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

Friday, January 29, 2010

CD Review: Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe 2

Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe 2
2010 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

The mind of Rob Zombie must be sometimes too much to contain on any given day. Being a horror-imbued renaissance man with his pocked roles as rocker, director and in-demand show host plus animation creator and voiceover provider, Rob Zombie must suffer from self-afflicted mind-rape from time to time. If you caught his Halloween II redux in the theaters last year, you'll take note he revamped the ending for the DVD release, disowning the original sequence in the process. Admittedly, the new finale works better. Shortly thereafter, Zombie announced a controversial departure from industry powerhouse Geffen Records in what appeared on paper to be a sudden late-minute signing to Roadrunner Records.

Zombie just recently fielded the director's helm for a single shot episode of CSI: Miami, thus extreme multitasking has to be considered part of the terror mogul's DNA as he's managed to squeeze in some studio time with his band. Granted, it's been four years since Rob Zombie released Educated Horses, which came in the midst of his ascension to prominence in horror filmmaking. It doesn't mean Zombie sat on his musical laurels while shooting two Halloween films and reaping continued accolades for The Devil's Rejects. His El Superbeasto cartoon being yet another project intervening the recording of a new Rob Zombie album, he's road dogged continuously on multiple tours, the last of which debuted a handful of preview tracks from his latest offering Hellbilly Deluxe 2.

In some ways, this album is a tough nut to crack. One wants to point fingers of accusation for slapping Hellbilly Deluxe 2 together in a hurry, largely because it's only a sequel album in name compared to the 1998 original. It gets off to a sluggish, nonsensical start with a Zombie prototype toe-tapper "Jesus Frankenstein," which unfortunately gasses out before it gets revved up. The following cut "Sick Bubblegum" is supposed to be a central focus song for Hellbilly Deluxe 2, yet it suffers the low common denominator element from more gratuituous outlays of the word "motherfucker" than both of Zombie's Halloween flicks put together. Repeated ad nauseum during "Sick Bubblegum's" screechy chorus, it's monotonous and grossly uninspired.

On the other hand, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is quite fun in servings. The industrial-laden mod jive of "What?" really bobs and gets the ankles jerking. Listening to Zombie fuse some vocal distortion ala Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers really lends a cool shtick to the raucous feel of "What?" "Death and Destiny Inside the Dream Factory" is Hellbilly Deluxe 2's other punchy jam which really takes a wide berth from what Rob Zombie normally churns out musically. Its abbreviated two minutes of punk is smartly delivered, leaving the listener wanting more of that particular tune.

Otherwise, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 crawls in its unpretentious salute to EC Comics and Creepy magazine. You know what Zombie's motives are on this album and the largely mid-tempo slither appears all part of the master plan. Sometimes this works to Zombie's designs such as the slinky and groovy "Burn" or the mudbogged, swamprat sluice of "Werewolf, Baby!"

Unfortunately, "Mars Needs Women" could've used more pep in the lyrical department, not to mention a little more tempo stamping for it to work, this despite a cool acoustic intro, which Zombie and John 5 are beginning to discover a creative nexus together utilizing. The song boasts the meanest riffs of the album from John 5 and Piggy D, yet with the minimalist and overly-cautious beat laydown from Tommy Clufetos, you largely focus on Rob Zombie droning the title chorus and thus it feels like "Mars Needs Women" is stuck at worm portal which refuses to suck you in. "Virgin Witch" is at heart a Sabbathy doom tune with its menacing sludge and it's up to the listener if Zombie and his party posse pull it off.

Zombie and John 5 do have a good time penning a nifty surf tune with "Werewolf Women of the SS," but the latter part of Hellbilly Deluxe 2 deserves a bit of closer examination. "Cease to Exist" is the album's smartest-written tune as it lauds a classic Alice Cooper feel with a Pink Floyd-esque intro and outro. It's a genuinely progressive song which Zombie flexes his vocals sharply and while "Cease to Exist" builds, climaxes and fades, it somehow feels like unfinished business. If Rob Zombie wants to keep thinking in terms of sequels these days, there just might be room for a "Cease to Exist 2."

Hellbilly Deluxe 2 wraps with a puzzling stamper "The Man Who Laughs," which is graced by Bernard Hermann-esque violin swipes overtop the song's power chug. The main riff set really deserves its own spotlight and could've been left on its own merits to wrap Hellbilly Deluxe 2 confidently. Strangely, the song tries too hard to become a prog epic, complete with an orchestral bridge, followed by a prolonged Tommy Clufetos drum solo. The former fits nicely; the latter, not so much. It dallies and interrupts the headbanging throb "The Man Who Laughs" well establishes, even with a reprise of the main riff chords at song's end. Then again, Clufetos, who is one the hardest head smashers in the business, has been largely relegated in this band to a primary tempo pattern where he's forced to set off steady 4/4 lines with a predictable bump-da-da-bump rolls on the ends. At least Rob Zombie gives him a chance to light up his sticks, ill-advised it may be on this song.

No one's going to deny Rob Zombie has his dream stable well-entrenched. Keep this lineup happy, Rob, whatever you do. They rock, bottom-line. Nonetheless, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is more of a brand recognition act, not that Rob Zombie needs the publicity at this point in his career. Overbaked at times, undercooked in others, this album is about tits, booze, cursing, high wattage and monster mashes and it does become a good, jam-baked outing from time-to-time. Rob Zombie is a zealous and energetic entertainer, but in intervals Hellbilly Deluxe 2 comes across like it needs a lycanthrope's bite in the ass. That, or a power nap to get recharged. In fact, once Zombie realizes one day he should take a short break before his teeming head explodes like in Scanners, who knows what he'll be capable of once he's fully rested...

Rating: ***

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/27/10

Sorry for the late night shenanigans, readers. More to report next Wednesday and I shall be more on the ball posting stuff beforehand. Mad love to y'all...

Blur - Modern Life is Rubbish
Blur - Parklife
Blur - s/t
Gorillaz - Demon Days
Arch Enemy - Black Earth
Circle Jerks - Group Sex
Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe 2
Rob Zombie - Educated Horses
Milton - Scenes from the Interior
Simply Red - Picture Book
The Church - Priest = Aura
Dommin - Love is Gone

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exodus Live at The Recher Theatre, Towson, MD - 1/20/10

Photos (c) Copyright 2010 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Arch Enemy - Live at The Recher Theatre, Towson, MD 1/20/10

Some shots of the mighty Arch Enemy at last night's gig at the Recher Theatre in Towson, Maryland. Stay tuned later today for Exodus live photos...

Photos (c) 2010 Ray Van Horn, Jr./The Metal Minute

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/20/10

What's up, party peeps? Welcome aboard to another Wednesday with yer pal Ray and The Metal Minute!

I'm shaking my head this morning at the patheticism of how the paparazzi feels Lindsey Lohan kissing somebody is a valuable headline. Maybe the world is feeling desensitized from media overload of the Haiti crisis that it feels a need to intrude on Lohan's private life to relieve itself of Haiti's burdens. Sad.

On the other hand, I'll be at the Arch Enemy/Exodus gig tonight with a scheduled interview with the Amott brothers, so let Lohan eat face all she wants; I'm not affected.

Last week I had a terrific interview with Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P. Considering the brother had to fight a bad rep during the eighties, Lawless is rather gentlemanly these days and certainly worthy of his status as metal icon. I especially had fun getting him to talk about his favorite Who live memory. Be on the lookout in the near future for this interview at Dee Snider's House of Hair Online.

Otherwise, I've spent a considerable amount of time with my boy, catching what I've been able to of the NFL playoffs and working on my current novel while doing some old-fashioned networking out there.

As usual, be looking out for assorted fun nuggets being excavated here at The Metal Minute! Cheers to ya'll...

Dommin - Love is Gone
Arch Enemy - The Root of All Evil
Armageddon - Embrace the Mystery
Rob Zombie - Hellbilly Deluxe 2
Suicidal Tendencies - s/t
Leaves' Eyes - Njord
Age of Evil - Get Dead EP
Yes - s/t
The Pogues - Dirty Old Town
Iron Butterfly - In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
P.M. Dawn - Dearest Christian...
Velvet Revolver - Libertad
Axxis - Utopia
Cheap Trick - Heaven Tonight
Virulence - If This Isn't a Dream... 1985-1989

Saturday, January 16, 2010

DVD Review: Suicidal Tendencies - Live at the Olympic Auditorium

Suicidal Tendencies - Live at the Olympic Auditorium
2010 Fontana Distribution
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Suicidal Tendencies never wholly received the grace of forgiveness bands such as D.R.I., Gang Green and Broken Bones were extended as punk crossover acts. While the latter bands were celebrated and championed by metal historians (in D.R.I.'s case, lovingly praised for inadvertently dubbing the word "crossover" via their thrash album bearing the same name), Suicidal Tendencies were nailed to the cross for about-facing into their surf and slam modes during the late eighties.

Push to shove, the speed metal incarnation of Suicidal, which featured fan favorite shredder Rocky George and eventually future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, was actually the most proficient of all the crossover groups. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow...When I Can't Even Smile Today remains Suicidal's masterwork from their metallic era, even if that album cost the band a lot of cred in the eyes of the skate punks who nurtured the band with their loyalty.

After scoring big with Lights...Camera...Revolution, it was the adventurous and brazen The Art of Rebellion which found Mike Muir and company exposing themselves at the roots. Sadly, they were promptly faced with the backs of their newly-won thrash horde, which abandoned Suicidal's army and joined ranks with the original punkers Suicidal first staked their reputations with.

Despite the peculiar and sometimes blazing career path Suicidal Tendencies found themselves upon, once you cut the cloth, tip up the cap brim and tie on the swag, this is a punk band deep in its heart and soul. It's taken a veritable collapse of favor and a lot industry dissing upon the shoulers of Muir (who went deep underground for a long time) for the name of Suicidal Tendencies to be spoken reverentially again.

At this time, the lineup continues to be shaken up as Mike Muir remains the lone wolf from the lineup recording Suicidal Tendencies' quintessential 1983 self-titled album. The man with the most tenure in Suicidal besides Muir is rhythm guitarist Mike Clark, and here is where we find the group in their first-ever DVD Live at the Olympic Auditorium.

It took a special moment to lure Muir and his refurbished punk unit out of the shadows. In this case, the one-time punk haven Olympic Auditorium had been sold to a Korean church and Suicidal agreed (after many previous show rejections) to play the venue's final show. Hence this moment captured for posterity with an excitable Mike Muir slinking and cutting from side-to-side onstage as he's always done in the midst of a punk-hospitable venue witnessing its final moments.

Closing the doors of the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles with a stripped and dirtied hardcore revision of Suicidal Tendencies is one for the history books. Considering Suicidal had long been banned from playing in L.A. (having been accused of being gangbangers even before such lingo was spun), you have to appreciate the irony of seeing them finish a chapter of the city's underground.

It would've been truly fitting to have Louiche Mayorga, Grant Estes and Amery Smith help savor the butter, so to speak, however, give Muir's 2005 stable a hand for putting on an appropriately rowdy and punk-oriented performance. Even when dipping into the metal catalog of Suicidal Tendencies with "Waking the Dead," "Won't Fall in Love Today" and "Pledge Your Allegiance," there's no flash or meaty chugs, only streamlined downpicking to accompany the flighty, whirlwind tempos replicant of the Suicidal Tendencies era.

Much of the set on Live at the Olympic Auditorium is corralled from the pivotal debut album via "I Shot Reagan," "I Saw Your Mommy," "Suicidal Failure," "Subliminal," "Two Sided Politics" and their manic fantastic calling card, "Institutionalized." Added to the fun is "Possessed to Skate" and "War Inside My Head," the two best cuts from Suicidal's frequently-maligned Join the Army album from 1987.

As he's done throughout his tenure leading Suicidal, Mike Muir chants, recites and proseltyzes in-between songs, but soon enough, Steve Bruner is slapping some mad bass to issue random downhome funk lines amidst the chaos. Dean Pleasants scorches his frets as quickly as Dave Hidalgo (recently replaced by Eric Moore of Muir's longtime side project Infectious Grooves) can beat down the skate rat tempos which forged this band from the beginning.

Though the track listing on the DVD case omits the always-hilarious "Send Me Your Money" from Lights...Camera...Revolution! it's even funnier this time as the rhythm is deliberately scaled a click in some sections, upped in others, keeping it street instead of slick. Thus a polished metal jam from 1990 gets reinvented with a greasier punk tweak ala 1984.

Fans of Suicidal Tendencies from the start are going to feel a sense of relief watching Live at the Olympic Auditorium. For all they might've perceived to have suffered as Suicidal explored every opportunity for growth they could, this one's shot right to the do-ragged domes of the old league. Though some may scoff at Muir for constantly jabbering about being punk, he does slip in an admission of guilt before his audience; without using the exact words, he's branding himself a one-time sellout who needed a cocooning phase to get real. Maybe a case of too much self-flogging, but the payout Muir serves up as penance is a remember-when moment as Suicidal Tendencies swirls back into their whirlpools of skate 'core.

The behind-the-scenes story to this show is even more disruptive when you consider Muir found himself practically paralyzed right before this concert transpired. Postponing back surgery to make the event, Muir's capacity to roam and prowl all over the stage with 4000 fans in front of him and a gallery of photogs and fans poised directly behind the band (many who dart past him without warning for stage dives) is pretty damned inspirational. You have to cheer he gave his all for a noble cause in this bittersweet matter...

Rating: ****

Friday, January 15, 2010

CD Review: Axxis - Utopia

Axxis - Utopia
2009 AFM Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Back in the day, Axxis was missed by virtually everyone outside of Europe unless they were well-linked into the tape trading network or astute readers of Metal Hammer, Metal Forces and Kerrang! It didn't help Axxis' cause they only started getting revved up in 1988 when even Accept was struggling to keep an audience in the west under their Russian Roulette album, while Warlock had already made a dent in the same market but were soon destined for a breakup. The Scorpions maintained a steady throng courtesy of FM radio, while the thrash underground was heralding Kreator and Destruction as Germanic champions of the style, despite the ever-looming presence of Sodom, Running Wild and the more obscure Deathrow and Violent Force.

The point is, Axxis had a fleeting chance to make a worldwide impression with 1989's Capitol Records release of their debut album Kingdom of the Night, but at that point, metal was slipping out of favor in North America. Timing more than anything is the reason Axxis had to work harder than the average metal band to expand their territories, despite a three-record deal with Caroline Records, a label more famous for nurturing mostly-American punk, hardcore and thrash of the day.

Give Axxis a hand for their resilience, however. In Europe, particularly their homeland, Axxis are regarded as unyielding champions of power prog. Unyielding is the operative word, because this band (as every critic coming across them these days attests) will not surrender to the new order of metal. Winds of change is merely a hit song by their fellow countrymen led by Klaus Meine, and as long as you resolve yourself to this precept on Axxis' latest offering Utopia, you'll do fine.

Kingdom of the Night today is something of a lost nugget, as are some of their subsequent albums such as Big Thrill, Eyes of Darkness and Paradise in Flames. Mighty projection in their place and time, nobody will ever accuse Axxis of not bringing the boom whenever they step up to the plate. Utopia is no less thunderous and like their previous outing, 2007's Doom of Destiny, Axxis does take advantage of today's technology to give their gauntlet-slamming crunch a crystal-cut upgrade.

Unfortunately for all that Axxis is in heavy metal with a refusal to look outside the proverbial gleaming cube, it's been covered tenfold these days by revisionists such as Hammer Fall, Stratovarius, Time Requiem, Kamelot and Sonata Arctica. The general amplitude Utopia issues is valorous and largely entertaining ("Eyes of a Child" is especially punchy and beautiful), but sadly for Axxis, they've been upstaged too many times at this point. Thus Axxis' belief system in the 2000s is hardly a script to be recommended to other bands unless they're comfortable in remaining earthed to a well-fortified sector of the power metal market.

Utopia's eye-popping cover heralds the glory days of serpentine album covers by Y&T, Asia and Whitesnake. Axxis delivers a much heavier blow soundwise than all three combined, but there's always been room for supplemental tricks such as falsetto-screamed response vocals ala Queen, which at times makes Axxis' music sound more dated than it should. Why the background vocals betray Axxis on this album instead of enhancing them is an anomaly, but they do interfere more than compliment.

Even founding member Bernhard Weiss (a sincerely competent singer) has a strange tendency to let some Jon Anderson creep into his delivery, which, accompanied by the sometimes-outlandish keyboards by Harry Oellers, derails Axxis' momentum at times. There's no denying "For You I Die" rings hauntingly like eighties' Yes on the verses, while the early-on title track is unfortunately prototype for every power metal record while still haunting of 90125-era Yes, though with less flamboyance. Some people might view this is a compliment, so take the assessment as you will.

On the positive side, Utopia does manage to build up some steam in the middle part of the album with tuneful hammer odes such as "My Father's Eyes," "The Monsters Crawl," "Fass Mich An" and the otherwise grubbily-titled "Sarah Wanna Die." Even "Underworld," which sounds weirdly like the Saw movie theme during the intro, gallantly springs into a thrash 'n crash finale. The song, however, would've been suited better on the reins of only Weiss himself and removed of the external voices which force the listener to partake them instead of jumping headfirst into the careening speed tempo.

Given all the crowded shoulder rubbing in the power metal leagues, Utopia is mandatory strictly if you think Yngwie Malmsteen should've spent his entire career quietly in Helloween. Utopia is worthy of a spin, particularly after you've been caught looking at the gorgeous splash of the album's artwork for more than a few seconds. Axxis are so shrewd with their eighties affinity they cleverly market their artistic covers. Remember, though, said tactic was the number one bait trap of the decade.

Utopia is unapologetic and mostly fluid, albeit it has too much going on times. Marco Wriedt flicks out a number of snazzy guitar solos, the riffs overall are mega at their best, basically all that you'd want from a veteran power metal band. If anything, cheers to Axxis for continuing their unbreakable litany of power and for living up to the adage, "to thine own self be true."

Rating: ***

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Van of the Dead: Trailer for Bane, Horror Film With Ray as a Zombie

From Nightcrawlers Entertainment, coming this spring for your flesh-licking edification, Bane... Ray is the zombie dressed in all black with rips in the shirt plus blood and dirt. I'm quickly seen in two flashes of the trailer (one in a takedown throng), plus you'll find me later in the trailer smack in the front of a groovy intrusion scene. Badass... Can't wait for premiere!

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/13/10

On the lam this week, readers, hope ya'll are getting off to a good 2010.

My heart goes out to the millions affected by the natural disaster in Haiti. The few images I've seen while getting my articles in under deadline tore me to pieces. Prayers and hopes of salvation to our brothers and sisters of Haiti...

More to talk about next week as things are getting red-hot in the new year. Be on the lookout for some reviews including an art sludge group from overseas known as Krakow and I believe the DVDs are stacking up on me, so be ready in due time for some examinations.

Peace, everyone...

Death Cab For Cutie - Open Door EP
W.A.S.P. - Babylon
W.A.S.P. - The Crimson Idol
Wolfmother - Cosmic Egg
U.D.O. - Dominator
Whitesnake - Saints and Sinners
Lady Gaga - The Fame
Division of Laura Lee - Black City
Puffy Amiyumi - Splurge
Krakow - Monolith
The Church - Gold Afternoon Fix
Death - Scream Bloody Gore

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Pelican - "Final Breath" video

Thursday, January 07, 2010

CD Review: U.D.O. - Dominator

U.D.O. - Dominator
2009 AFM Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

God bless Udo Dirkschneider and Stefan Kaufmann. They helped write the rules of power metal as two of Accept's cornerstone performers. Still together in U.D.O. in 2009 and now '10, listening to these guys go at it is almost as if time stood still. No fall of the Berlin wall, no thaw in the Cold War, Reagan is still alive and shooting satellites into the sky with Rocky Balboa fighting commies alongside his alter ego John Rambo in Dutch's honor. The Terminator replicant ridiculously boasting Udo's head on the cover of his group's latest album Dominator is eighties cheese at its best--despite the fact we had the eye-popping Terminator: Salvation in theaters last year.

Listen to the pummeling bars of valor U.D.O. sets into motion after a whispering piano intro on "Stillness of Time" from Dominator. As justly titled as its projected sound, an industrial montage of the Big 80s might as well roll concurrently with this loud 'n proud rock blast which could've been a sleeper hit for Survivor if they'd stuffed their trousers with a bit more iron.

Likewise, the stamping din of "Heavy Metal Heaven" is a Teutonic blare straight out of 1985 with a nirvana-flecked optimism headbutting against a slate gray dystopia, two diverse outlooks of life hovering over minds of the decade. "Heavy Metal Heaven's" verses are cold but the lyrics are uplifting to the tune of an Orwellian overthrow. This song could've been outrageously silly by the title alone, yet Udo Dirkschneider and company believe that much in themselves and what they're doing to sell 1985 as if it never fell out of fashion.

1985 was the year Accept's immortal Metal Heart was unleashed upon the world, and while U.D.O. has manifested themselves a crafty and boisterous identity outside of Udo and Stefan's alma mater, Dominator takes a couple obvious steps backwards into the glory days.

Point blank, "Black and White" is a strict rewrite of "Dogs On Leads" from Metal Heart with a pinpointed merge of Accept's signature classic "Balls to the Wall." Listen carefully and you can time both songs almost in perfect sync with "Black and White." Of course, Stefan Kauffman showers a spectacularly noisome guitar solo on this song to differentiate it.

Everything about the opening number "The Bogeyman" is cornball drag straight down to the nutty chorus, yet the hammering drive of the song has you singing along as Uncle Udo lures you right in with his undying throat rasps. Same goes for the title track, which provokes enough fist pumping and hair swishing to legitimize Udo and Stefan's wherewithal to write hook-oriented metal jams in the same manner as they did more than 20 years ago. It works, man, it just works!

2007's Mastercutor saw U.D.O. branch out just enough to ignite that album full of raw juice and note-swerving innovation ("The Wrong Side of Midnight" being a prime example). Dominator, however, takes the pace down just a click from Mastercutor's bouncing jive and goes right to the textbook of Udo and Stefan's power manual on chugging songs like "Infected" "Doom Ride" and the stepped-up "Speed Demon." Honestly, there's been so many metal songs called "Speed Demon" it hardly seems interesting to do another one, yet in the hands of U.D.O., you're banging submissively along with the band.

Each U.D.O. album does cast a test die; for instance, the delightful oom-pah chug driving "Trainride to Russia (Poezd Po Rossii)" from 2004's Thunderball. Dominator is no different. This time we get the cabaret-flavored "Devil's Rendezvous" and yet again it works fluidly on the heels of Udo's downtuned emcee delivery and the cut's bobbing tempo. Campy yet wildly showy.

Dominator wraps on the lucid "Whispers in the Dark," which morphs from a sullen exposition featuring Udo and the band backing his haunted vocals (as they do all over this album in the ultimate gang shout party) and slowly punches out a distortion-railed drag. Layered with piano and wailing guitars from Kaufmann and Igor Gianola, "Whispers in the Dark" works its way out of a metal ballad prototype into a swaying, melancholic bob to the finish.

If you've been around this scene a long time, doesn't it bring you comfort to hear Udo Dirkschneider's voice? It has to. He and Kaufmann have lost none of their desire whatsoever over time and their enthusiasm allots for their redundancy from album-to-album, Accept or U.D.O. Dominator's only guilt is its obviousness, plus an obstinate refusal to grow up. Then again, who the hell wants to do that?

Rating: ****

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 1/6/10

Greetings and welcome to a new year, a new decade and new mode of positivity...

Your continued support during my brief layoff has been inspirational and though I've made some key decisions how to operate my writing life this year with my increased obligations, I am pleased to keep The Metal Minute afloat. Truly, it's due to each and every one of you taking your valuable time to return here as regularly as you do.

2010 is bringing a sense of optimism for many people around the world and I'm no less enthusiastic by the possibilities this year offers me on a personal level. I have a lot of my strategies in place and I'm eager to push everything to the max and make this a successful year.

During the break, I've been working as steadily as I can on my second novel and I managed to get a few reviews knocked out for, i.e. the new Overkill, Ihsahn and Katatonia albums, so check 'em out if ya please.

Last night I had the sincere pleasure of spending considerable time on the phone with Full Metal Jackie in an interview for Fango. Conversing with this sister was like talking to one of my best buds in the day. Truly the lady knows this genre through every crevice and not only does her book Full Metal Jackie Certified (which you can read a review of here) take me back to the old days, the memories Jackie and I shared was already for me a metal moment to beat this year.

I'm already booked for four more upcoming interviews as 2010 literally launches from beneath my feet and as I await to hear how other potential opportunities pan out, I'll be pounding away on the novel, pieces for Fangoria and Dee Snider's House of Hair plus, of course, The Metal Minute.

Though it's been out a bit, the latest U.D.O. album just hit my mailbox, so let's consider a review of Dominator the next order of business here at the site, along with some other upcoming goodies.

Let's make this a mutually exciting and prosperous the classic Priest song would invite, let's put ourselves in the proverbial hands so our voices can be heard, and together we'll take on all the world...

Katatonia - Night is the New Day
Ihsahn - After
U.D.O. - Dominator
Megadeth - Risk
Death - Human
Halloween III: Season of the Witch expanded soundtrack
ZZ Top - Afterburner
ZZ Top - Deguello
Nick Drake - Bryter Layter
Blue Oyster Cult - Fire of an Unknown Origin
Don Henley - American Pie
Berlin - Pleasure Victim
The Smiths - Strangeways Here We Come
Roberta Flack - The Very Best of Roberta Flack
Tori Amos - Abnormally Attracted to Sin

Monday, January 04, 2010

Book Review: Jackie Kajzer and Roger Lotring - Full Metal Jackie Certified

Jackie Kajzer and Roger Lotring - Full Metal Jackie Certified: The 50 Most Influential Heavy Metal Songs of the '80s and the True Stories Behind their Lyrics
2010 Course Technology/Cengage Learning
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Heavy metal fans are a special breed. Unlike pop fans who mostly spend their time trolling gossip sites and murmur brainlessly over who's prodding who in what orifice or who dresses better than the next, metal fans actually converse about the music. Wow, what a concept, eh? It's to the point I recently stood next to another metal fan in a record store (which is sadly holding a fire sale en route to its closure) who was on his cell spitting out CD titles to another metal enthusiast (assumedly with deep, underground knowledge given the impressive array of names I heard being uttered) to get his/her take upon them.

Though we're living in a cyber age where cell phones broaden instant communication along with instant gratification purposes, it reminded me of the old days, sitting on a stationary land line or sprawled in my bedroom or those of my friends tossing on vinyl and cassettes trying to squeeze opinions out of one another. This of course, crassly done through mouthfuls of Cheetos.

It went beyond that, however. It was crazy, stupid fun holding phone receivers up to our stereo speakers so our metal friends could try and decipher bars of music through the stretched-out squawk. Even more fun when our parents got pissed and forcefully reminded us how expensive the phone bills were, especially when we weren't responsible for paying them. They didn't understand, though; we had to seek answers amongst ourselves regarding the mystique of these records. Like an archeological find for the ages, each album we bought in the eighties was a treasure-in-the-making as we proverbially dusted it down from the eye candy covers to the pleasingly-popping wax grooves to the lyrical transcript which disappointed when the songs were about fucking (albeit those were the songs which rocked the hardest) while feeling we were elite witnesses to the future when the songs were more cerebral in nature.

Metalheads, punkers, alt rockers, we're all the same breed. First and foremost we're outcasts, which suits us fine, because the more people "get" what we're into, the suckier it is as a whole. That's your manifest destiny. We're all mutually protective of our music and only amongst ourselves do we permit line-crossing. Why? It's because we're all pinhead music lovers who'd rather sit for hours flipping vinyl over and over or loading up the multi-disc CD player in devout fascination. MP3's don't cut it for most of us. iPod? Hmmmph, whatever.

Dinosaurs we may be, yet the Dead Kennedys proclaimed "Give me convenience or give me death," and their anti-huckstering prophecy holds well-true today, more so for our generation than today's. We were on the mere threshold of life-easing tech, while those coming up in the world now have it all at their disposal. iPods are for those who'd rather cheat through the music consumption experience, those chained to the 20-25 songs spun in merciless repeat rotation by program managers held in check by corporate saboteurs. They care not about splashing out on a bed while letting your eyes dance quixotically across the futuristic cover of Iron Maiden's Somewhere in Time. They don't care who takes what guitar solo at what point in a power metal epic where tag team shredders sometimes need delineation and heroes' accolades.

They certainly have no interest in letting their minds be stimulated by covert lyrical content frequently written as double entendres, not when they can grab their crotches, spray faux tans upon themselves, chisel down their hair to each agonzing strand, throw on some gucci shades and pretend they're banging flubby-rumped thong divas to the tune of Pitbull. It's so hip to be metro these days...

If you're on the west coast, you're undoutedly familiar with Full Metal Jackie. Boasting nearly as much industry cred as the illustrious Malcolm Dome, Jackie Kajzer is in the business for the right reasons. Gander at her playlists for her syndicated radio show (strong in 22 markets) and you'll find Slayer, Motorhead and Anvil rubbing elbows with Carcass, Mastodon, Arch Enemy, The Haunted and Dark Tranquility, even Mayhem, for crissakes! Her spins are lovingly nudged by fan requests, but the fact of the matter is, Full Metal Jackie is a hardcore mofo in this industry with as much knowledge as you're going to demand from a highly-visible representative.

Aside from her broadcasting experience, Jackie originally managed Five Finger Death Punch and engineered their current representation by powerhouse P.R. moguls, The Firm. She currently enjoys a new post as a radio promotions manager at 10th Street Entertainment. Now Jackie issues her first book, Full Metal Jackie Certified and the immediate nuance erupting like metal on metal from this project is, this lady loves this stuff!

Give Jackie the lyrical content, which is the highest focus upon her book. Full Metal Jackie Certified hunts out the intended meanings of 50 well-known (and a few obscure) ditties from metal artists such as Judas Priest, Megadeth, Pantera, Ronnie James Dio, Twisted Sister, Overkill, Anthrax, Accept, Queensryche, Lita Ford, Glenn Danzig, Lizzy Borden, Dokken and even Stryper.

Jackie and her shotgun rider Roger Lotring not only sleuth out the songs' origins from their actual writers or affiliates, they usher in stories behind the songwriting as well as creating a historical overture to present the songs within a timetable context.

Many are well-known genre staples such as "Back in Black," "Breaking the Law," "18 and Life," "Crazy Train" and "You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll," while others are author-selected for their social impact or deep-rooted storytelling. What's especially fun is seeing Lizzy Borden's "Generation Aliens," W.A.S.P.'s "The Headless Children," Testament's "Practice What You Preach" and Helloween's "I Want Out" given just as much delicate care and adoring limelight as AC/DC's "Hells Bells," Ozzy Osbourne's "Suicide Solution" and Motorhead's "Ace of Spades."

Going one step further, Jackie and Lotring dip their ankles into the punk/crossover scene which bridged thrash to hardcore and thickened the eighties underground by spotlighting DRI's "Shame" and Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized." They even tackle Jane's Addiction's "Jane Says" to cover one farflung alternative end of the metal spectrum as they corner Matthew Sweet of Stryper to get his take on whether or not the band really is a Christian band, despite the allegations thrust against them in the nineties. Both Vernon Reid of Living Colour and Doug (now dUg) Pinnick of King's X testify about their best-known catalog cuts, "Cult of Personality and "Over My Head," respectively.

This book is the loving culmination of every Joe Headbanger sitting in a basement amongst friends during a time when 33 rpms were king and cassettes notoriously split apart after 20 or so run-throughs. Metalheads of the eighties shared the experience of the form, between other fans and the artists themselves. It was never enough just to strap on a Metal Church shirt and watch Headbangers Ball on occasion. To truly commit yourself to heavy metal, you were engulfed in it via every aesthetic.

That means Full Metal Jackie Certified comes packed with vintage photos from Mark "Weiss Guy" Weiss, the maestro behind some of the most memorable images spotlighted in Hit Parader, Circus and Rip magazines back in the day. This was, of course, before the print medium got devalued, when Gen X headbangers shared these glistening photos amongst one another out of plain view like a secret society before cutting them out and tacking them to their walls. You had to have been there...

This is where Full Metal Jackie Certified succeeds with honor. You're not reading a mere run-through of testimonials from your favorite faces of the day just for a nostalgic headbang to the tune of Prong's "Lost and Found." You're feeling why Dave Mustaine (who also penned the book's preface) projected such agony through "In My Darkest Hour." You're also held in astonishment as Mustaine nearly spiked an international incident in Ireland leading to one of Megadeth's most revered songs, "Holy Wars (The Punishment is Due)." You're laughing with former Ozzy bassist and songwriter Bob Daisley as he relays the real-life fallen cross-bearer inspiring his caricature "Jerry Sinner" in "Miracle Man." You're coming to the realization there was something far different and utterly tragic behind Dokken's "Kiss of Death" than an assumed love dump. You're also given morbid insight with Phil Anselmo behind Pantera's cryptic power haunt "Cemetery Gates."

From a personal view, I may have had to sneak into silent corners from my wife and kiddo to get some private time to blast through Full Metal Jackie Certified, but the happiest commendation I can give this book is it made me remember--just while my nose was plunged into it--who I was from ages 12-19 in the eighties after I was played Diary of a Madman and Killers for the first time and willingly vaulted into a scene which provoked my brain as much as my ears, eyes and to this day, smarting neck.

Get some!