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

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesdays - 9/29/10

Hola, readers! Seriously, this past week was even faster than the previous one and age 40 yours truly is keeping a meaner pace now than in my 20s.

Case in point, last week being under the gun with the end-of-the-month crunch at the office, I found myself getting back home at zero hour for a double-header interview with Stevie Benton of Drowning Pool then Hatchet and Frozen director Adam Green then another bounce out to grab my kid from a late event. Stevie was a trip and even though I had to cut our interview short, he was a dude's dude and a pleasure to joke around with. Adam was equally fun like the previous time we spoke and he gave me some great stories about those wolves in Frozen which you can read about when Retaliate debuts this fall.

Then the following night, I jetted downtown on the subway to the Accept/King's X gig after working 12 hours. I sadly missed King's X, a band I've always respected and loved, but got to the venue just in the nick of time to hop into the photo pit and start shooting Accept. Now that's some kinda crazy living.

But I did get a fast minute with dUg Pinnick of King's X in-between songs during Accept's set and a quick photo. Super-nice guy. Accept rocked the place and best of all, they smiled, smiled, smiled all the way through, as you can gather by the photos posted here and those which will accompany my interview with Wolf Hoffman in Retaliate mag. You can't help but get sucked in to a band genuinely enjoying themselves up there.

In other news, my poetry chapbook entitled Goodbye, Excellent has been picked up for publication by Boulder Street Books, which is exciting news. A more formal announcement on that book will follow once the release date is set.

And with that, it's time to hop on the proverbial zip cord like my kid's Go Diego Go show and vamos, Van Horn!

Accept - Blood of the Nations
Devo - Something for Everybody
The Absence - Enemy Unbound
The Beatles - Please Please Me
Michael Schenker - UFO and MSG anthology
REM - And I Feel Fine: The Best of the IRS Years 1982-87
Zombi - Surface to Air
Killing Joke - s/t
Killing Joke - Night Time
Zodiac Mindwarp and the Love Connection - We Are Volsung
Drowning Pool - s/t

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

DVD Review: Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group

Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group
2010 MIG-Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I've said it plenty of times before and I'll say it again. Music just isn't valued today like it used to be, at least in terms of televised presentation. No, American Idol does not count, nor will it ever, given the fact it's a shrewd marketing ploy designed to hedge out demographics in the cheapest and most far-reaching platform possible. Not a genuine live music vehicle. Sad we likely will never see another Midnight Special or a 24-hour pure music, damn the Snookies MTV in this lifetime.

In case you're unfamiliar with it, Germany's Rockpalast is a historic live music program rivaling the best the world has ever seen. Airing full concerts (or at least large chunks of them), Rockpalast has showcased some of the greatest rock, blues and metal acts of all-time from Thin Lizzy to ZZ Top to Skynard and even the Superfreak himself, Rick James.

While this might be a tricky task hunting down a copy of the Rockpalast DVD concert series outside of Europe, do consider making the effort to trail after Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group.

If for nothing else, the opportunity to behold the flinging arms of Cozy Powell in 1981 is worth the hunt. Of course, Michael Schenker is his own draw in this sizzling performance at the Markthalle in Hamburg. Already having done his stints with the Scorps and UFO, Schenker in the beginning years of his solo unit ranks amongst the most formidable metal units of the day.

Interesting how the early MSG frequently misses the history pages of metal, which might have to do with Schenker's one-time social aversion. I can tell you personally after a 4.5 hour interview with the man years ago there's more to Michael Schenker than folks realize. At this point in '81, Schenker musically is at his zenith. This set corrals a large portion of the first MSG album,i.e. "Armed and Ready," "Cry for the Nations," "Lookin' Out from Nowhere" and the titanic instrumental (which should be considered one of Iron Maiden's building blocks), "Into the Arena."

Though Billy Sheehan and Denny Carmassi had left the Michael Shencker Group at the time of this live filming, original MSG vocalist Gary Barden was still prowling his position and this concert shows him at his leery best. Skulking, vamping, wide-eyed, borderline maniacal, Barden centers the mike with a primal energy you don't dare miss, even when the cameras widen to bring in bassist Chris Glen and guitarist/keyboards Paul Raymond. Barden is perhaps one of hard rock's most underrated frontmen and you'll see why in this performance.

Cozy Powell is so thunderous and so extensive in his work for Michael Schenker you actually see him panting, heaving and drenched about three-fourths of the way into the set when the band pauses between songs. Still, it's heartwarming to watch Powell paintbrush his kit like a professional and with his trademark boyish enthusiasm.

Schenker is frequently in near isolation at stage left for much of the show, but Lord, what intensity he brings to the Rockpalast gig! His venomous shredding and string yanking is to be savored like imported tea. Even when he turns the UFO classic "Rock Bottom" into a prolonged jam, you feel like you're watching a chemist at work. Very rare in that respect considering today the jam session is widely considered a wank.

Nothing wanking about this concert. Though this lineup is often dismissed, Schenker and his post-Sheehan posse give it all they have for a ravenous Hamburg audience who are seen in 1981 literally pulling their hair in admiration. It's timeless stuff and shame on anyone for buying into American Idol as a music show. Put their best night up against this beast of a concert? Like Danny Zuko said to Sandy in Grease: Jealous of that jockstrap? Don't make me laugh, ha ha ha...

Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Live Photos: Accept - Ram's Head Live, Baltimore, MD 9/24/10

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

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kiss to Stream Epicenter Twenty Ten Performance at Facebook Social Game This Saturday

Kiss fans have the opportunity to stream the group's headlining show at the Epicenter Twenty Ten Festival in Fontana, California this Saturday, September 25th.

Hop onto Booyah's Nightclub City page to join in as the Kiss concert will air at the social game and musician's networking page simultaneously with and various CBS Radio rock station websites via UStream.

Fans can watch Kiss for free by by logging on to the Nightclub City application in Facebook or by going to the Kiss Ustream site. Those who view the concert in Nightclub City will be given exclusive Kiss-affiliated virtual goods to use in the game. In addition, Nightclub City players will have access to a Kiss playlist in the game featuring some of their best-known material.

Nightclub City is a digital game based around real-world music. The Kiss concert represents Booyah’s platform as a real-world gaming leader blending interactive entertainment with social applications.

Paul Stanley notes about this unique event, “We're celebrating the end of a monster tour by giving everyone a chance to relive some of what they heard and saw at the show. Unfortunately, we will not be responsible for computers melting."

Nightclub City Page
Kiss Online
Booyah Home Page

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday 9/22/10

Aloha, people! Where'd this past week go, sheesh?

As always, hope everyone out there in Readerland is well and rockin' along.

Over yonder, production of Retaliate #1 continues with a way cool chat with horror director icon Mick Garris and a nifty conversation with Jonny Trunk of Trunk Records to discuss his 2004 release of the incidental music from George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. A final blitz of interviews are coming up as I begin to transcribe tapes and spread some layouts.

Also had a groovy talk with Laura Pleasants of Kylesa for Hails & Horns magazine, so it's amazing I had time to interview people with the insanity overruling my life last week. My rock ended up being, of all things, a non-metal album, but I triple dog dare anyone out there to spin this sucker and not grow addicted. I'm talking about the new Devo album Something for Everybody. Between that and the new Heart album, both gave me rare smiles on a couple of brutal days last week. Get some in both cases.

Cool stuff coming to these digital parts at The Metal Minute as well, so keep 'er locked and thank you once again for being my partners in crime...

Devo - Something for Everybody
Heart - Red Velvet Car
October File - Our Souls to You
Alexx Calise - In Avanti
Zombi - Spirit Animal
Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left
Drowning Pool - s/t
The Absence - Enemy Unbound
Ronnie Wood - I Feel Like Playing
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Van of the Dead Movie Review: Frozen

It’s no secret the horror film today is in a quandary. While the health of the genre is fiercer than ever in terms of practitioners and fans, the reality of things is horror has struck a creative dead-end. Zombies rule one sector of horror like glittery peons of dark cinema turned farce. Meanwhile, Hollywood and uber-jealous neophytes who wish they’d been age-appropriate to catch the seventies and eighties classics in the theaters have bastardized the genre’s modern beloveds with cash cow remakes.

Almost anyone can make a horror film these days if they have the resources plus a game cast and crew eager to slop it up, ditch sleep and submit to the reality their work is likely to be scoffed at by sanitized society. Adam Green is a marvelous example of a film director throwing down his moxy for the love of the horror genre with the understanding his films are going to corral both praise and scrutiny.

The mastermind behind the gleeful splatter canvas of Hatchet and co-producer of the disturbing fetus-from-hell haunt Grace hits a deeper nerve with Frozen, a film which will terrify skiers and snowboarders to their bone marrow—and it’ll even tweak non-snow bunnies.

What worked brilliantly for 2005’s The Descent (and for the most part its sequel) carries the same far-flung mojo as Frozen hurls its viewers into an authentic terror zone where fun becomes folly and daring becomes dangerous. Reckless conduct and an arrogant disregard for the elements entrap a posse of femme spelunkers in The Descent. For Adam Green’s purposes in Frozen, the same conjecture applies.

A trio of college friends, Joe, Dan and Parker (Shawn Ashmore, Kevin Zegers and Emma Bell respectively) find themselves thrust into one of the most fearsome predicaments conceived in a horror film. One pushy thrill too many leads two lovebirds and a third wheel into a perilous perch atop a shut down ski lift where, by misadventure, they’re left for dead.

Green's set-up of Frozen is a pretty astute study of fifties horror noir ala Hitchcock with a nasty irony and an even nastier pitfall of frostbite, three-below storm conditions and a hungry pack of wolves to up the ante. While Dan and his innocently-intrusive girlfriend Parker try to honor a long-standing skiing tradition with Dan’s stoner buddy Joe, the tension between the three leads to a closing-time night run down the slope. The group has already badgered and huckstered the piss out of the ski lift operator Jason (Ed Hackerman) and in a series of well-written mishaps they are inadvertently forgotten, left to fend for themselves dangling in midair.

Let’s increase the anxiety level by mentioning Frozen’s plot occurs on a Sunday night as the ski resort is only open from Friday to Sunday—such a real scenario exists, per Green in the special features. The grounds staff is packing things up, shutting down the lights, calling it a weekend. Three college kids left all floppity at more than 1,000 feet. Scary enough for you? Thus the premise of Frozen is basic yet petrifying: what do you do?

By narrowing his cast to a threesome already on each others’ nerves and plunging them into a horrific catastrophe where sitting on the lift chair is only one way to die, Adam Green maximizes Frozen’s shivery reason for being: to exploit a very real life possibility by preying on his audience’s paranoia. Appendages numb and blister, skin sticks to the icy bar and rips away. Hypothermia or wolf attack, you decide which is worse.

While the central dialogue establishing his lead characters is so-so and not really all that endearing for the first quarter of the film, it’s the jagged exchange between Joe and Parker which escalates once the film hits its brutal stride. Green grinds Dan up by flinging him to a shattering dismount from the lift chair and ultimately serving him up as wolf chow. At this point, Frozen really gets its fang, pun intended, as two adversaries must depend on each other to survive. Although one does wonder how three Generation Tech’ers don’t have a cell phone amongst them. Hmmmm...

The photography of Frozen is stellar, both in the night and day sequences. Mountainous grandeur becomes a wintry hellhole. Meanwhile, you can’t take your eyes off the wonderment of the steep Utah landscape, even as you’re desperately trying to figure out how Green is going get these kids free--if he gets them free. His cameras reach on high to capture the unsettling vertigo of Dan, Joe and Parker’s snowy death sentence. No tricks, no CGI, this is the real deal and that in itself is pretty damned frightening.

Adam Green conceived Frozen in quick time while overseeing the production of Grace, proving the guy is clutch. With this film, Green displays further wherewithal and a vast eye for visual aesthetics to make a successful run in the horror business. No Freddies or Jasons reborn (albeit Kane Hodder is involved in this film as stunt coordinator) and no undead brodowns for Green; Frozen is a back-to-basics fear factory which catches up from its slow build to become a memorable warning against dim-witted thrill-seeking.

This is what we need in horror right now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 9/15/10

Howdy and hiya, readers!

As always, hoping everyone's having a rockin' kind of week. The rollercoaster ride continues on this end with preparation of Retaliate issue 1. I couldn't ask for a better response from the community about this endeavor, so I will strive to make it worthy of the hype.

Otherwise, kinda living in a blur moving from task-to-task, but I have to drop kudos on this new Enslaved album. I'll be reviewing it in Retaliate and well, suffice it to say, I have a damned strong front-runner for Metal Album of the Year with Axioma Ethica Odini and a nomination for one of the greatest metal albums of this generation. Yeah, seriously, it's that good.

And with that, friends, stay well and stay tuned. I have goodies for you here at The Metal Minute, so warm up that coffee or pop a top and relax with your favorite tunes of the day. Cheers...

Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odina
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
Unreleased Incidental Soundtrack Music from Dawn of the Dead
Steppenwolf - s/t
Steppenwolf - Monster
Steppenwolf - 7
Bad Brains - I Against I
Duran Duran - Rio
High On Fire - Snakes for the Divine
Blind Illusion - The Sane Asylum
Alexx Calise - In Avanti
Kataklysm - Heaven's Venom

Monday, September 13, 2010

Metal Louvre: Steppenwolf 7

By today's standards, Steppenwolf 7 comes off somewhat primitive in execution with what is hypothetically a superimposed group photo amidst a matte painting. Honestly, though? I'll take this over digitally-processed artwork any day.

No offense to the electronic medium since I am now dwelling closely within it, and there's certainly some astounding artwork being digitally-brushed and molded--Joachim Luetke being one of my favorite artistes of the form. Still, Steppenwolf 7 is a reminder of why psychedelic artwork--still being heavily favored in 1970 and beyond when this album was recorded--is an important era of figurative and expressive art.

It's like something emerged from a Ray Bradbury story as reimagined by the Haight. While the skulls are flipped mirror images of one another, there's something purely metal about their standoff at the painting's vanishing point, where the 3-D album logo and John Kay's head are in near-perfect diamond symmetry.

The desert mountain scape illustrated behind Steppenwolf looks straight out of a Hanna Barbara action series like Johnny Quest. However, the flaming skies lend those skulls even more eerie trippiness than if they were merely planted upon a pitch black canvas--a metal cliche decades later. Besides, there's very few skulls in metal artwork today which stand up to those floating about this space-dusty panorama. Juxtaposed against the orange-yellow hell-skies, this seems a distant cousin to Marvel Comics' Ghost Rider, wouldn't you agree?

Well-appropriate from the group who gave heavy metal its namesake.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Retaliate IS COMING...

On the campaign trail for new readers in 2010 and beyond...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

CD Review: Blind Illusion - The Sane Asylum reissue

Blind Illusion - The Sane Asylum reissue
2010 Metal Mind Productions
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

The legend of Blind Illusion remained a relative secret for many years, even with the ascension of Primus as an alt funk metal wunderkind. In fact, Blind Illusion, though they'd officially been around since the late seventies, rumbled the metal underground in 1988 with their (to-date) only true full-length release, The Sane Asylum.

While Blind Illusion had shuffled the roster on numerous occasions prior to The Sane Asylum's launch with lead guitarist/vocalist Marc Biedermann remaining a constant force, it was the addition of Les Claypool and Larry LaLonde which cemented the band's brief legacy. If you were lucky to own The Sane Asylum when it was originally issued, you picked up what many consider to be a gold nugget of the thrash metal sweepstakes of the late eighties.

As the major labels saw marketing power in thrash and in effect, toned and dumbed down the style in order to move units and put bands on the road, Blind Illusion (one of the unheralded blossoms of the Bay Area speed metal garden) was a product bred of both thrash and prog. Veritably unheard-of from American thrashers of the late eighties, Blind Illusion was one of the first to blend the two. Sure, you had Fates Warning who could burst with speed now and then. Ditto for Hallow's Eve and Crimson Glory, but Blind Illusion had the wherewithal to go postal with many of their tempos while seeking--like their Quebecois brethren northwards, Voivod--to seek new scripts to the subgenre and bend them to their will.

Of course, having dexterous components like Claypool, LaLonde and drummer Mike Miner gave Marc Biedermann the tools to send his long-standing compositions into action. Much of The Sane Asylum are long-term works of progress from Blind Illusion's early years, but the treat of hearing this album is the lineup recording it. Metallica's Kirk Hammett oversaw Blind Illusion's "Slow Death" demo well in advance of The Sane Asylum's release, but even Hammett couldn't have seen how special the group would become following the departure of Pat Woods, Gene Gilson and David Geoffrey. Do also remember Les Claypool once auditioned for Metallica before Cliff Burton won the spot. The cat was ready to grind by the time he joined Blind Illusion.

Even now The Sane Asylum is considered a cult album. For his musical stature and prowess, Les Claypool is still an underground hero and it's taken a number of years for many to catch up to Blind Illusion. Once they got around his ridiculous licks on "Smash the Crystal," The Sane Asylum became the sought-after stuff of metal lore.

What makes The Sane Asylum mandatory listening aside from the lineup is to hear expertly-molded thrash-mosh-stomp-thrash sequences found throughout the ultra-brilliant "Blood Shower" and "Vengeance is Mine." While Claypool generally lays down tight rhythm section grooves instead of the maniacal slaps and tugs later found in the album, The Sane Asylum whip-snaps efficiently because of Claypool's intense focus. The crash course Marc Biedermann sends all of his troops upon is the bottom line story. For a funk-wah meister like Claypool, it's fascinating to hear him adere to strict driving patterns on the first few tracks before going bananas in the opening instrumental intro to "Death Noise," originally written in 1978.

Fear not, though, Primus heads, because Biedermann turns Claypool loose on "Vicious Visions," "Kamikaze," "Smash the Crystal" and sections of the topsy-turvy finale "Metamorphosis is a Monster."

While Claypool is one of the chief reasons people have sought The Sane Asylum out, let's not undercut Biedermann's virtuoso shredding nor his brave songwriting. Biedermann blisters wherever he can scorch up a bar or two and it's every bit the audile entree as what Claypool serves up. Listen for Biedermann's "Atomic Punk" string scratching on "Death Noise." Almost a shame Claypool and Biedermann didn't get much else work done together, minus a yet-to-be-released album called Bad Medicine.

By today's standards, The Sane Asylum could use glossier production values where it would stand to increase its standing towards perfection. However, its ruddiness is its charm. It's an analog beast of velocity and signature-swapping recklessness. When it hits top speed, it's supposed to sound grimy and sometimes cloudy. It's disorderly at times but it's authentic in that respect. Bands today could copy The Sane Asylum (and bloody likely will) but even with an attempt to replicate it using outdated feeds, equipment and tech, no way can you substitute the courage of this album.

Rating: ****

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Live Photos: Katatonia - Sonar, Baltimore, MD 9/8/10

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