albeit I've been so burned out I'm taking them on my terms so as to properly enjoy and critique them. Be on the lookout in the immediate future for a review of the new Lillian Axe album once I have a few minutes and bounce over to Dee Snider's House of Hair Online for my interview with The Metal Queen, Doro Pesch. You can also find my review of Metal Blade's reissue of The Ocean's "sludgeterpiece," as I called it, Fluxion at Heavy Metal this week.


Judas Priest - A Touch of Evil: Live
Lillian Axe - Sad Day On Planet Earth
The Ocean - Fluxion
Shadows Fall - Retribution
La Coka Nostra - A Brand You Can Trust
Six Feet Under (t.v. series) soundtrack
Jimi Hendrix - Axis: Bold as Love
Flogging Molly - Float
Grease soundtrack
Michael Jackson - Dangerous

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Guest Writer: Alex Gilbert: CD Review: Molotov Solution - The Harbinger

Molotov SolutionThe Harbringer
2009 Metal Blade
Alex Gilbert

In the rising popularity of the lifestyle known as deathcore, Molotov Solution helps bring much needed power, strength, sincerity, and aggression. Now we all know if something new (and not "new," meaning original) is entering the scene, it is the lifestyle that’s going to sell now-a-days, and these guys are coming at just the right time with their blistering Metal Blade debut, The Harbringer. With guitar tones as deep as the abyss, deep guttural growls controlling the masses, and frantic drum blasts that tear down the walls, Molotov Solution has found their sound. They do make me like deathcore a little more, for they add in some death metal blasts, unbreakable breakdowns, and yes...even some atmospheric touches that layer their sound very well.

Molotov Solution blasts out of their cage with the album opener, “Warlords”, and like the song title, the band gives a warlord feel as they stomp into battle. The song gives some good time changes, some great double bass drum accents, and a pretty solid guitar solo with shimmering melody. But the main point in The Harbringer remains that pounding brutal tempo of the tritone breakdowns. Yes, the tritone breakdown approach is highly overused in today’s scene, but I love the way Molotov Solution does it – they just make it work well.

Moving deeper into The Harbringer, I can say the band has some extremely killer intros, for example the proggy and brutal guitar counter attacks in “Corpus Imperium,” and the Meshuggah-influenced guitar tones and layers in “Enslaved,” but possibly their one fault point would be using those breakdowns a little too much, for the verses sometimes lack those knockout punches the band is very capable of. But rest assured, because there are plenty of knockout punches Molotov Solution delivers like the destroying machine in “Atrum Inritus.” The song continuously builds up while mixing those powerful melodies with the tritone breakdowns, which is the path I'd like to see these guys on more. Also the mood swing is pretty good where the band shows glimmers of hope in the closing, though I do like hearing a more pissed off Molotov Solution (in their music, of course) than a happy Molotov Solution. And for a seriously brutal beating, the band slays the listener with the title track, “The Harbringer.” From the melodic breaks, the brutal chugs, and the well-placed guitar solo, this one has mosh written all over it. Same with the anthem “Living Proof,” for this one proposes itself as a mosh favorite, too.

Molotov Solution has truly put themselves towards the top of the deathcore chain, and thinking upon the integrity of their sound, there are no broken links. The production is great, and the band will be able to attract many newcomers as well as old loyal fans within first listen. The Harbringer proposes a solid structure with more tricks than the average deathcore band, and Molotov Solution definitely has the potential to grow, as well as to take over the scene. They have a very marketable sound, while I still see them as keeping it real, making their music in the most brutal ways they want and can. Molotov Solution I see as having a big future, and I’m super-stoked to see where they go next!

Rating: ***1/2

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Metal Minute Update

Mllle Petrozza of Kreator (c) 2009 by Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

As alluded in Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday this week, I have come to a point where my responsibilities have become larger than the time I have available to do my side work in the fullest capacity I've done to this point. I have therefore made the difficult decision to scale back my activities in music journalism first and foremost to be a daddy but also to work on my current novel.

I am not leaving the industry, nor is this goodbye for The Metal Minute. I've simply decided to post when time permits me or as contributors send me items to post at the site. Check in periodically, because the site will continue on, just not in the same near-daily increments. You can also find me at Heavy Metal, Dee Snider's House of Hair Online, DVD, Horror and a couple other potential prospects, likewise as my schedule allows me to participate.

As always, I thank you for your support of The Metal Minute.