Thrash metal in its original incarnation was nurtured in three central hubs during the eighties. The American Bay Area receives credit for officially kicking off speed metal, while Germany kicked things up a notch on the brutality scale. Let us not forget in our examination of thrash's roots, the U.S. east coast, particularly New York and New Jersey where some of the genre's legends were birthed such as Overkill, Carnivore and Anthrax.
Whiplash were speed kings in their own right. One of Roadrunner Records' earliest signed prodigies, Whiplash rose to prominence with their 1987 thrash classic Ticket to Mayhem. Of course, prior to their expanded recognition, Whiplash issued the indispensible Power and Pain in 1985, an album treasured by veteran thrash hounds.
Unfortunately, the momentum Whiplash gained for themselves fleeted in 1989 and '90 after the releasing Insult to Injury in the midst of a quickly-dying metal scene. It naturally led to a lengthy split-up, despite efforts to revive themselves sporadically through the nineties.
Following the passing of original bassist Tony Bono in 2002, Whiplash might've remained forever sealed up, yet this year co-founder Tony Portaro and fan-esteemed drummer Joe Cangelosi have revved up the engines once again along with new bassist Richi Day.
Whiplash 2009 is set on both speed and mid-tempo on their latest album Unborn Again. However, the group will tell you, don't let the album's diversity be the gauge of their blitzkrieging live set. Bearing the name Whiplash comes with a certain obligation towards velocity, as Tony Portaro and Joe Cangelosi relayed to The Metal Minute...
MM: Obviously we last saw Whiplash outside of various live gigs over recent years with the Thrashback album from ’98. You guys are back this year with Unborn Again and you’re in pretty damn good form! I also have one of the bottles from your recently-released Whiplash brand hot sauce, “The Last Nail in the Coffin..."
JC: That’s the weak one, man! The middle one’s my favorite, that green sauce. The hot, hot one is “Power and Pain.” Whew! I have a cold and I just did a tablespoon of it. I actually feel better! (laughs)
MM: (laughs) I just cleared my sinuses out with some wasabi about 15 minutes ago! Well, fill in the gaps of all recent doings in Whiplash from both of your perspectives...
JC: Oy, where to begin?
TP: I went to NYU not long ago and I went for audio production with Pro Tools and I went for music marketing, then I opened up my studio Concrete Island. I worked on some songs for myself and then Joe gave me a call and said this is the time to do it, let’s get back together and do something. We knew we would give it 110% so that’s what we did. We spent 17 weeks writing new material. Everything on Unborn Again is brand new; there’s nothing from the past.
JC: It’s not that all of a sudden we were seeing things happen in the metal scene again, as in ‘Oh, let’s go and do this shit!’ We were going to reform around 2002, just before Tony Bono died. After that happened, we weren’t going to just jump back in and do it. So years went by and you have to step back from the whole situation, really. It was just too weird, man. I was in Germany with Kreator for a couple years and then I came back home. It was a great experience in Kreator. I got to see a lot of stuff, man. They do a lot of heavy touring, and Frank “Blackfire” Gosdzik, their guitarist at the time--he was in the band for like, eight years--he’s our good friend. We met him during the 1988 Sodomania tour, which was Whiplash and Sodom. In fact, Frank’s on this new record doing a couple of leads! He also came up at played a few songs with us at Wacken.
TP: That’s right!
JC: We have really close ties with Germany! So then I was doing various fusion bands and playing some jazz stuff. It was right about last year when I said, ‘You know what? Let’s see if we can do this again,’ because that was always my dream, to get back in the band after we disbanded in 1990-91. So we got back together and just started writing new material and that was it. It sometimes feels like we never stopped! We just came back from Columbia and that was mind-blowing! I’m still shocked from it all. We got sick; all three of us are sick. We caught something before we even left the U.S. I think it’s the altitude, man. I think it’s like 8,000 feet! Plus the air on those plans is just re-circulated.
JC: Let me tell you, though; those Columbian thrashers are sick! Really sick man. They’re on fire over there; they really live!
TP: We--our management--were talking to a couple of different promoters and it looks like we may be going to Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.
JC: I know we’ve got some fans down there. There’s something about those hot countries that just love heavy metal!
TP: There was no security at this last show in Columbia and we were mobbed with fans asking us to sign autographs and take pictures. I went to sleep the past two nights and all I heard is “Last picture, Tony! Last picture!”
TG: We love interacting with our fans, no matter what, even if it’s on our Whiplash USA MySpace site or whatever. Every time we end the show, we just go right out into the crowd and mingle with the people. We give them everything we possibly can.
MM: Whiplash, along with other bands of the New York-New Jersey region like Cro Mags, Hades, Overkill, Anthrax, Carnivore, The Accused and Murphy’s Law, you guys collectively answered back to the Bay Area thrash scene during the eighties, except there was more hardcore and punk on the east coast. From your memories, what was so unique in having this kind of scene?
TP: I got out of Berkeley College of Music in’ 79 and ’80. That’s when I started writing music. I loved the San Francisco Bay Area thrash music that came out back then. I think we had a combination of what I heard out there and when Whiplash did its first show at RuthieOs Inn in Berkeley, California, which is the home of Exodus and Metallica. We never played live before Power and Pain was out; we recorded the album, released it and played at Ruthie’s with Possessed and Death Angel. That was a big influence on us too, even though we already had Power and Pain out. I think it was the combination of the San Francisco Bay Area thrash scene and the theory and technique I learned in Berkeley. Being on the east coast, it gave us a unique sound the Bay Area sound didn’t have, yet it did kind of contribute to the east coast thrash style. That’s something which kept us really unique.
JC: I remember going to L’Amours in Brooklyn, where I’m from, and going to see Whiplash. I was just blown away, man. It did have a hardcore edge and the cool thing about being in New York at the time is that CBGB’s, L’Amours and all the local clubs started to have crossover shows for the first time where you’ve got DRI playing with Slayer, all these crazy mixtures of metal and punk. Plus everybody was getting along. It was a great scene, man.
TP: Back in the mid-eighties, L’Amours was our home away from home. We were the house band there. Anytime somebody would cancel, they’d call us right away and we were like, ‘Yeah, we’ll definitely do it!’ We’d jump on these pretty big name gigs. We must’ve played like 13 shows, I think, back then at L’Amours only. We also played CBGB’s many times and the coolest thing of that was all of those hardcore bands like Agnostic Front, Cro Mags, Harley’s War, we just fit right in. At the time, we were the Jersey boys and they took us right under their wings even though we were thrash metal and they were punk. It was so cool how they just accepted us and made us a part of the whole scene back then. It was really awesome.
JC: I guess everybody just realized it wasn’t much of a difference, you know? I remember seeing for the first time skinheads hanging out with metalheads in the mosh pit together. Nobody was getting hurt and everyone was helping each other off the ground, man. It was a cool community and it was a good-feeling time. It was a very special time even though I was just a little kid. I remember it like it was yesterday.
MM: I think Unborn Again sort of bridges this year to ’87 and your Ticket to Mayhem album mostly because of the artwork and the carnival skit in the beginning bridges the two a bit, albeit the sound is not wholly the same. Considering Whiplash has four albums in-between these two, do you feel they’re interrelated in any way?
TP: Definitely, without a doubt.
JC: Yeah, I think so. I was on both of those, of course, though I left after Insult to Injury. We didn’t try to plan on bringing some of Ticket to Mayhem to now. We wrote new material and it doesn’t really sound like Ticket to Mayhem. I don’t know what I think it sounds like other than it sounds like Whiplash, man! It’s a different incarnation.
TP: You know, I hear through the grapevine and from all of the Whiplash followers that Power and Pain was the most popular Whiplash album. That’s the reason why we didn’t have a different singer come in for Unborn Again. We wanted to give the people what they wanted and even though my voice never really appealed to my tastes, I just never found the person to do what I heard in my head. That’s why I sang on Power and Pain and Ticket to Mayhem.
JC: I also think before me and Tony fully committed to doing another Whiplash record the biggest thing on the table was that he was going to have to do the vocals. I wanted to get back to that point where Whiplash was a trio from when I was in the band the first time. When we did Insult to Injury, we got Glenn (Hansen) in there and the whole dynamic changed. I always wanted to just be a three piece. Last year it was just great to get together and start writing material and hear Tony sing again. Tony’s vocals are now killer, live, man!
TP: When we wrote this album, I didn’t have a real grip on my voice at that time, because we weren’t rehearsing or playing any live shows. I don’t want to say I could do better now, but what Joe said is actually the case; if you see us live, you notice my vocals are back to where they were back then. We had to start rehearsing for the live show for me to get a grip on how I used to work my voice back then. Now I’m there again, and we have plans to do another album—in fact, we plan to start writing new material within the next four weeks. I’m more excited about that.
JC: It was a great experience and you’ve got to believe me when I tell you--I’ll put my word on it--Whiplash live right now at this point in time is one of the most exciting, brutal bands you’ll ever see! Tight, fast, down your throat, man. I’d put Tony’s vocals now up to when I was in the band during the eighties, easy! People complain about some of the tempos on this new record, like it wasn’t as fast as they wanted it to be, but you know, I don’t really care what people think! We did what we did, but live, when we put that shit on the table, man...there’s no denying it.
MM: I have no complaints about the tempo changes on Unborn Again. You have the thrashers like “Feeding Frenzy” and “Float Face Down,” then you have the bipolar opposites of straight rockers like “Hook in Mouth” and “Parade of Two Legs.” I would imagine there does come a point in time as a band where just full-on thrash the entire ride gets a little monotonous, maybe?
JC: We have so many thrash songs in our repertoire live to the point you’re hearing about 85% all thrash tunes, so it’s good to mix it up. We like to have fun playing chunky, mid-tempo songs just as much. We’re so fast live it’s nice to have a few other types of songs in-between!
TP: One of my favorite bands of all-time is Trouble, and I hear a lot of their influence on our grooving or songs of that nature.
JC: Trouble rules, man.
TP: We had the pleasure to hang with them at Wacken too. We played on Friday night and they hung out with us backstage drinking our beer, and they returned the favor the following Saturday! Saturday we were drinking their beer!
JC: Yeah! Awesome guys.
MM: I want to talk about the album cover for Unborn Again. I’m especially curious about the wide range of characters at the ticket booth and what their stories are from your perspectives. The other thing I’d like to know is, with the way this medium is starting to shift towards digital download albums, do you feel it’ll kill off artistic and cool album covers like this one?
JC: We wanted a big, bold, colorful and crazy cover like we used to have in the old days, and we definitely got it!
TP: I remember on the first draft of the cover there wasn’t a mixture of different ethnics, so we told the artist, ‘Listen, you’ve got to mix it up a little,’ and that’s when he came back with. We had so much input on this album cover.
JC: Yeah, we had everything to do with this album cover, in fact! The cover pretty much represents us. In the top right corner of the CD is the parachute jump from Coney Island. What we thought on the first draft was there were all similar-looking people, so we needed to have some ethnic people here! This is a multicultural world we’re living in, man! So we changed that and we changed a whole bunch of stuff on it. Ed Repka did a great job on it. You’ve got the Insult to Injury guy with a broken leg still, then you’ve got the Ticket to Mayhem guy in the first car of the rollercoaster. Then you’ve the ticket taker who’s the Power and Pain guy. The guy next to the Insult to Injury guy, if you ask me, he looks like Bela Lugosi! He’s putting his hand over that black kid’s head and I was wondering what the hell is he doing there? I figured it out, man; he’s measuring him for height on the ride! I think the people in the rollercoaster are actually real people. I hope nobody spots themselves there! This whole album cover is like Where’s Waldo.
It seems like they’re printing a lot of vinyl these days. Someone’s talking about putting this one out on vinyl and I really hope they do. There was also talk about a picture disc, which would be awesome!
TP: I can give you something that I didn’t even tell Joe yet...
JC: Oh, no! (laughs)
TP: I came up with an awesome idea for the DVD that’s going to be coming out, 25 Years of Thrash. I was thinking of including those characters in-between cuts of live stuff on the DVD, maybe even have famous thrash band and heavy metal people come dressed up as those characters, you know, theatrical-looking.
JC: (laughs) That’s sick!
TP: It’s something we’d have to sit down and discuss.
JC: Who’d be the Power and Pain guy, Rob Halford?
JC: Maybe Pete Townsend!
MM: (laughs) How about Udo Dirkschneider?
TP: I’m thinking about incorporating maybe four or five other bands and include some live performances of them inside the DVD too, as well as Whiplash.
MM: Sheesh, this project sounds time-invested and yet I can’t believe you guys are already talking about the next album right after Unborn Again drops...
JC: In the old days we took a long time to put stuff together, but now while our chops are here... We’re really tight now, man; we are a completely live band. Now we’re going into the studio with this machine...it’s going to be dangerous.
TP: We started in late June or July and there were a few delays from the record company’s side of things and just organizing the schedule with Harris Johns, who co-produced this with us. It seemed the vibe was where you could put a definite line between three different sections of the year where it was writing for probably three months and then the whole recording process was another third of that time and then rehearsing for and doing the live shows was another third of the year. Now we’ve come full-swing and we’re ready to start writing again and start the whole process over.
JC: We’re having more fun now, man, than we ever did. We’re comfortable and making the best of it. We’re having a good time out there.
Copyright (c) 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
Friday, November 27, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
A happy short week for most! My prayers to those of you working the trenches on Black Friday; I've been in your shoes! I vividly remember working in a comic book store during the "Death of Superman" saga and we had a line down the entire strip center there to buy freakin' second printings of the book, oy... Joke's on them!
Just got wrapped with an ultra fun guest slot at The Ripple Effect radio show where I got to yammer about metal with my bros Pope and Racer X. I brought tunes by Gwar, The Ocean, Church of Misery and Coalesce, did some intros and had about the best danged fun I've had in more than a week. Thanks, guys, great way to pep up into Thanksgiving! Also thanks to all of my readers here who joined in to listen at the show. I know who you are, and you all kick ass, especially my east coasters! A round on me in the future! The show is streaming The Ripple Effect's archives, so bounce on by to Blogspotradio.com and have fun!
Last Friday I had Age of Evil's Jeremy Goldberg on the phone for an upcoming Take 5 special here at The Metal Minute, which will run after the Whiplash interview, so keep a watchful eye for those. Jeremy's a bit ahead of his years and I detect another possible Trivium in the making, though Age of Evil's sound is more trad power metal than metal/metalcore.
By attrition from a long road jaunt last night, I ended up spinning the new Mudvayne album four times, so there's your default high roller of the week. I took my lumps for my lukewarm review of their previous album, but this one, folks...much better. I knew these guys were short-changing themselves and they're letting loose this time and growing more progressive again.
On that note, I'm in vampire mode but ready to dive into the crypt for a few z's. Happy Thanksgiving, ya'll...
Mudvayne - s/t
King Diamond - Voodoo
King Diamond - House of God
Black Breath - Razor to Oblivion EP
Age of Evil - Get Dead EP
The Church - Starfish
Saturday Night Fever soundtrack
Pat Benetar - Best Shots
Tony Toni Tone - House of Music
Stone Temple Pilots - Core
Stone Temple Pilots - Purple
Voivod - Infini
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Black Breath - Razor to Oblivion EP
2009 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Now this is how I like my EPs, particularly from a newcomer to the scene: one that leaves a whipping smack upon the cheek yet coaxes a masochistic longing for more.
From the outskirts of Seattle, Black Breath might be a contender for best arrival in the metal underground this year, despite being together officially since 2005. Though their debut EP Razor to Oblivion has actually been out awhile, Black Breath's recent signing to Southern Lord will equate into the release of their forthcoming first full-length in early 2010.
It also equates into a reissue of Razor to Oblivion, one of the rowdiest punk, thrash, death metal and stoner hybrids today's scenesters are going to find themselves forced to contend with, like it or not.
Fortunately, Razor to Oblivion is an easy sell. It's a fierce and largely fast buzzsaw of hostility. Part Celtic Frost, part Botch, part Broken Bones, part Dr. Know, part Obsessed and part Destruction, Black Breath belches their proverbial pestilence into each boisterous cut. Mid-tempo and meticulous gives way to neck-snapping crazy on "Beneath the Crust," even as Black Breath skids the track into a proper (note I said "proper") breakdown guzzle straight from the Bad Brains.
Even when Black Breath starts "Murder" off sounding like a Sabbath or Saint Vitus doom plodder, they pick the pace up immediately into a steady headbang as vocalist N.T. McAdams barks along to his band's downstroked riff parade with gusto. On the fast-moving title track and "Fatal Error," McAdams sounds like he has shards scraping his crack while drummer Jamie Byrum answers by slapping the finish off of his heads.
Though Black Breath is a five-strong band, they come off at times like a stripped Motorhead three piece. That's not to say Zack Muljat, Elijah Nelson and Eric Wallace are wholly minimalist; they merely work in such finely-timed precision the blinding speed of "Fatal Error" sounds neat and trimmed...well, for the gleefully rambunctious style Black Breath operates with, anyway. Have a go with Muljat and Wallace's tag-team solo on "Murder." Niiiiiice...
Mark your calendars for the early months in the upcoming year. If their full-length contains even half of Razor to Oblivion's brackish fun, Black Breath is to be unquestionably considered an inventive force others had better be ready to stand up to...
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Ted Nugent - Motor City Mayhem: 6000th Concert
2009 Eagle Vision
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Uncle Ted is a straight-up knucklehead, there's no getting around it. I can't say I'm a fan of The Nuge's 12 guage politics, but I'll never take his stature of supremo rocker away from him. One thing's for sure, nobody outside of the CIA is keeping tabs on the 9/11 bombing trials in New York closer than Ted Nugent. God help any potential infiltrator of the United States, because Nugent alone will stir up a hornet's nest of pro-Americana the likes no one has seen since the bicentennial in 1976.
The funny thing about Ted Nugent is he believes he's right, not just right-wing. His confidence in his stance as a Commie-crushing, deer-spearing backwoods bone snapper equals his confidence behind his six strings of raunch. Surpassing a jaw-dropping 6000 live shows now, Uncle Ted has ordained himself America's ambassador of trad rock and blues, much less bowhunter par excellence. It's a wonder Bass Pro Shops hasn't given the Nuge the same kind of backing for their field department as they do Bill Dance for the stream.
The only opportunity I've gotten to see Ted Nugent live was in the late eighties as opener for Kiss. Uncle Ted was still our cousin only at this point when he was supporting his '88 If You Can't Lick 'Em, Lick 'Em album, complete with his famed raccoon tail dangling from his rectum like an elongated fuzzy turd affixed to spandex. At that point, Nugent had yet to commune with the land, shotgun shells and a red-white-and-blue bowstring, much less anything on four legs to gnaw on after he snuffed it. My only criterion with hunters is, eat what you kill, which Nugent likewise professes adamantly.
That bit of proseltyzing out of the way, Ted Nugent enjoyed quite a run in support of his 2007 return to the rawk scene, Love Grenade. Garnishing not one DVD out of his road haunt with Dokken's Mick Brown on the skins and journeyman bassist Greg Smith (also affiliated with Dokken, Alice Cooper, Rainbow, Blue Oyster Cult, Vinnie Moore, Joe Lynn Turner and Wendy O. Williams) but two, Ted Nugent serves up a romp 'n stomp 4th of July bash which so happens to mark his landmark 6000th concert.
Following his Sweden Rocks DVD from last year, Uncle Ted dishes out Motor City Mayhem: 6000th Concert, an Independence Day special from 2008 which sees him whisking through his standard staples which would never be remiss of a Nuge show, such as "Cat Scratch Fever," "Wango Tango," "Wang Tang Sweet Poontang," "Free For All" and "Dog Eat Dog." This time Ted sports a bushy fox tail from his jeans-clad ass, as well as his crawdad vest and swill-festered cowboy hat.
The atmosphere of Motor City Mayhem: 6000th Concert, is all party, beginning from the swimsuit model jumping out of a stage cake in the concert's opening, and continuing on with various guests who impacted Ted over the course of his career. Amongst those included is his guitar mentor Joe Podorsik, who grooves some spit-laden honky tonk onstage with the Nuge.
As Brown and Smith provide a reliable rhythm section for Ted (the man geeks on these guys like they're the finest he's ever worked with) to slink and tug on his Strats with excitable emphasis, Nugent also brings out more Detroit disciples onstage such as drummer Johnny Bee, who joins Ted in a cover of "Jenny Take a Ride." Also coming out for Ted's 6000th gala is his vintage era rhythm guitarist Derek St. James, who chimes in on "Cat Scratch Fever," "Hey, Baby" (a Motown song St. James is credited with writing) and the marathon sex rock classic, "Stranglehold."
Nugent's stage is heaped with large video monitors, a prop hand grenade, tommy-gun-esque rifles and a backdrop showing a caricature Ted giving the finger from an omnipresent hoisted middle finger ala Monty Python with a crowd of hoisted fuck-you's prodding beneath. Meanwhile, Ted himself revels in the moment of playing on the 4th of July by constantly yelling "Freedom!" like Mel Gibson as William Wallace in Braveheart. Ted wastes no opportunity to grease his audience by summoning their patriotism from their Michigan-beating hearts. At one point, Ted is so lost in the moment he refers to his soapbox phrase as "freedom shit." Suffice it to say, a moment-drowned Ted Nugent constantly coaxing would-be NRA supporters into his proverbial front line tends to wear on the nerves just a bit. I mean, this is rock 'n roll, isn't it?
Fortunately, Nugent rocks and rolls better than most as he tackles a handful of classic cover tunes such as "Bo Diddley," "Soul Man," "Baby Please Don't Go" and of course, "Jenny Takes a Ride." His indulgent round of covers, in addition to many longhand jam sessions does slow Motor City Mayhem: 6000th Concert, quite a bit, however.
As effortless as Nugent rapes his high note strings and jerks out some seriously good solos, the show certainly takes on an air of minor pomposity. Ted constantly works his crowd over with mock self-effacing stage banter. At one point, he almost commands his attendees to thank him point-blank for continuing his career.
A lot of this effrontery is downright amusing, while the Nuge seizes the opportunity during his encore to pimp his values and beliefs about hunting with the drawn-out "Fred Bear." Prior to that, Nugent rips into "Great White Buffalo," complete with a native headdress (which was likewise seen on Sweden Rocks) and a mondo bizarro moment where Ted props his dummy guitar on the stage and shoots a "poetic" arrow into its back, where he's written "Great White Buffalo" on the back base. His devotion to hunting goes too far at times, particularly when Ted is trying to draw appeasement from the Native American community with "Great White Buffalo" and "Geronimo and Me" beforehand. It's not so much insulting as it is hopeless that Ted approaches these topics knowing he's as much of a proud white boy hick these days as indisputed rock god.
In all, Motor City Mayhem: 6000th Concert, is a wild and crazy affair delivered by someone who would give his right nut to be played by Rush Limbaugh instead of The Pretenders as a soundbyte on his radio program. Bopping and booming, Motor City Mayhem: 6000th Concert, shows a Ted Nugent very much in love with the stage as he is in camo gear while an eight-point buck comes astray within his target sight...
A far-distant prospect from his early-years obsession with writing songs about jailbait..
Friday, November 20, 2009
Mary Forsberg Weiland - Fall to Pieces
2009 William Morrow/Harper Collins
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Anytime a crash and burn narrative related to Hollywood and rock 'n roll comes across my desk, I automatically start humming Motley Crue's "Danger" in the back of my mind. Within the past couple years, three of the most alarming biographies related to megastar drug addiction have surfaced: Red Hot Chili Peppers' frontman Anthony Keidis and his harrowing Scar Tissue, Crue bassist and poster bad boy Nikki Sixx 's Heroin Diaries (which you can read a review of here) and now, the ex-wife of Stone Temple Pilots/Velvet Revolver vocalist Scott Weiland and her one-step-deeper account, Fall to Pieces.
It's difficult for the general public to empathize with our brothers and sisters who struggle with drug addiction. Never mind society unanimously has its own individual addictions they're secretly battling or even upfront about. Let's face the facts; we're all hooked on something, be it drugs, weed, booze, sex, tobacco, sleep, food, sports, gambling, style, free-spending. It's an inherent trait within us all to develop vices; that's Psych 101 stuff. I personally am trying desperately to wean myself off of the caffeine I binge on in order to keep up with my journalism production. I also combat the inner urge to spend disposable income on albums and music despite all the perks and freebies I enjoy in my position. I'm freakin' addicted to music, shame to say.
Relating to another human being cursed with needle tracks in his or her arms and whose eyesockets bear ghoulish tints of yellow, scarlet and black you're wont to confuse smack addiction for cancer just isn't within most people's capacity. In some ways, we all bear tiny hints of wonton jealousy when you get down to the nitty gritty. Who the hell has so much money they can piss the equation of the average Joe's annual salary down the flush on a month's consumption of drugs? The first thought coming to most folks' minds is, "Imagine the bills I could sweep off my plate with that kind of money, crikey!"
Mary Forsberg Weiland had the income to live frivolously from her globetrotting as a high profile fashion model and future wife of a grounded rock god; unfortunately, she was riding the bullet on a daily basis with this greater addiction, Scott Weiland.
In her pull-no-punches biography Fall to Pieces, the former supermodel takes her readers on a rock 'n roll hell trip, guided from an alternate perspective. In some ways Mary Forsberg Weiland is the outsider looking in, yet she's every much the participant in her vein-tapped odyssey. Her access to the Hollywood jet set stems from her modeling days and her marriage into a rock scene still on the tail end of a Big Business sweepstakes glutted out of the eighties. Her host of famous friends and associates has included Dave Navarro, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Cage, Ivana Milicevic, Cameron Crowe and course, the entire Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver posse amongst others.
Fall to Pieces lets us know Weiland is well-connected to the entertainment society and given the numerous headlines shouldered by her talented-yet-self-scourged husband, she takes this opportunity to settle a few scores with herself and amend a couple of yellow journalist news tags. In the early goings of this book's release, the support for Mary has been tremendous, first and foremost by her ex. Considering how revelatory Fall to Pieces is, not only for Mary but also Scott Weiland, perhaps this is the cathartic moment both lives may draw upon for future healing.
What Weiland brings to the table with Fall to Pieces (a book that could easily be scored by Patsy Cline, much less Velvet Revolver's smash hit from a few years back) is a sense of innocuousness germinated by an underlying personality disorder which helps derail her into the cumbersome drug mires she fought through seven rehab centers to finally lick.
We meet an alienated young girl with a dysfunctional family who's on the move a lot in the outerlying rims of Los Angeles. Her strained familial environment is filled with divorce-remarriage-divorce, "borrowed" cable t.v. from the neighbors and a mercilessly-played Joan Jett 45 on one of those old-time table phonograph players you have to be of the right age to fully appreciate. She and her family are constantly on the move with a perceived insecurity trickling straight down to knockoff clothing which brings Mary expected torment from her well-to-do peers. Ironic a girl with mission store attire would soon gain access to global designer chic with which to proverbially rub it in the face of said peers.
The girl immediately evolves into woman upon her entry into the fashion world. Mary Forsberg is one of the few celebrities who filed for legal emancipation as an adult strictly in a career maneuver. Interestingly, Mary recounts meeting Drew Barrymore in the same timeframe Barrymore was emancipating herself from her parasitic family. Thus the universe crosses paths intentionally.
As Forsberg elevates to worldly supermodel stature, Fall to Pieces becomes very much a twisted love story as Mary meets her eventual husband Scott Weiland. Scott was her driver back in the early days of her modeling career and her immediate attraction becomes Forsberg Weiland's pinpointed stigma. Though diagnosed later as suffering from a bipolar disease, Mary's unyielding love for Scott Weiland (who similarly bears the bonding glue of family issues) exacerbates her affliction.
The more Mary desires to be with Scott (who was ultimately betrothed and wedded elsewhere upon sparking a romance with Mary), the more she withdraws into her cocoon. Trailing through a veritable catalog's worth of anti-depressants and vogue psych pills, one might presume Mary to be a ripe sacrificial lamb on "The Chaos Tour" she soon embarks with Scott once he split from his first wife, Julianna.
Most other Hollywood drug-addiction accounts are brutally honest, particularly when delivered from a male perspective. Sometimes a man can go too far in conveying the debauchery he lived with, straight down to who-slept-with-who-and-in-what-position. Mary isn't so much kiss but don't tell, as much as she is kiss and hint just a smidge of the pleasantries. Of course, the pleasantries are doused by cocaine baths with more hands-on detail than what's been issued in the past.
No rods are spared from the you-are-there effects Mary illustrates in Fall to Pieces. Seriously, sniffing dust from the rim of a public toilet is more wrong than half of what Gwar does onstage, yet Mary courageously makes this public knowledge in the interest of perhaps saving a soul or two in the process. If you have shared her journey towards Hell's gate, this book goes beyond serving as a confessional. If you come to Fall to Pieces with little-to-no-experience in paraphrenalia abuse, then you're in for a horrific story.
Deep down to the arm tracks and scab pickings, Mary Forsberg Weiland plunges herself, Scott and the reader into a sordid underground where even paparazzi are afraid to follow. Mary impactfully describes hers and Scott's futile attempts to get clean and projects how badly an addiction can wear a user's psyche down to a lack of will.
Carrying emotional baggage before that fateful first score explains why Mary, a perceptibly svelte and assumedly sweet woman rampages at times. She discusses her inferno-like behavior towards Scott; she admits to once cross-hooking him when he wouldn't give her an extra bump. Likewise, she agonizes over their mutual wagon falls where neither could buffer the other for too long without undesirable repurcussions. She also relays the tabloid-famous clothes burning incident which a provoked and wigged-out Mary (no longer on junk at this point) retaliated after pleading to Scott for a hypothetical mental caress, to which he vanished on a plane to record a solo album.
Mary does defend Scott in the book, citing he never hit or cheated on her, regardless of the many headlines indicating otherwise. One thing's for sure; the media has historically painted a picture of Scott Weiland as glamour boy white trash, never mind the standing ovation he and Stone Temple Pilots received while covering The Beatles' "Revolution" at Radio City Music Hall in a post 9/11 tribute to John Lennon. He has historically been pegged as weak by journalists, and certainly Mary's testimonials lend certain credence (I was personally jaw-slackened the man was getting a massage in the delivery suite while Mary was pushing out their first child Noah), yet the point being made in Fall to Pieces is that severe addiction reduces people to, well...pieces.
In the midst of separation and divorce with two children's futures to consider, it's evident Mary loves Scott to the bitter end, even if their chemical personalities unintentionally inflict instead of nurture. Not to paint an air of melodrama, but there is a sad tragedy in Mary and Scott's laced-out romance in which the princess waited a long time for her shining knight, even if his armor wasn't strong enough to thwart the infiltration of poisoning substance. All for naught. As the Stone Temple Pilots song would befit this story, Mary and Scott were flies in the vaseline, stuck there all the time and unequivocally dealing with constant mind blows.
On the upbeat side, Mary Forsberg Weiland does have a witty candor about her. Co-written with former Esquire magazine editor and contributor to addiction research texts, Larkin Warren, Fall to Pieces does know when to press its thumb on the trigger long enough to interject some humor. Mary tells funny stories about herself and her Hollywood compatriots, including a gut-busting tale involving Scott and Dave Navarro.
These days Mary Forsberg Weiland is studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor with her main focus honing in on users with concurrent personality disorders. Assuming she meets that goal, Fall to Pieces will be mandatory reading for potentially plunging angels full of the same despair Mary had as a teenager calling a suicide hotline and gaining impractical and insensitive advice of setting her alarm clock to beat overtiredness.
On a side note, kudos to Mary's keen knowledge of rock, punk, metal and other genres of music. Naturally she was surrounded by it on the road with Stone Temple Pilots so her access to it all was greater than most. You have to appreciate a former runway model who goes to a Social Distortion gig and geeks out in front of Joan Jett in fanboy (or girl, if you will) manner. Gucci with a little bit 'o street...well, actually, the gal's seen more street than a lot of us ever will.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Hi hi hi, droogs, back again on another Wednesday and hope ya'll are feeling instead of reeling.
Let's keep the chatter down a bit this week as I've been walking around like a Romero castaway, albeit motivated as always.
Over Fangoria.com I have reviews this week of the latest album from WASP, Babylon and the ultra-weird Melvins remix album Chicken Switch, so have a go over yonders to their Musick section. At About.com you can check out my looksee at Coalesce's kickass OxEP as well as the stunning new Voivod DVD Tatsumaki...to think they pulled off the unthinkable. Blacky coming back was worth the ticket alone, but mad props to Dan Mongrain of Martyr for pulling off a rather convincing Piggy...can you imagine the pressure that guy had learning those chops? On a side note, the dude has more hair than Troy Polamalu, wowzers...where's his Head and Shoulders endorsement?
Here at The Metal Minute be on the lookout for reviews of the new Black Breath EP Razor to Oblivion and Death Angel's latest live DVD. I had a great time chatting with both Tony Portaro and Joe Cangelosi of Whiplash last week, so that Take 5 piece ought to creep in here shortly.
Until next, cheers, and thanks as always for your loyal patronage...
WASP - Babylon
WASP - Unholy Terror
WASP - The Neon God Part 2: The Demise
Voivod - Killing Technology
Voivod - Angel Rat
Voivod - Infini
Go-Gos - Beauty and the Beat
ZZ Top - Greatest Hits
Black Breath - Razor to Oblivion EP
Age of Evil - Get Dead EP
Melvins - Chicken Switch
Coalesce - OxEP
Eagle Twin - The Unkindness of Crows
Impious - Death Damnation
Gaza - He Is Never Coming Back
Monday, November 16, 2009
Renaissance men are found all over the world, but it might be said the metal community is teeming with them. Andreas Kisser, best known as Sepultura's shredder and finesse man has historically been found in scores of places outside his art thrash alma mater. Found in other musical hidey holes over the years such as Asesino, Betzefer and numerous classical and blues nestling spots, Kisser is as much about the fine arts to his musical expression as pure, unadulterated crush.
This year alone Kisser boasts a new Sepultura album, A-lex, a heavily-detailed metal interpretation of Anthony Burgess' novel for A Clockwork Orange. Kisser has found himself in a playground cover tune side project Hail! which is also fortified by the likes of Paul Bostaph, Dave Ellefson and Tim "Ripper" Owens.
Aside from random collaborations and scoring work with classical ensembles housed in his native Brazil, Kisser now unfurls his private sanctum for the world to hear, a two-album project called Hubris I & II which finds Kisser delineating his solo work into themes bearing all-electric songs on one disc and a largely-acoustic endeavor on the other. The Metal Minute caught up with Kisser in-between gigs as Hail! prepares for a landmark concert in Lebanon...
MM: What an outstanding job you and Sepultura did with A-lex, brother. We all know about the album’s connection to Anthony Burgess’ original version of A Clockwork Orange, but how close to the edge mentally did it feel for you to prepare, write and perform that album? You had to basically confront madness in order to convey it musically.
AK: Yeah, the story was very well-known by us of course by Stanley Kubrick’s movie. We watched that film since we were very young. The movie came out in ’71 and I guess I watched it for the first time back in the mid-eighties or something like that. Since then, I’ve been watching many different versions, like the director’s cut, the interview features... It’s a cult movie, you know? So the storyline and the character of Alex, we knew quite well, but as soon as we decided we wanted to work on this topic, me and especially Derek (Green) went after the book and then Anthony Burgess’ biography and examined his life. It was the same way we did with Dante XXI, not only the story, but where it was written and why. It was very interesting; the book is much more complete, much more detailed, much more violent and everything else. I guess we just started playing with this album with John Dolabella on drums. He brought a lot of energy and a lot of new ideas. He’s an amazing musician and drummer. Everything was very exciting to do this album. It was great to have somebody who wanted to be there.
Iggor left and it’s always bad when you lose such a great member and great fucking drummer, but we took our time in finding John and together with the concept of the book and his addition to the group, we were very excited. We actually did the album pretty quick. We spent two or three months writing everything, because the book is quick also, you know? You can read the book in a day! There are so many elements going on in such a short period of time, so it was very easy for us to do something very quick and very objective. We’re very glad with the results and the positive reaction and response we had everywhere. It was great.
It felt very natural to connect with this book, especially because Dante XXI was our first experience to grab a book or either a movie to be inspired by and write the music and lyrics. The experience was great and we decided to do the same with a totally different book, a different and more modern story. People can relate much easier than Dante, you know? The Divine Comedy is a very difficult book to read--it’s an amazing book, of course--but A Clockwork Orange, people can handle really easier than that. I think it brings people closer to everything, you know?
MM: Let’s get into Hail! for a minute. You have The Ripper (Tim Owens), Paul Bostaph and Dave Ellefson along with yourself. That’s a hell of a lineup, man!
AK: It’s amazing, man. It’s beautiful! (laughs) We don’t really have any ideas yet to do anything original. This is a pretty new project that we started earlier this year. We did five shows in Chile and it went fucking great. The buzz dropped on the internet and we got offers from many places to do this project, you know? It’s something I was invited to be a part of. This guy Mark is an American lawyer, manager or whatever, and he works with many different musicians and he put this idea together to do something in South America and he called me to be a part of it with the guitar. It’s going great and it’s going to a level I guess nobody expected, you know? (laughs) We want to keep it that way, you know? We’re enjoying what we’re doing playing covers and we’re having a blast onstage. We’re not thinking about writing anything new, but who knows? It’s something very new that just started and we want to enjoy it. If we get something original, only time will tell.
It’s just an honor to play with Dave, Paul and Tim. The first drummer we went on tour with was Jimmy Degrasso and now we’re going to Lebanon. This is the first metal show ever in Lebanon’s history and it’s very exciting, you know? It’s unbelievable, man. This is something that started almost as a joke to put it together, but now we’re doing stuff like this and it’s amazing. I can’t wait. November 20th is the show in Beirut and we’re very happy that we’re going to be able to be pioneers of metal in Lebanon!
MM: With your new solo album Hubris I & II, the first disc is all distortion and electric-oriented material, while the second is more flamenco and classical-geared. Tell us about the conception and perspective of this project. I mean, “Lava Sky” and “Breast Feeding” are bipolar opposites of each other songwriting but do they fit into a certain concept from your point-of-view?
AK: Yeah, exactly. Six years ago when I got this offer from Mascot Records to do a solo album, I started out going after my demos and the ideas that I had on tapes and stuff like that. I started to research everything I did in the past 15 years. There are songs on this album that are that old! So I had a lot of stuff and especially acoustic stuff, because I studied classical guitar and I love to play it on the acoustic. I had a lot of stuff written for whatever, soundtracks, Sepultura ideas that I didn’t use. So I started organizing this stuff and I saw I had so much stuff I decided to create this concept to do one album electric and the other one acoustic. With this concept it was much easier to find the right songs to be in the first project and to be filed into pieces, yet it’s the same album, you know? It’s something I wanted to show, all the stuff I do besides Sepultura. I’ve been playing classical guitar for many years and I’ve been playing with many musicians here and there, blues players, pop rock musicians, every country music here in Brazil. It’s a great school and it’s great to go different ways to represent metal in other fields. You’re always learning something new.
This is a very free album to make. I wrote songs for my wife, my kids and for my futbol team. It’s been very free, you know? It’s very different from everything else I did. I wanted to do everything myself, as much as I could, so I played all the guitars and bass. I did some vocals and percussion. I produced it, I went after studios and technicians and stuff like that, so it was really a great experience for me. I’m very happy this album is finally done and coming out, you know?
MM: I only hear Sepultura in a couple songs like “Eu Humano” or “The Forum” and to certain latitudes, “God’s Laugh,” but in many ways, Hubris I and II really distances itself from Sepultura, even if you have John playing on the first album. In some ways, though, I also think it’s the logical distant cousin of Sepultura, maybe Roots-era, you know?
AK: (laughs) Yeah, definitely! Metal and Sepultura of course is a big influence on everything I do, but this was the challenge for me, to respect what the songs were asking for. If the song was needed to be written in Portuguese, I wrote in Portuguese...the same with English or what it called for. I learned more than I was teaching! (laughs) The songs were really asking for certain elements, and I have so many friends and relationships here in Brazil. Some of them are famous, others are not very famous but they’re very great musicians who play in parts of Sao Paolo and I asked to be a part of this. Yeah, there’s blues, metal, classical, a lot of Brazilian elements, rhythms and melodies, Brazilian instruments. It was great. This is a very experimental thing to do for me and I guess I’m never going to be able to repeat something like this ever again! (laughs) That’s cool, though. This is a mark on my career that I’m very proud of, you know?
MM: Obviously you had a lot of internal musical expression to release with this album. Having it bottled up or least tucked away for so long, do you feel you’ve gotten a sense of relief getting it out now?
AK: Yeah, I guess it’s an open door. I love what I do in Sepultura and I love to play and write for Sepultura. It’s always a challenge and there’s always a spirit in me that’s looking for something new. My solo stuff is just me, you know? It’s stuff I like to listen to, stuff like to play, there’s instruments here I like to explore. It’s just great to open new possibilities in music and to play and jam with different people, and soundtracks for movies and everything. In Brazil I do all of that; I play with big names, I play with blues bands, I play on soundtracks. It’s very interesting and it keeps me fresh and alive, musically-speaking.
Copyright (c) 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
Sunday, November 15, 2009
ZZ Top - Double Down Live 1980 * 2008
2009 Eagle Vision
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Four decades these guys have been around, sheesh. No lineup changes, either; it's the same tres hombres there ever was. Not many groups can say that for themselves. ZZ Top is a band beyond the shaggy chins, the grimy leather trenches and these days a laidback stage candor where knee-cracked listing and dipping may not be with the same arc levels as their past, but this is ZZ Top deep down to the grits and gravy.
Glancing at the decidedly young crowd on the second disc of ZZ Top's latest DVD offering Double Down Live 1980 * 2008, it's fun to watch these kids banging their heads and throwing up horns to the tune of blues-laced crawldads such as "Waitin' for the Bus" and "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide." It's surreal, when you cut the cloth.
Apparently this youth brigade recognizes something primal in ZZ Top their senior couterparts have of late taken for granted. Of course, overexposure might have something to do with that. If you stop and listen for days on end, you will nary go a day on a classic rock station without hearing the dirty boogie tugs of "La Grange" and "Tush" spun in prime airtime slots. These two songs are as obligatory to classic rock studios as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "More Than a Feeling."
Why aren't ZZ Top mega stars any longer? Of course, their elborate, light-sparkled stage set and sold-out shows would indicate otherwise, yet you can hear guitarist Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill mull almost at a whisper before a French interviewer on the "Almost Now...2008" disc of this set about how life in ZZ Top is practically at a starting point all over again.
The moonshine boys are rarely seen these days in public without shades (you know these dudes own no cheap sunglasses) wedged between their smothering cranial covers and chin foliage, while drummer Dusty Hill looks more effortless and clock-punched in his business than Charlie Watts. A ZZ Top performance nowadays--gauging "Almost Now...2008" and the band's 2007 DVD ZZ Top Live From Texas--looks every bit befitting of elder blues rockers placed well upon a rightful pedestal. Gibbons alone is a master showman with his strings, a generally overlooked blues-country-rawk cat of our time. Still, a ZZ Top audience is reverential yet out for a good time (particularly the ladies with their pearl necklaces, ahem ahem) and the guys deliver a party down vibe better than most of their competition. One spool of the opening zap, "Got Me Under Pressure" and it's game on...
Double Down Live 1980 * 2008 is split between ZZ Top a year ago and ZZ Top 29 years ago. Frankly, it's the 1980 footage you're after with this set, albeit the Rio Grande Mudbums pare out virtually all of their crossover hits ala Eliminator and Afterburner on the second disc, so consider that a caveat...or a selling point depending on your affinities. Double Down Live 1980 * 2008 is for the hardcore fans of ZZ Top and those with a deep appreciation of roots in modern rock 'n roll.
The "Definitely Then...1980" half of the set is a 2-hour old school fiesta filmed in Essen, Germany for the Rockpalast live music series which Eagle Vision has begun to tap generously into their vaults, taking into consideration other recent Rockpalast releases centered around Lynard Skynard, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy.
Chocked full of the pie ingredients ZZ Top made their legend upon prior to elevating into the mainstream, the set list is comprised largely from their Tres Hombres, Fandango and Deguello albums, the latter of which was being toured heavily at this point in the band's career. It would only be three years from this point when ZZ Top's fate would be whisked into a wide-open fast lane for their famed cherry red '32 coupe to propel them to even bigger heights.
"Definitely Then...1980" is naturally the more energetic of the two shows featured in this package. While Frank Beard looks no less reserved behind the kit almost three decades ago as he does today, Gibbons and Hill are the genuine blues brothers out in front. They lurch in tandem at 75 degrees, they bop around the stage in gambler suits and they strut together in place with a symmetrical shimmy. Gibbons pogos around while wearing a bowler derby as Hill plucks his bass as if in a trance before his turns on the mike, where he gets nearly rowdy at times.
Nearly the entire Deguello album minus "Esther Be the One" makes it into this set, so you're naturally in for a treat with "She Loves My Automobile," "Hi Fi Mama," "Manic Mechanic," "I Thank You," "A Fool for Your Stockings" and of course, "Cheap Sunglasses." Only "El Loco" and "Arrested While Driving Blind" gets tapped from Tejas, one of the band's lesser-appreciated albums, "Just Got Paid" is the only representative of Rio Grande Mud and there's a complete skip-over with ZZ Top's First Album. What, no "Back Door Action?"
However, you do get the goodies such as "Jesus Just Left Chicago," "Waitin' for the Bus," "Heard it On the X," "Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers" an "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide," plus the staples "Tush," "La Grange" and the always-hilarious "Tube Snake Boogie." Two curtain calls later, you're as wiped out as the sweat-drenched band...
"Almost Now...2008" likewise cues up the vintage catalog with crisper and cleaner (albeit somewhat slower) measures on "Blue Jean Blues," "Jesus Just Left Chicago" and "Just Got Paid," while surprisingly uncorking "Need You Tonight" from Eliminator. A reasonable cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" leads into the expected finale "Tush," which rolls amidst the final credits. All that has transpired on this disc, which includes sluggisly-paced interview segments and a press photo shoot sequence looking similarly suspect to that which is shown in ZZ Top - Live From Texas gives a round robin feel to Double Down Live 1980 * 2008.
Indeed, Gibbons and Hill are accurate when they pinpoint their careers have begun all over again. The only difference now is they still have a glossy venue to showcase their stuff instead of a hellhole whiskey bar flung nowhere in the Texarkana badlands.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Impious - Death Damnation
2009 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
A fair number of folks took exception to Swedish death-thrashers Impious in 2004 and their parameters-stretching Hellucinate. For this writer's purposes, Impious' Metal Blade debut of 2004 actually finished high in the year end best list because of those parameter stretches.
Not that Hellucinate drifted too far away from their Vader-esque, blast beat-engaged modes of unrelenting ferocity, but Impious has made their name on the shoulders of tumultuous thrash designed to send the weak scurrying for cover. Past full-lengths such as Evilized, The Killer and The Deathsquad relent little to no respite in their brutal frontal assaults. That being said, yes, Hellucinate was a bit of a shock--and a good one, depending on who you ask.
While longtime fans have questioned what direction Impious would be heading into 2009 after Hellucinate and their 2007-released Holy Murder Masquerade opened expansive possibilities to their merciless anchors of chaos, consider those anchors dropped back into past territories with their latest offering Death Damnation.
Sure, Impious still tries out a few rhythm slowdowns and synthesizer sprinklings, but otherwise, Death Damnation is a back-to-basics donkey punch for these guys. On the one hand, Impious' established league will be pleased as hell that Death Damnation is loud, rude and full of chunky infernos. On the other hand, Impious showed a lot of creative promise on their previous two albums it's a minor letdown they opted to throw much of their dabbling out the door this time around.
Death Damnation is undeniably heavy and there's plenty of ear-candy guitar solos and brisk strumming courtesy of Robin Sorqvist and Valle Adzic found on "Dead Awakening," "Irreligous State of War," "Legions" and "Death Lives in Me." Their riffs are meatier, their execution only finessed when called for; otherwise the distortion grooves match the vocals and the drum patterns: utterly nasty.
The album does move rather fluidly even with manic beat changes by Mikael Noren ranging from double-timed mosh to singular brisk march to bpm cycles that are off the chart. Noren's insane tom rolls on "Hate Killing Project" helps make it one of the meanest cuts on Death Damnation, while Martin Akesson (once a guitarist in this band, if you'll recall) woofs with such tenacity you can picture his jugular on the brink of splitting open and geysering out.
"Rostov Ripper" is one of the more artistic cuts on the album with echoing keys accenting the blatting tempos and whirlwind guitar lines. A few brief time signatures trick the listener even as "Rostov Ripper" largely stays on a constant death stride before slipping into a rhyhtmic instrumental grind with voiceover samples.
Nonetheless, Death Damnation is largely dumped of the esoteric craftiness of Hellucinate as Impious focuses less on atmosphere and back on absuive furrows of chum coursing at reckless speed. This one is unapologetically ugly.
Friday, November 13, 2009
Hello Algol, how is your day going so far? To put you on the spot, what are you currently listening to at the moment?
Hi there! My day in almost over now, and in any case, different day, same shit. Work, some booze with friends, and now here we are! Right now I’m digging the last Celtic Frost; so heavy...
“Wounds Just Death Can Heal” has some monstrous guitar riffs, and some amazing layers. You’ve really masterminded a killer and unique sound, man. What gives you some of the inspiration to create what you do?
Thanks a lot man. Well, I don’t know if we can call it really unique, but that’s my sound! Maybe it’s not just about inspiration; it’s an urgent need to create music, and if we try to search the cause, we have to face one of the most difficult questions ever about art: why does somebody feel this strong desire, this natural will to create something – be it a painting, a song or whatever? The answer lies deep in the so-called “spirit” of man. I don’t believe in a unique, universal answer – as I don’t believe that a universal truth about anything could ever be defined – but I can try to give mine. Probably this need comes from my discomfort towards life itself. Music is helping me to give some way of a sense to this existence, apparently so void and futile. On one side it keeps my mind busy, and on the other one helps me to exorcise my worst fears and thoughts. Closing the circle, here, we’ve got what “inspires” me when creating music: life!
Evolving from the beast you created in Cold Void Journey, to now with Worship Or Die, how do you feel of your new accomplishments within black metal and music in general? You must be pretty proud, huh?
Cold Void Journey was released in 2005, but I can grant it’s old like the band itself. All the songs on it were composed many years before, mostly from 1996 to 1999. That’s why you can actually feel that big leap between the two records. I’m really satisfied about Worship Or Die; this album represents perfectly the sound I was searching for since a long time. I think it sounds both modern and ancient; you have that dissonant, black metal feeling along with that “rock” sense of music that belongs to older bands, and it actually works for me. Anyway, it’s not over! Hiems will always be an evolving band. I don’t wanna record the same album over and over again...if I will not have anything new to say, I will stop!
I really dig the artwork on Worship Or Die. Care to give some promotion about it?
To be honest, I had the master of the album ready in my hands without having a precise idea of a possible artwork. At the beginning I wanted something “riot oriented.” One of the first ideas was a picture of me throwing a Molotov into a bank door...well, that's quite hard to obtain! Then, as all the better ideas came, one night while I was was lying in my bed I suddenly got it. The perfect contrast, the perfect integration to the album’s title: a soldier throwing a Molotov. One of the greatest symbols of obedience with one of the greatest symbols of revolt. I hope that someone will understand the real meaning of the title Worship Or Die, but until now, no deal. Just let me say, it’s not referring to the band. Talking of the realization, I’ve got the help of a great artist, Morke (guitarist of the band Vidharr). I think that she did perfect work; what you see on the cover is really close to the image I had in mind for the album.
“WOF” is another beast of a song that I love. You really speed up the pace on this one, and have some really dark and commanding moments. What are some of your favorite songs on Worship Or Die?
As years pass by I believe less and less in speed. Violence is quick and short, otherwise it will have no big effect - that’s one of the reason because Worship Or Die is mostly a mid-tempo album. Honestly, I’m becoming bored of all those band that needs to play at 260 bpm! I mean, it seems just a fucking speed contest! You really can’t play hard at that time, no aggression at all; it's all just triggers and masturbation. I’ve seen a review of Worship Or Die saying that it was a horrible album just because it was slow! Okay, it’s a matter of tastes, but often just teenagers rate music based upon its speed. I don’t know if I have a favorite song, I think that every track on Worship Or Die has its own personality and role on the album and that’s exactly what I wanted; I easily get bored listening to 10 songs that sounds all the same! Variety is a big issue for me when talking about music.
Coming from Italy, what are some of your favorite places to catch a concert, grab a bite to eat, etc.? I’ve got a friend from Italy who’s given me some excellent recipes: Risotto Alla Milanese / Spaghetti Alla Carbonara.
Two great recipes for sure! Italian cuisine is largely known to be one of the best around the world, so as you could imagine we’ve plenty of great places to eat here. The ones I prefer are surely what we call agriturismo, something like traditional family-run restaurants that cooks mostly using self-produced ingredients. Talking of drinks, I largely prefer wine and beer. Italian wine is really wonderful. We have a wide choice of the best brands, but I’ve got to cheat on my country regarding beers: Belgian ones are on the top of my list! Talking of gigs, I often prefer small clubs and underground events. I hate crowded places! I organize myself several extreme concerts in Milano.
Being a one-man band, you have complete control over what you do, and it sure looks like you know what you are doing. Still, have you ever thought about having other band members both in the studio and out on the tour road?
I did, but I’ve got the best results when I decided to work alone--in the studio, of course. The complete control you mentioned is really essential for Hiems. I have a clear and defined vision of my music, and I don’t wanna share it with anyone. A little exception is given by the few collaborations featured on the album. Sometimes I like to be surprised, and giving a little space to musicians I respect can add something important to the results. Things obviously change coming to live shows! I did 4 gigs with Hiems with different lineups, but actually I decided to stop the live activity. If there will be the right interest and conditions for the band, I will surely consider the possibility to bringing Hiems on stage again. The main point is that I want to give people a great performance, beginning with the sound. Too often you’re asked to play in shitty places without the minimum hope to make anyone understand a single riff. No deal. I don’t see the point in this.
What do you think of the current black metal scene? Watered-down and commercialized, or a great gateway for today’s youth to discover the influences who brought black metal to life?
Honestly, I don’t have faith in youth. They will just discover how miserable is life, and how quick they will get old and die. Most of them will never understand a single thing; they will probably find a work, shave their heads, contaminate the world with other children and remember black metal as a “youth madness.” Produce, consume, die. For me, the whole black metal scene could implode tomorrow and my life would continue in the same way. There are just bands that I love and respect, but I hate the concept of scene. In any case, there’s no big hope for the YouTube generation. They will hardly take the time to understand what they’re listening to, since this world is too fast.
Here’s a fun and tricky question. If you were to organize a dream tour, who would be on it? Feel free to name a full-scale festival if you wish.
Not in particular order: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Danzig, Celtic Frost, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny Cash, Satyricon, AC/DC. Worth a ride, eh?
Worship Or Die is a great CD. People are really seeming to like it – we sure did: http://allaboutthemusic24.blogspot.com/2009/09/hiems-worship-or-die.html. Looking forward, how does the future look for Hiems?
Thanks again man! I’m working hard on the new material in these days, by now my priority is the next studio album. Rock on and refuse everyday’s shit.
Copyright (c) Alex Gilbert
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Ahh, the memories... How Blackie didn't carve his bare ass up with that saw blade strapped to his forearm is beyond me... Courtesy of www.wasppictures.com
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Howdy do, friends...welcome to another Wednesday!
First off, a note of best wishes to all of our military personnel, past and present. A happy Veterans' Day to all of you today. Your continued sacrifices gives people like myself the breathing room to "be" and I am personally grateful to you all.
Dusting off the sleep crud from the eyes since little man won't sleep very long these days and I had a fun time palling around over at The Ripple Effect blogtalk radio show last night. These guys know their music and they spend two hours each week blathering like your best friends about all genres and then spin a lot of tunes. Last night they wrapped with a metal explosion featuring Blood Tsunami and my 2008 album of the year winner, Byzantine. Shake it! Sometimes there's guest musicians on The Ripple Effect and other personalities. I've been on the show once and it appears they're booking me again in two weeks. Next Wednesday my longtime bud (and perrenial douche) Bob Vinyl is their featured guest. Check 'em out, Wednesdays from 11:00 pm - 1:00 am EST or earlier yonder for you west coasters.
Over at Fangoria.com you can check out my review of the latest Between the Buried and Me masterwork, The Great Misdirect.
Meanwhile, over here at The Metal Minute, we're getting fired up on all cylinders following the mega-fun chat with Spider of Powerman 5000, a big thank you to him. PM5K hardly left my player this week, and they were even played a couple times on Monday Night Football, so it's way cool to see them getting on the right track again.
Over the weekend I also interviewed Andreas Kisser of Sepultura to discuss his new solo album Hubris I & II, so be on the lookout for that Take 5 discussion later in the week. I'm scheduled to have Tony Portaro of Whiplash this evening and I've already booked four other groups down the pike. My man Alex Gilbert is bringing you an extended chat with black metallers Hiems as well, so strap yourselves in, we're in fifth...
Powerman 5000 - Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere
Powerman 5000 - Tonight the Stars Revolt
Between the Buried and Me - The Great Misdirect
W.A.S.P. - Babylon
Whiplash - Power and Pain
Whiplash - Unborn Again
Leaves' Eyes - Njord
Pelican - What We All Come to Need
Fireball Ministry - The Second Great Awakening
Kiss - Sonic Boom
Devin Townsend Project - s/t
Monday, November 09, 2009
Almost no one brings up the term "nu metal" any longer. In the metalverse, said phrase is enough to provoke a high-stakes mosh to the death. Most of the bands who rose up briefly in the late nineties under this banner are no longer with us, or many of the few remainders simply have no puzzle pieces left with which to stay relevant.
Not so with Static-X, who continue to ride their disco-thrash train ride into the ears of many fans. Powerman 5000, who lit up the charts in 1995 with their sci-fi-themed cyber metal blastoff Tonight the Stars Revolt, have lingered around for their devout fans, noticebly drifting away from the cosmos and into more grounded pure punk pastures as of 2003's Transform and more so 2006's Destroy What You Enjoy.
This year, however, Spider and his shred team jump back into the electro rocket for their latest pulse-tripping adventure, Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere. The title would indicate this album is a sequel to Tonight the Stars Revolt, and without a doubt, Powerman 5000's latest bumps and grinds on a constant electro-rock swerve. Opening with creepy Carpenter-esque synth dives, the new joint yields some of the most addicting choruses the band has yet produced, while their stage act today ushers back some of the old sci-fi theatrics Powerman made their name upon.
The Metal Minute caught up with Spider in the middle of Powerman 5000's latest road haunt...
The Metal Minute: When I last spoke with you it was for the Destroy What You Enjoy album and you guys had gone for the street punk vibe on the album and even the live show had that punk juice to it. You head back to the electro groove of Tonight the Stars Revolt on Somewhere On the Other Side of Nowhere, except I would say this one’s far more polished. It’s pure finesse. What felt right in your mind to go back to the cyber metal feel for this album?
Spider: Sometimes you just do something you love it and you’re all into it but then you have to move away from it. When you mention Destroy What You Enjoy, that was purely sort of me getting something out of me. I always described that album as the album I should’ve made when I was 15 but never did, you know? It’s interesting, and I’ve told this story before, but it’s so true; I went to the 2009 ComiCon and I just started getting really excited to be there. It inspired me just to be there and be surrounded by all of that nonsense. It kind of just re-sparked all that stuff for me, all the stuff that I love, all the stuff I loved growing up, and so many thing that inspired the band. It got me really enthused to go back to that sound. It felt right again. I never do it just to do it. For a couple years I got a lot of input from fans, like, "When are you going to go back to that sci-fi thing?" or "When are you going to do the electronics?" For whatever reason, I just didn’t feel like doing it but now it feels right again and natural, so for the first time in awhile I think what I’m doing is exactly what the fans want, you know?
This album is a lot of fun and people seem to like it. I’m used to the opposite reaction. Whenever we put a record out, I think the instinct of most fans is to not be into it and then slowly grow into it. For this album, it’s been quite the opposite. The initial reaction has been so positive. I wonder if we did something incredibly right or incredibly wrong, I’m not really sure what it is! (laughs) It’s good, man. In fact, it’s too easy!
MM: This whole album has more hooks than Vegas after dinnertime, man!
MM: It seems to me there’s more bands focusing on the technical proficiency aspect of songwriting versus establishing actual groove. Do you think that’s maybe a problem with today’s bands in-general?
Spider: I love big, hooky music, man. My thought is when you come see the band live and you’re maybe not familiar with the tracks, say you’re a new fan checking it out, that by the end of the songs it's good if you’re kind of getting it. You’re able to sing along by the last chorus. I like that vibe. I like big sing-a-longs, choruses that are empowering. I think music--in particular rock ‘n roll--should be an empowering experience, not just a passive listen.
I don’t think it’s a problem with these bands, but it’s just not what I’m into. I never started making music to be a proficient musician. I would never consider myself an actual musician; I wouldn’t even consider myself really a singer, you know? I grew up listening to punk rock and hip hop and it was more about an attitude and energy for me. Even beyond that, it’s about communicating an idea, and so you can be the greatest singer in the world or the best guitar player in the world, but if you can’t communicate an idea, then it’s really sort of worthless. For me, it’s more about that. I sneak in my lyrical references or subtle things that I think are cool and clever, but the bottom line is, I think the foundation should be something that is physical and something you can grab onto quickly, you know what I mean? That’s rock ‘n roll. It shouldn’t be a challenge.
MM: I was reading some behind-the-scenes notes about getting this album officially prepped and ready for distribution and it seemed like that was much an event as the album itself! It appears there were some songs which leaked out early at different times. Tell us about what insanity might’ve prevailed prior to the album’s release.
Spider: Well, we didn’t really have a plan for this album, quite honestly. We were about to head out on tour last year and we hadn’t put out any new music in awhile, so we only had what I consider a demo version of “Supervillian” which we’d put out on MySpace to kind of test the waters. We got such a great response that it fueled the fire and we got lots of messages about it and even a couple of radio stations started to spin it from that version. It lit the fire to make a record, though we hadn’t officially made plans to start recording an album. We kind of hustled to get that going, so while we’re in the middle of trying to make the record, we were trying to figure out how we’re going to put this thing out. There’s just not as many options these days, you know, the idea of putting out a physical record these days...it’ll soon be obsolete. There was a lot of playing catch-up with the tunes, so finally we walked in with this thing called Mighty Loud to Fontana Distribution, which is a part of Universal and we kind of maintained our own distribution system. It’s a weird time to be putting out records.
It’s unfortunate in this day of people not buying full albums and grabbing a handful of songs from iTunes. It’s kind of a drag, because I’ve always loved those albums that were sequenced with weird segues and interludes. Unfortunately people look at that now as "Oh, that’s not a real song, I don’t need that!" but for me, it sets the tone for the whole listen. It really puts you in a place and a vibe. For me, sometimes those 30 second intros and interludes are equally as important as the songs.
There many amazing new things with technology that impacts what we do and in the way we make records. You can essentially make an album in your bedroom if you want to distribute it to the world the next day, but that said, there’s a lot of difficulty in the parameters in putting out music; it’s become so narrow. Radio playlists are so small these days and maybe that’s why you can find records, but they don’t sell catalog items anymore. The places that you go to sell or market music have become so limited and it’s become difficult. Sure, the internet’s there, but it’s so incredibly huge and broad that it’s very difficult to gain traction there. It’s a tricky puzzle to figure out, but we’ve almost come to terms with it. The idea of an album is really just to hopefully get people to come out to the shows and be interested in the band. You don’t really think about selling music anymore.
This has been a really strong tour. I mean, there are some nights that are a little funky, but it’s like any tour. Over the years I’ve always noticed there’s usually one or two out of every ten that are kind of funky, but it’s been a blast out here and the best part about this tour is we’re playing a bunch of new stuff and the new material is going over as good--if not better--than the old stuff. It’s really encouraging to have people be as excited about hearing “Supervillian” as they are “When Worlds Collide” or “Bombshell.”
MM: “V is for Vampire” is pretty addictive with that crazy chorus. I’m not going to read into this song too seriously, but for me it could be a straightforward new wave dance rock number for Nosferatu or it be looked upon as a hip-shooting swipe at society’s mortal parasites. Which seems more appropriate to you?
Spider: I think you sort of hit it on the head on both levels. That’s something I try to do with the lyrics; if you want to dig deeper, there’s always tons of social commentary in the stuff I write. Yet on the surface level, it could just be a big, dumb song. I like it when things function like that. Because we have the science fiction tone to what we do, that’s what great science fiction is. It’s just a fun ride with robots and spaceships, but good science fiction always has tons of social commentary, and they’re able to get away with commenting on things in society because they would mask it in these fantastical things. I’ve always liked that about this genre. I think that’s kind of what we as Powerman 5000 do in a weird way.
I’ve also thought of myself as something like a cheerleader for the misfits of the world. That’s what this band kind of attracts. You can go over to YouTube and see what people edit to a Powerman song; it’s some pretty weird stuff! They’ll use animation or people crashing their cars. It’s a weird, eclectic mix of the misfits of the world. Our song “Do Your Thing” is like an affirmation of being weird.
MM: You guys just cut a video for “Supervillian” with Robert Hall--and I thought Laid to Rest was a badass film--plus I believe you had Brandon Trost, the cinemaphotographer of this year’s Halloween II on board? You probably had to have felt like a big kid with big toys in that respect, eh? Also, what supervillian would you feel is deserving of his or her own feature film, since the comic book movie is all the rage these days?
Spider: Yeah, we brought along all of our friends. Making videos is always like being a kid. I love it. Some bands don’t like to make videos, but I love making videos. It’s just really fun. You just come up with some ridiculous ideas and you make them happen, you know? The days of making million dollar videos are gone, but you can still do a lot and have fun with it. People are asking me "What should we expect from the video?" Well, lots of lasers, explosions, you know, the usual stuff! (laughs)
Regarding super villains, the one thing I can say that really got screwed up... A lot of these comic book films are great. I mean, the first couple Spidermans were great, and I thought Iron Man was amazing, but the thing that really bummed me out were maybe these Fantastic Four movies. One of the great villains of all-time was Doctor Doom, whom I reference in the song “Supervillian.” I thought they completely fucked that character up. The Fantastic Four movies were kind of too kiddie-friendly, which is fine, but that villain is so great in the comics and he has such a cool look. I think the films completely screwed that up, so if they’re ever going to go back and try it again, if they would make a Doctor Doom movie, it would be awesome, but they’d have to learn how to do it right.
Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute
Sunday, November 08, 2009
Mayhem - Pure Fucking Mayhem
2009 Index Verlag
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Black metal is the most dangerous form of music expression there is for a reason; its self-empowering principles can only be handled by the maturest of mortals lest they fall into a life of hedonistic sociopathy. Not every black metal performer is to be stereotyped as a church burner, albeit the genre's tainted legacy stems from the Scandinavian underground war against Christianity which has seen many houses of God burned to their foundations--most infamously in Norway.
One can pinpoint much of black metal's tortured enigma to Varg Vikernes, aka Count Grishnackh, the creator of Burzum who most genre fans hail for his creative contributions written in prison. Ask many insiders, Burzum (along with Emperor, Hellhammer, Bathory and of course, Mayhem) albums have set the course for nearly all who've followed black metal's bleak, distortion-scratched path since. Vikernes (ironically born with the first name Christian) has been implicated in many church burnings, which he did nothing to absolve himelf with his ballsy cover on Burzum's 1993 EP Aske.
As most people following this controversial genre know, Vikernes' biggest day of infamy stretches to his time spent with the already-tortured black metal pioneers, Mayhem. Metal historians are well familiar with the day Vikernes turned on his one-time Mayhem bandmate Euronymous and took him out of this life. Considering Euronymous was notorious himself for issuing death threats to past Mayhem associates, it's downright cryptic he would meet his own end in gory fashion.
This dramatic bloodshed would be enough to derail any band, yet alone Mayhem. Perhaps the vision of stark grandeur was bigger than the principals of Mayhem themselves as they have continued on to this day under the most dire of circumstances. Their alarming story is herewith outlined for the first time in intricate detail by Swedish filmmaker Stefan Rydehed in his morbid documentary Pure Fucking Mayhem.
Prior to the Vikernes-Euronymous clash, Mayhem was most infamously known as being the darkest band in the metal universe, so much one of its earlier members used it as a safe haven for his suicidal tendencies. Pelle Ohlin, best known to the genre as "Dead," set bars for the genre's undead facade with his hoary ghoul paint and stench-crusted clothes which were given authenticity by his sleeping outside in the dirt, much less in direct proximity to dead animals. If anyone truly wanted to die with an exclamation point, it was Dead; consult Dead's parting words in his suicide note: "Excuse all the blood..."
Pure Fucking Mayhem recounts the days of Mayhem's charred career featuring interview spots with Necro Butcher (Jorn Stubberud), Atill Csihar and original drummer Kjetil Manheim. Though the narration sequences are bare bones (though appreciatively spoken in English), Pure Fucking Mayhem deeply draws the view in--assuming he or she has the wherewithal to learn this band's sanguinary history.
Featuring lost still photos of the group along with tenebrous live footage (really only serving best from audile standpoint), Pure Fucking Mayhem is a dark excursion into a hellish odyssey not even the most skilled horror fiction craftsman could write. Tracing the group's steps with a heavy focus on Mayhem's early days from 1984 beginning with their demo Pure Fucking Armageddon through the recording of their '87 debut Deathcrush, Pure Fucking Mayhem is blunt and sometimes brief with its historical facts. It would seem vulgar and perhaps geeky for the narrator to do more than simply present said actualities and let the testimonials handle the dirty work, which is the documentary's biggest strength.
Necro Butcher fields a lot of the on-camera stories about his band and at times he seems deadened to his task, while other times just a hint of emotion leaks through. Manheim is probably the voice of reason on Pure Fucking Mayhem. It's not like Manheim has distanced himself entirely from the legacy of Mayhem, but he certainly appears to be moved on from the entire bit. Save for a moment where he refers to Burzum as "shite," the clean-cut Manheim is mainly here to add quite a bit of color commentary as the band's drummer from '84 to '88.
The harsh ugliness of Dead's existence (though he doubtful saw his own life as an "existence") is painted through Manheim and Necro Butcher's memories. The man only truly known by himself is portrayed as a funeral-obsessed outcast whose stage persona was matched in full by his real life. Dead is a disconnected young man who auditioned for Mayhem by sending his note of intention with a dead bird. He was known to bag dead animals and inhale their putrid remains prior to Mayhem gigs just to get into the proper mindframe. The blood he carved out of himself onstage was real, not show, and Dead's final act of contrivance was his only satiation. Those who know Mayhem's haunted tale know Dead slit his own throat and walked around his apartment with the spurting gash before blowing his head off with a shotgun.
As if this wasn't horrific enough, Mayhem's rogue guitarist/vocalist Euronymous--whom the documentary reveals actually had no real bond or friendship with Dead--snapped off pictures of Dead's corpse. A stomach-churning photo of Pelle Ohlin's sprawled remains including his emitted brains tastelessly found its way upon a Mayhem bootleg, Dawn of the Black Hearts, which is flashed briefly in this documentary, so hold onto your cookies.
Pure Fucking Mayhem dedicates a fair chunk of its 90-minute running time to the atrocities committed within the band as well its residual effects. Necro Butcher relays his repulsion by Euronymous' sick acts following the suicide of Dead, while he expresses forgiveness of Vikernes for his murder of Euronymous. Consider the fact Necro Butcher did leave Mayhem momentarily to cope with the loss of Dead, and you still have to wonder how he maintains his will.
The remainder of the documentary traces Mayhem's unfathomable continuance with Hellhammer on drums and a flotilla of guitarists and vocalists the band's devout can recite on command: names such as Occultus, Blackthorn, Nordgaren, Maniac and Blasphemer. Although Vikernes only played bass in Mayhem for a year, his crime leaves a taint which sticks with the viewer during the remainder of Pure Fucking Mayhem.
As Necro Butcher, Attila and Hellhammer currently continue on with Mayhem featuring a pair of supplemental guitarists, Morfeus and Simaeth, one has to wonder what kind of mental fortitude does it take to carry on beyond such a bloody internal combustion. The wear of these tragic events are evident in the rolls beneath Necro Butcher's eyes, particularly when he mentions the loss of past comrades and friends despite their mental inhibitions.
Pure Fucking Mayhem is a triple-dog-dare-you-to-watch story with minimalist production. Fitting in a way this documentary isn't very glossy; it's practically as dirty and downtrodden as Mayhem themselves. If Mayhem's story had been put in the hands of expert filmmakers, more than likely it wouldn't deliver the same brutal impact it's designed to do. Like black metal itself, Mayhem's dastardly in-house events are meant to remain underground. Even Manheim expresses in Pure Fucking Mayhem he wasn't thrilled so much the band grew a worldwide audience. Many black metal artists remain private despite putting their dark art on public display; perhaps Mayhem's story is a warning in this context.
One of the cool bonus features to this package is the inclusion of a bonus CD of classic black metal songs reimagined as piano fugue nocturnes which appear in the documentary such as "Eternal Life," "Obsessed" and "Anno Dracul." Sumptuously warped and they somehow remove part of the pallor of this story...only a part, mind you...
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Kiss - Sonic Boom
2009 Kiss Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Sobering in 2009 to be witness to a rock 'n roll skirmish between one-time brothers under bizarre circumstances. Almost a few ticks ago, original Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley proudly dusted himself off and returned to the music scene with his first solo album in twenty years, the free-spirited Anomaly.
Should it be considered foul play Ace's former running mates likewise manifest this year pimping their own new product within weeks of his, their first slab of original material since 1998's ill-fated Psycho Circus? One gets the impression Ace had no intention other than to enjoy peeling out his new music for his faithful audience, while Kiss' re-emergence unfortunately seems suspect by attrition, particularly on the heels of Anomaly's release.
As one of a kabillion Kiss fans of the seventies, I never wanted to see the original foursome of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley part ways, but when you consider the disastrous Unmasked and the foiled The Elder, plus the disco-inflated Dynasty and trainwrecked solo album experiments (all except for Ace's, natch), well... At least The Beatles had enough common sense and courtesy to know when to call it a day with the grace of finishing on a high note.
Of course, the only other parallel between Kiss and The Beatles outside of being worldwide phenoms of their times lies in the songwriting distribution. Lennon and McCartney were the chief songwriters for The Beatles, yet entertaining a handful of selections from their lead guitarist and drummer, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. In turn, Simmons and Stanley have likewise grabbed most of the writing kudos unto themselves, ocassionally giving life to Ace and Peter's creations when the opportunities seemed fruitful enough. Not that Gene and Paul possess half the songwriting prowess of their genius-speckled predecessors, but you can understand the correlation.
Call it narcissism, but there's a reason why Ace and Peter turned right back out through the Kiss turnstiles after briefly sparking the old magic courtesy of their ultra-nifty MTV Unplugged get-together in 1996 and subsequently lighting up the world in union at the turn of the new milennium.
The fact the genuine Ace and Peter were considered disposable enough to accommodate scab replacements in their trademark platforms and kabuki paint schemes by their one-time partners-in-crime is still unforgivable. Of course, Kiss as an entity has continued to ride a decade-long "farewell tour" without actual closure to consider this moment a comeback. What then, to make of shameless posturing in the form of brand new material featuring two original members gallavanting in their cash-tooling alter egos and a pair of impersonators who are clever enough at their instruments to pull off the facade that is Sonic Boom?
I'm not going to lie, Sonic Boom pisses me off by its mere presence. No disrespect intended towards Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer; I dug Black 'n Blue during the eighties and I was ecstatic Thayer took the time to oblige me a few email questions in the middle of his first tour as the new "Spaceman." Eric Singer gets a free pass of sorts as he was technically Kiss' standing drummer before Peter Criss came back. Singer played on the meaty Revenge album and he's a genuinely decent guy, so neither he nor Thayer should be crucified too badly for trying to make a living like anyone else in this slumdog economy.
The blame thus falls upon the shoulders of Gene and Paul, who have been through so much together they are more than prepared to weather the gusts of scrutiny they've provoked by chump-changing and selling out their past comrades in dispicable fashion. Their latest maneuver in the form of Sonic Boom is vulgar and tasteless in the manner it tries to sell a new generation and their parents a mega rock 'n roll swindle by keeping the gimmicks afire, no matter who has to sell the illusion.
That being said, Sonic Boom is a grudge-filled, frustrating success.
The riffs and the grooves are all recycled from much of Kiss's glory catalog beginning with Dressed to Kill through Creatures of the Night. Paul is still the panting loverboy with better range than anyone his age and road mileage should have. Ditto for Gene, who nonetheless still thinks with nothing more than his flaming dragon and snarling bass. Eric honestly is a much better drummer than Peter, sad fact, and his audile presence is perfectly welcome. The guitar solos from Tommy Thayer are beautiful but frequently painful to consume as they rob Ace blind. Sorry, bro, you know it's true. Take your pick of wailing tugs and distorto-fed wah-wails showcased on "Russian Roulette," "Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect)" or "Danger Us..." It's a wonder Ace isn't screaming plagiarism. At times, Thayer is his own man with his soloing using "All For the Glory," as one example. In fact, Sonic Boom actually takes a decided nod towards Black 'n Blue on its closing anthem "Say Yeah."
To be fair, Kiss sinks the hooks immediately with the snappy "Modern Day Delilah" and they seldom lose their bounce on the album. They're derivitive as hell throughout Sonic Boom, but then again, AC/DC still has a career based on a handful of the same songs set on repeat. If it fits like a glove, you go with it, and that's exactly the case here as Sonic Boom tips its coif to Kiss' past so much it becomes playtime for long-established fans who can sniff out all of the old-time riff and slide excavation at work here.
"Never Enough" comes out on its verses in the same meter, rhythm and groove as Poison's "Nothing But a Good Time," switching up a chord or two and then opting for a peppery bridge splicing up the breaking-all-the-rules flair on the choruses. Make-um sense-um considering Poison lifted more than enough of Kiss' fireworks for their own party rawk. "Never Enough" sounds absolutely farty coming out of the mouths of men within striking distance of legal retirement, yet Paul sells "Never Enough" like he's in his thirties and looking for someone to investigate his tiger-striped leotards from the Lick it Up and Animalize years.
Suffice it to say, Sonic Boom is filled with the same jizz and filthy sweat as past trash classics Kiss weaned generations of fans on such as "Ladies Room," "C'mon and Love Me" and "Ladies in Waiting." "Yes I Know (Nobody's Perfect)" is a prime example as Gene practically pops a boner while wailing like a pervert to an admittedly catchy drive. On "Hot and Cold" Gene's a freaking stalker amidst the Dressed to Kill riffage and chuckly professions of "if it's too loud, you're too old." Nearly 40 years in the biz and God bless Gene's presumably untorn eardrums, much less his perpetually-shined love gun.
An interesting turn to the juvenile shenanigans comes on the shifty surf and soul tweaks found on the otherwise raunchy "Stand." Did Brian Wilson slip omnisciently into the studio and forget to tell Kiss to grow up on this one?
A lot is being made about Eric Singer's replication of Peter Criss' gravelly chops on "All For the Glory," ditto for Tommy Thayer's vocal delivery on the "Plaster Caster" reminiscent "When Lightning Strikes." All part of the game in keeping Sonic Boom set upon its mission. Thayer honestly sounds very little like Ace and eventually he's smothered by howled backing vocals you notice no transgressions. Singer's sung for Kiss in the past and yes, he's always betrayed hints of Peter, so it's no shock this time around, albeit there's something undeniably sinister about "All For the Glory's" mocking chorus. Ask Ace and Peter how they feel about the chorus line "all for one, all for the glory..."
"I'm An Animal" is the heaviest cut on Sonic Boom, a noisebucket stomp affair which would be at-home on either Creatures of the Night or Revenge. This one's for the pure headbangers, an obligation Kiss has almost always dedicated themselves to with each album: the inclusion of one louder-than-a-pack-of-lions monster jam.
Without the makeup, Sonic Boom would be an all-around triumph. Nobody's mad at Tommy and Eric for taking residence in Kiss, not when they do their jobs efficiently and they give Paul and Gene sharp chops to work with. To their credit, the seniors throw themselves a throwback shindig at the expense of their juniors, which is why Sonic Boom works as well as it does. "Say Yeah," "Modern Day Delilah" and "Never Enough" would zip right up the charts if we were in a more rock-friendly music climate and the hottest band in the world would likely be hot again.
However, to assume at this point there's a need to perform Sonic Boom under grossly false pretenses in borrowed (or usurped, if you will) personae shows Kiss is naive as well as greedy. Sonic Boom has the goods on its own rock 'n roll merits. Why can't that speak outside the paint and the Rock 'n Roll Over-ripped cover?