Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Friday, August 27, 2010
The Metal Minute: How’s it been re-establishing the band’s identity having changed your name from Gorerotted to The Rotted? Get Dead or Die Trying under The Rotted was a nifty upgrade in technicality and a slight diversion from the blood, pus and ooze from the earlier Gorerotted albums?
Tim Carley: I formed Gorerotted with some school friends and drinking buddies in 1997 and I'm still here now that we are The Rotted. I'm the Steve Harris of the band; I'm always involved in everything from song writing, to production, to mixing and even the business side of stuff. This EP Anarchogram is the first time I've done any engineering in the studio for the band. I engineered the recording of the vocals, lead guitars and bass in my studio and took it back to James Dunkley's studio to mix. I'm really proud of it and the vocals sound fantastic. Ben (McCrow) did such a good job; these are his best vocals so far on any of our albums, I think. You asked about re-establishing the band, well, it's been hard work since starting the new band but rewarding. We got our buzz back and it's like the early days of Gorerotted all over again, loads of ideas flying around and new people in the band means fresh blood and a new outlook on stuff.
MM: While we all wait for a new full-length from The Rotted, you guys put together this independent-released Anachrogram EP. I’ve always thought EPs can go either way in terms of mass appeal: they can be looked at as contract filler or they prime and whet the appetites of a band’s followers for the next big project. As you guys took on the recording, producing and distributing responsibilities for Anachrogram, there’s hardly any contract filler accusations to be made. I understand you're no longer with Metal Blade, so tell me about getting this done on your own.
TC: We never wanted this EP to be on any label except our own. It's an old school style DIY release. We wanted to do something like we did back in the early days, when we first played in bands. It's not a contract filler or any of that bullshit; its a DIY EP made by fans of metal for fans of metal. We are selling it cheap via our website www.therotted.com. We did it to re-connect with fans of the band. After years of being on a big label like Metal Blade, it would have been all too easy to lose touch with the grass roots scene.
MM: On Anachrogram, you give us two originals, “Drink Myself to Death” and “Dawn of a New Error” along with four covers of Motorhead, Mayhem, Entombed and Sepultura. The originals rip and snort with sheer speed and grind and then you guys give of us an overview of how the vibe of these two songs came to be with your choice of covers. In a way, you give us deep insight not only to The Rotted’s influences, but a blueprint for many extreme metal bands. What are your thoughts?
TC: Yep, that's the point. We each picked a band that had personally influenced us as metal musicians. There would be no extreme metal without bands like Motorhead. Lemmy and the crew were pushing the boundaries of good taste, speed and aggression before death or black metal even existed. Like you say, our choice of covers really show people what we are about. There is a lot of old school death metal mixed with UK punk and British heavy metal. That's what we like listening to and that's what we like playing. I have no idea where these bullshit deathcore/metalcore rumours come from.
MM: (laughs) I think your Sepultura cover (“Propaganda”) was the most accurate to the original and Motorhead’s “Iron Fist” was your most “out there” redo. I always say, if you take on a cover, try and make it yours. How did you guys approach these covers and which one do you feel The Rotted best nailed to the sheets?
TC: Thats pretty true, the Sepultura one was the hardest to change but the easiest to play close to the original. It really fits Ben's vocals too. All we did with that one was speed it up a little and make it heavier. We tuned down a bit more than the original. The Motorhead one and The Mayhem one we changed a lot. We really wanted to make those songs our own. It was a challenge to take a heavy metal song and a black metal song and give them more of a death edge. It worked really well. We played "Iron Fist" every night on our last tour and the crowds loved it.
MM: In a way, it's a metalhead's "Freebird," though let's audiences 20 years from now don't yell "Irrrooooon Fiiiiist!" as a joke. Okay, this next one, I could be really misinformed, but in the UK I understand pubs aren’t quite the same as we Yanks or even the Irish would constitute a pub, i.e. English pubs are more restaurant-oriented and not really bars. Whereas you’d have to go find an actual bar to drink in, which I’ve also heard are hard to find. Maybe that's the no-man's land of Yorkshire I'm thinking of? With “Drink Myself to Death,” tell us about pub/bar life in England, what your favorite brew is and what specifically happened to trigger the title of this song?
TC: (laughs) I don't think you could be any more misinformed when it comes to UK pubs! We have so many different places to drink. I think we have the one of the biggest drinking cultures in Europe and not all of it's good, to be honest. Lots of violence in city centres on Friday and Saturday nights and people ending up in hospital. UK and Irish pubs are pretty much the same and most sell food these days just to make extra money. Since they banned smoking in pubs and the worldwide recession, it's been hard for them to stay open. If ithe pub is in a city centre it probably sells cheap food, cheap drinks, mass produced shit stuff. Then you have little independent pubs in towns and villages that will sell local food and drinks. These are the best by far if you want to get drunk on good stuff and meet friends. These are the places you find us these days, drinking strong cider and strange beers from around the country and enjoying life.
If you want to dance to shit music, take shit drugs and talk to shit people, then every city centre will have huge areas dedicated to night life: drum and bass clubs, pop music, eighties nights, rock clubs, strip clubs, gay bars, you name it. The song "Drink Myself To Death" is related to that horrible way of life in modern city centres. It's about someone removing themselves from it and living according to their own values and rules. They hate the consumer culture and they hate the cult of celebrity. This person has decided to live outside of society with a beer in his hand and watch the western world fail. The modern world is fucked; we see examples every day. 20 million people homeless in Pakistan, but what makes it into the first 4 pages of the news paper is some bullshit about some B-list sports star cheating on his wife. The world is fucked, we are fucked. Open a beer, put some metal on the stereo, sit back and watch it all fall apart!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Greetings, gang, hope you enjoyed Maiden Louvre this past week! Also hope everyone's enjoying The Final Frontier. Iron Maiden albums were such an event in the metal world back in the eighties it seemed like everything stopped and revolved around them for a couple months. Unfortunately there are just so many bands today it's difficult to give any one act a definitive push and celebration of their latest work...unless you're on Clear Channel, that is. But in the spirit of the old days for the masters of metal, I felt it appropriate (like many of my fellow writers) to give Maiden a whole week's kickoff for The Final Frontier.
I'd like to take this opportunity to announce the formation of my new venture coming soon, a rock, punk and metal digital PDF magazine called Retaliate. I'm already booking guests (Filter, Papa Roach, Marky Ramone, Dean Pleasants, Poobah, Iwrestledabearonce and The Acacia Strain being a few names to whet your appetites) and putting together some of the layout for a hopeful launch sometime in October. I will keep everyone posted as the debut of Retaliate draws closer.
We're getting to that critical point in the music world where many consider it a dead lag overall following the summer blast. Yet for my tastes, I've come to find the summer-to-fall changeover one of the hottest times of the year for the best albums to hit. I've already considered the upcoming Kylesa and Enslaved albums as potential album-of-the-year candidates and I was just hipped to a cool fuzz rock outfit you should check out called Zuul, who are also scheduled to make an appearance in Retaliate.
Here at The Metal Minute, be on the lookout for a Take 5 interview with The Rotted and more goodies.
And with that, chums and chumettes, enjoy the rest of your week and rock hard!
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Iron Maiden - Powerslave
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
Zuul - Out of Time
Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini
Iwrestledabearonce - It's All Happening special edition
Paul Gilbert - Fuzz Universe
Jane's Addiction - Nothing's Shocking
Jane's Addiction - Ritual de lo Habitual
Jane's Addiction - Strays
Guns 'n Roses - Appetite for Destruction
Billy Joel - Greatest Hits Volume I and II
The Doors - L.A. Woman
Cyco Miko/Infectious Grooves - Funk it Up & Punk it Up: Live in France '95
Addicted to Pain - s/t EP
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass - Whipped Cream and Other Delights
Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation
Posted by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at 7:35 AM
Monday, August 23, 2010
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
2010 Universal Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
It's never easy being held to a standard when you're the greatest metal band of all time. New work comes at a premium, usually in the form of scrutiny. In the case of Iron Maiden, there's little more for them to accomplish at this point in their illustrious careers other than to enjoy the ride. Having all of its core principals intact for the fourth album in a row since Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith returned to the flock, it stands to reason Iron Maiden are in it for the pride.
The Final Frontier, like its predecessors A Matter of Life and Death, Dance of Death and Brave New World is not a grab you by the throat and rattle you from start-to-finish album like Powerslave, Piece of Mind or Number of the Beast. Those days are long gone and Iron Maiden, to their credit, haven't sought to replicate them--wholly. As of The Final Frontier, that ethos changes. Borrowed nuggets, chords and melody lines are found all over this album. Albeit, Iron Maiden does a fantastic job of altering their scripts and giving The Final Frontier the benefit of their roles as elder statesmen conveying their sageness by concocting a new art within their of-late marathon compositions.
In other words, you're best to treat The Final Frontier like a pet project and give it a number of spins before passing judgment. Like A Matter of Life of Death, this is an album destined for its share of critics as much as its regallers. That being said, the biggest compliment to The Final Frontier is its willingness to shoot from the hip at times and its purposeful strides towards reinvention. In all, this works to Iron Maiden's fortune, because they give their listeners a ton to digest on The Final Frontier.
Kudos for the exquisite tom march of "Satellite 15...The Final Frontier" opening the album. It's ingenius, it sets a thrumming precedent for Maiden and it builds high anticipation for the long journey of The Final Frontier. While the celestial theme of this album is inherent and insinuated, you will have to work your ears over at times to keep them floating in Andromeda.
For the nine-minute-plus "Isle of Avalon," Maiden does the work for you (even with its Arthurian lore) as the quieted melody threads and hi-hat furrows in the opening few minutes build a launchpad and then rockets upon beautiful prog solos from Maiden's triple attack of Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and Janick Gers. It's not quite "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner," but there's parallels to be noted between the two.
In its own right, the galloping huzzah of "El Dorado" can be construed as a space trucker as much as it can be a grounded charge into the land of gold with echoes of "The Trooper" and "Run to the Hills" giving it leverage. While fans initially criticized "El Dorado" when previewed as a single, it mingles in nicely following the head-bobbing smacks of "The Final Frontier" portion in the opening track. Frankly, "El Dorado" is one of the most exciting and identifiable songs Maiden has done in recent memory.
"Mother of Mercy" and "Coming Home" are slower, methodic and well-birthed from Piece of Mind, Number of the Beast and even Killers if you listen carefully. "Coming Home" lyrically sounds more in league with Maiden's Flight 666 DVD with Dickinson piloting his band's plane around the world, so don't expect everything on The Final Frontier to fall in line thematically. Instead, you'll be spending time picking out threads of "Still Life" and "Revelations" at this point in the album.
There's a reason for this ladle dipping on The Final Frontier, as Maiden traversed back to Compass Point Studios where many of their halcyon recordings were laid down. Reconnection is hardly the word here. The quick pick-up of "The Alchemist" feels reminiscent of "Back to the Village" from Powerslave as much as it does "The Prisoner" and "Gangland" from Number of the Beast. It's an ankle-provoking toe tapper which is the fastest Iron Maiden's been in some time.
It's also the mark where The Final Frontier begins its quest for the ultimate odyssey, which presents the album's most challenge. Nothing below 7 minutes each beginning with "Isle of Avalon" straight through, so make sure the coffee's hot on your first spin. What you're listening for the remainder of the swirling, crawling pace is some nifty soloing and a few signature adjustments. Example, the dirty classic rock bashing in the middle of "Starblind" or the progfest splicing the steadfast plod of "The Talisman" which rides on a time-true set of Maiden riffs, straight down to Steve Harris' golden bass plucks.
"The Man Who Would Be King" could've been a serious hiccup if Maiden didn't write in some outstanding tempo changes and gorgeous note scales on their extensive solo section. Also drifting a key shift on the song's bridges, it all saves a song which pitter-patters through its incredibly nervous verses. Harris loses his guys many times on "The Man Who Would Be King" until the artistry of the song unites them again.
Bruce Dickinson should be regarded as a natural wonder because his chops are still hanging tough almost thirty years in association with a band he's punished his throat for. Still able to peel off falsettos like nectarine skins, Dickinson's return home in 2000 is one of the chief reasons Iron Maiden still has a pulse. Even with these seventh-innning stretch tunes Maiden favors lately, you're mesmerized by Dickinson as a perpetual narrator.
The songs in the latter half of The Final Frontier are a virtual exercise and in some ways, they derail the excitment established by the first five tunes. It's not because the epic songs lack heaviness, it's because they lack constraint at times. Much as Iron Maiden pulls off a number of spiffy surprises, there's a say-when factor that needs to be adhered to despite your standing in the music world.
It doesn't mean the bobbing crunch in the second-third of "When the Wild Wind Blows" lacks conviction. Quite the opposite. It's a strident trudge to the quietus finishing The Final Frontier on a whisper. By this point, however, The Final Frontier could've glossed up and trimmed down the lead-ins to the more fascinating dimensions Iron Maiden adroitly incorporates. Then we would've had quite the monster album on our hands.
Never easy to flag the masters in their court, because The Final Frontier would be considered gifted genius by anyone else but Iron Maiden. Despite the repetition and the grossly-hijacked chord progressions of albums past, The Final Frontier is still an enjoyable ride. It's Maiden, for Christ's sake! "Rime of The Ancient Mariner" remains the greatest metal epic written by the greatest metal band in history, but its success was only duplicated within the years it was conceived, i.e. "Alexander the Great," "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son." It appears Iron Maiden wants to reclaim their stature as supreme artisans on a War and Peace level. Unfortunately, War and Peace isn't for everyone.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Saturday, August 21, 2010
One from the later era...
I have quite a few good memories about this album, first and foremost being fortunate enough to interview Nicko McBrain, who was a complete trip. Then my 2.5 hour road jaunt into Camden, New Jersey to photograph Maiden front and center stage. The only sour moment of that experience was the venue screwing me and the other photographers out of our show tickets, though we were escorted to the front of the stage for three songs. Rage fest for a moment there, but my photos from this tour are amongst my personal treasures since Maiden played three long epics from A Matter of Life and Death for nearly half an hour. In retrospect, I have no complaints, only fabulous live pics of the greatest metal band of all time from right beneath them. I bought a shirt with this cover at the show despite the venue's disgraceful hiccup to show I kept the blame where it belonged--even if the original release of A Matter of Life and Death came with a t-shirt anyway. Mine has tour dates, baby! You fellow knuckleheads of metal probably remember how important it was back in the day to have the all-important tour shirt with dates to show the world what a rockin' cool mofo you are.
Anyway, let's get to the real part of this post, the artwork.
With no attempt at hiding their feelings on the U.S./Iraqi conflict shared by Britain, it should be no surprise the ultimate evil, Iron Eddie, was cast a ghoulish Sgt. Rock leading his skeleton crew (pun intended) into the throes of war. Personally, I think the dead private jerking on a ciggie upstages Eddie on this cover. Riot!
Eddie's Heroes grinding the slaughtered into the war-torn grime sends the message home for its time in 2006: Bush and Blair released the hounds, and they came back with the turret pointed back at them. Very much like the Masters of Horror episode "Homecoming," in which slain American soldiers return home in their caskets, only to rise from the dead and demand recompense from a government using them as pawns in a bullshit cause.
Tim Bradstreet took over for Derek Riggs for what became Iron Maiden's most alluring, detailed and provoking album cover in years. Considering the offbeat nano-ersatz decorating Dance of Death and the not bad hanker-down stare of Eddie's Voldemort-like death eater peer upon a technologically-advanced city in Brave New World, this painting is a return to form of the eye candy aesthetics regaling Iron Maiden's glory years.
And what is that red mass in Eddie's resting paw? A bleeding heart?
Posted by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at 12:10 AM
Friday, August 20, 2010
If not for Number of the Beast, this would most iconic image in all of heavy metal. I always think of Maiden's Killers album as worthy of a "Where were you when you first laid eyes on this cover?" query.
For me, it was late 1982 as one of the first metal albums I ever heard in my cousin's bedroom. I tell the story frequently, but it was played with Ozzy's Diary of a Madman and later the following year, with Dio's Holy Diver. I was 12, well-trained in slasher flicks and gorefests and still I found the Killers album artwork utterly disturbing. Took me two songs into Killers to hone in on the music before I could get my eyes off the album cover.
"That's some wild shit, huh?" my cousin said once I stopped scanning over this depiction of savagery. I can still hear those words. Now I know why he kept his heavy metal albums hidden from his parents in his dresser drawer. The vividness of a nihilistic Eddie chopping down citizens already held on governmental lockdown (take note of the soldiers on the rooftop in the background and the twisted antennae indicating surveillance equipment) is truly horrifying. You only see the reliefs of those soldiers in the background, but they're certainly privy to Eddie's butchery and they're doing nothing about it. My guess, they're enjoying the party.
For me, it's not so much Eddie's venomous snarl and dripping hatchet that makes Killers so raw. It's the wherewithal of those soldiers to leave him to his dirty business and the victim's hands clutching at Eddie's shirt in desperation which cuts deep. It's so Clockwork Orange-esque in its implied brutality you wonder if Eddie's humming "Singing in the Rain" through his gnashed teeth.
The thing which makes A Clockwork Orange such a powerful and emotional trip (despite audiences and critics of yesteryear who claim it's devoid of emotion) is the manner it chooses to inflict its violence. Just enough blood to convey horror at face value, but it's more about recklessness, adrenalized flagrance and a dastardly disregard for human welfare. All of those of are captured in the Killers album cover and there's been literally nothing since in metal which severs to the bone like this image.
Goat horns? Cannibals gnawing on fetuses for appetizers? Disemboweled mortals on Satan's talon? Pussy compared to this. Sadly it's become Hot Topic couture in the metal revival, robbing Killers of its bloody wallop.
Thursday, August 19, 2010
One of the strangest but coolest concepts in the Maidenverse, the "Twilight Zone" single really captures a vivid EC Comics spirit with the ghost of Eddie taunting this girl at her boudoir from the afterlife. I believe the silly "otherlife" horror flick The Legacy came around the time of this release, if not within a couple years. While The Legacy doesn't hold up even by eighties' horror standards, Maiden's "Twilight Zone" artwork is nearly timeless.
The colors and textures in this palette are some of the most striking in all of Iron Maiden's cover art. A vivid fog green casting from the right, an apposite velvet and violet color clash from center panel, the grimy hub of the English deathtown played to extreme measures in Maiden's early works...you can't help but be engrossed by it aesthetically.
You also have to love the subtleties of this cheeky yet haunting piece. A shattering alarm clock at the girl's elbow can be construed as busting itself apart trying to wake her from a purported dream. Or it can be a fracture of time whisking this scantilly-clad femme into the netherworld. Superstitions abound in this painting with a black cat, splintered glass from the clock and the Death tarot card scattered around the frame. What's with the Cosmo mag and the wine bottle in trash can? Harbingers of her nightmare? All I know is, if this lass' true love is Iron Eddie (as suggested by the hilarious shit-grinning demonaic in her picture frame) she's not the only one who crossed over into The Twilight Zone.
Even Rod Serling might have to reconsider submitting that proposal for anyone's approval.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
We might as well start calling this "Maiden Louvre" at this point...
I still have the button for this cover to the "Run to the Hills" live vinyl maxi single and I used to have it in poster form tacked to the wall in my bedroom, right beneath a felt poster of Priest's Defenders of the Faith, neither of which are in my possession any longer.
Too bad when teenager separates from his adolescent treasures en route to manhood, but this image of a caped Eddie hammering away on some galactic organ was more indicative of "Phantom of the Opera," which does come as part of the other selections on this album.
There's something Frazetta-ish about the rolling mountains surrounding Eddie in his triumphant bravado here. Doubt he'd win a cleave 'em up against Conan, Red Sonja or Kull the Conqueror, but this image is tailor made for pulp adventure nonetheless. Removed from his bloody urban hellhole of the first two albums and accompanying singles, we now begin to see Iron Eddie in more battleready (i.e. "The Trooper" and Maiden Japan) and subsequently outlandish transfigurations. Understated to a degree, this painting is nonetheless a reverent image of the undead metal mongrel at his best.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
Perhaps the highest achievement of Derek Riggs' cover art for Iron Maiden, Somewhere in Time remains one of the most stark and strangely graceful albums of their entire catalog. Yes, this Eddie-Terminator is full of space-blasting angst and the android hand scratching at the wall (reminscent of the human mit pawing in a death throe at Eddie's shirt on the Killers album cover) implies sheer brutality. There's a Ridley Scott dystopia serving as Eddie's future-flung playground and ghosts of the Maiden past playfully interacting within (for one thing, a shadow of the self-titled Iron Maiden's cover is blurred beneath the "Eddie Lives" graffiti on the extreme right) make Somewhere in Time one of the most exciting paintings Riggs has ever done.
Maiden's devout will debate over the merits of Somewhere in Time as an album while I'm one of the few who stake it as the last full-on masterpiece in Maiden's career. I mean, "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and "Alexander the Great" alone, come on... Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was a near-musical masterpiece, but Somewhere in Time established a bit of a new world order (pun intended) in Maiden's long-continued musical voyage. I remember everyone waiting slack-jawed for this album to drop with the advance word there would be synthesizers on the album. Most were repulsed by such a prospect and some still today criticize Maiden for introducing keys into their work.
They hardly saturated and demoralized Somewhere in Time or Maiden's future albums like Judas Priest hiccuped with Turbo. Maiden accented with the keys but still retained a heavy gallop and breathtaking prog on every turn with only a couple straightforward rock numbers like "Stranger in a Strange Land" and "Wasted Years." No worries, as far as this writer's concerned. "Wasted Years" is one of the greatest metal songs of all-time, synths and all. In fact, the use of synths on Somewhere in Time made the cover's futuristic vision all the more pliable.
Once again, this is artwork best savored on vinyl as the flipside extension art creates a panorama of spaceport wonderment even more delicate and textured than Powerslave. You have to appreciate the Powerslave nods in Somewhere in Time's artwork, like the glowing pyramid tip and the planted heiroglyphics-as-graffiti. It's even more zany fun Maiden themselves appear in the painting on the reverse image, watching their undead progeny resurrect himself (remember, Powerslave was supposed to be the first actual "death" of Eddie in mummified form) and brandishing his phaser with the stun switch turned off.
And the "Stranger in a Strange Land" single artwork with Eddie as a cyber Clint Eastwood was pretty boss, too. Wish the poster was still in my possession.
As you might insinuate, here at The Metal Minute we're celebrating the release of Iron Maiden's new album The Final Frontier with an all-week Metal Louvre dedicated to the curators of this museum of heavy. Enjoy the best of Maiden's artwork leading up to a review of The Final Frontier thereafter...
Monday, August 16, 2010
In honor of Maiden's newest album The Final Frontier dropping this week, it's only fitting we pay them their due with one of heavy metal's masterpieces from cover to guts, Powerslave.
On personal level, Powerslave is my favorite Iron Maiden album and if it isn't the finest metal album ever recorded, it certainly claims dibs for the most intricate artwork the genre has ever seen--and likely ever will see.
I'm not going to lavish upon this album cover. It speaks for itself, particularly if you own a vinyl copy of Powerslave. When you hear about the old school talk about how much better it was to sit on your bedroom floor with the vinyl cover in your lap and thus establish a genuine connection with the music, this is what we're talking about. If you didn't find yourself spitting imaginary sand beneath the shadow of the sphinx while listening to "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and drooling over the details of this album cover, I truly pity you. X-Box has nothing on the grandiose aesthetics of Powerslave's artwork.
It's enough joy to savor the front artwork from Derek "The Master" Riggs, but the rear cover of Powerslave is another thrill of linear perfection with Iron Eddie's mummified corpse being watched over by Anubis, who stands ready to usher Eddie into the next life. In Iron Maiden's case, that meant an abrupt whisk to a Blade Runner-esque future on another breathtaking album cover for Somewhere in Time.
In high school, I sat next to a dude named Troy Carver in art class who spent the entire semester replicating this cover. He incredibly defied our teacher by refusing to do the assigned work, but he was given a provisional A+ specifically for his near-perfect freehand copy of Powerslave's fantastical artwork and it was showcased in a school exhibition--well-deserved, too. I'm still in awe of both this cover and Troy today. His refusal to do anything for an entire semester in art class but recreate Powerslave is one of the most metal moments I've ever beheld in my life.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A hearty hails, dear readers! While keeping a minimal production schedule here at The Metal Minute, I've felt it's time to resurge your favorite feature, Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday. I want to thank my longtime comrade Bob Vinyl for running the show over at Rock 'n Roll and Meandering Nonsense.
As for yours truly, I'm in constant motion to the point I'm happy for the few minutes I have to plug into this site. I've received some very nice feedback on and offsite since I've started posting again. As always, this site exists because of you.
A quick rehash of events on my end: I'm freelancing for Patch.com, a nationwide community and local news site sponsored by AOL. They're quickly launching in major cities around the U.S. so be on the lookout for one in your area. I continue to freelance for a local newspaper as well, so my evenings are never boring. Bless my wife and my boy for understanding daddy needs to keep grinding to bring in the hash. We had ourselves a long, sweaty weekend together doing a yard sale, which was prosperous on day one, not so much on Sunday, albeit my favorite time of the whole yard sale excursion was climbing in the tree in our front yard with my boy. It was his first time up so high and I'll cherish the look on his face as we sat together on branches waiting for customers.
I'm about to release a 24-page chapbook of my poetry called Goodbye, Excellent. I will be offering them in both PDF and hard copy versions. Hit me up at my contact address on the site if you're interested in snagging a copy. I continue to shop around the Saved by Zero novel, and I hope Goodbye, Excellent will prove to be the catalyst towards bigger things.
I want to thank author Roxana Shirazi for a heck of an interview last week as we chatted for nearly an hour about her book The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage, as well as numerous off-topics. A very intelligent woman, be on the lookout for an excerpt of this interview session as a Take 5 installement here at The Metal Minute.
Any of you out there get with the new Boris/Ian Astbury EP BXI? For the most part, it's pretty fabulous. Be expecting a review here at The Metal Minute soon. Then there's the big Van Halen news with Alex and Eddie hooking up with Diamond Dave for their first official new album since 1984. Will Wolfie handle bass or Eddie? Hmmmmm...
And with that, faithful lot, enjoy your week and thanks for being around. Stay out of the black hole sun and keep cool.
Accept - Blood of the Nations
Boris and Ian Astbury - BXI EP
The Rotted - Anarchogram EP
Cyco Miko and Infectious Grooves - Funk it Up and Punk it Up: Live in France '95
Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Nekromantix - Brought Back to Life Again
Nekromantix - Life is a Grave & I Dig It
A Tribe Called Quest - The Low End Theory
Devo - Duty Now For the Future
Reverend Horton Heat - Spend a Night in the Box
Rocket From the Crypt - Live From Camp X-Ray
Halloween III: Season of the Witch soundtrack
Isis - In the Absence of Truth
Lee Rocker - Black Cat Bone
Hall & Oates - Rock 'n Soul Part 1
Papa Roach - On the Record & On the Road
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
2010 Epic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Suffice it to say, The Ozzman has reinvented himself many times over the years from one of the world’s most feared rockers to ridiculous wolfman to glitzed anti-rocker to the profane goofball once ruling reality television. As much a caricature as the stuttering Ozzy Osbourne made of himself on MTV, there was enough snarky tomfoolery beneath the shell-shocked façade on The Osbournes to turn a fair cheek to and enjoy the ride. It helped his family were just as entertaining as the patriarch, yet in the 2000’s Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne have built an empire upon a sketch character, one being a pale shadow of the electrifying madman from the early eighties. Still, Ozzy’s having fun these days, if you’ve been keeping track of his early-on promotional stunts behind his latest album, Scream.
There’s something decidedly hopeful, bouyant and chipper about Scream despite the fact it is one Ozzy’s most perplexing albums he’s placed his name to. Seriously, is this the same Ozzy, the one declaring himself out the gate as a healer, a servant, a leader, a saviour, a soldier and a killer on the opening number “Let it Die?” Even Ozzy’s acknowledging his larger-than-life oddity fame as an in-joke everyone’s privy to. Scream as an album thus carries forward with a black-cloaked pirate yar-harling to the lands of spice instead of the Bermuda Triangle.
One of the album’s biggest assets is Ozzy’s new Number One on the axe: Gus G. As former prog slinger for Dream Evil, Firewind, Nightrage, Mystic Prophecy and Old Man’s Child, Gus G. steps up to the majors in the shadow of herculean gunslinger Zakk Wylde.
As much as everyone in the metal community embraces Wylde, honestly, it was time Ozzy and Zakk parted ways. Black Rain and Down to Earth were more reflective of Black Label Society than Ozzy. With the official (second time) split, let BLS pummel at will with “Blessed Hellride” and “Bleed for Me.” Ozzy’s new aide de camp is Gus G. and Scream carries an entirely new verve because of him. Okay, so the tradeoff garnishes mixed results, but for Ozzy’s purposes in keeping his body electric pulsing, he needed a fresh attack. Accordingly, Gus G. delivers his boss immediate energy like an icy Red Bull.
Granted, there’s no difference between the low-end chord jerking from Gus, Zakk Wylde, Jake E. Lee or even Tony Iommi on the Sabbath-crunchy “Diggin’ Me Down,” Scream’s heaviest cut. At least Gus opens “Diggin’ Me Down” with a polished acoustic intro which will have long-timers wiping their eyes for the days of Randy Rhodes. Yet the number takes an even deeper dive into the epicenter of Rhodes’ creativity with a brief piano breakdown and prog interlude. Pretty gutsy maneuver for a doom tune.
Where Gus G. opens the gates for Ozzy on Scream are his hip-shaking shreds on the title track, the aquatic opening and back fills on “Crucify” and the feelgood acoustic shakes driving the verses of “Life Won’t Wait.” The latter song tries to merge Ozzy’s mid-eighties groove with sugary pop swoons. Apropos for Mr. Big, but a tad dicey for Ozzy Osbourne, fond of the ballad trip he may be.
If Scream has an inherent fault, it’s a deliberation to be glossy, slick and frankly, too palatable. A yummy Ozzy? Wowzers. The former Prince of Darkness is now the Prince of Shtick, given the sludge-o-matic burp and grind of “Soul Sucker,” which cries skip. “Time” may or may not be Ozzy’s John Lennon moment, but it careens instead of sways, despite the capable furrowing and soloing of Gus G. It’s a ballad which unintentionally becomes farce with Ozzy’s hyperextension and the background “whoo-ooh-oohs,” over-the-top doo wop for a jaded old guard still waiting for another No Rest for the Wicked. Cheers to the Ozzman for thinking outside the box, but ouch.
Scream’s coolest song arrives later in the album almost apologetically for all the soft soaping beforehand. “I Want it More” rocks like hell on the chugging verses (they sound reminiscent of “Thank God for the Bomb” from The Ultimate Sin), even if the off-setting Kiss-like choruses nearly derail the song. “Fearless” would be Scream’s calling card for its step-heavy rock jive and terrific bridge straight out of the glory years, but the slowed-down meathead call-to-arms choruses converts “Fearless” into a plying jock jam. Like the opening song “Let it Die,” you just know the NFL will gobble it up for dramatic commercial breaks, third and long.
“Latimer’s Dream” has a lot planted into it for a cut derived from a few crunch chords, yet the slinky dirtiness backfires behind Ozzy, who brings good game to an experimental crunch and swirl in need of spiffing up.
Another of Scream’s strengths comes on the surefire drumming of former Rob Zombie slammer Tommy Clufetos. While Clufetos was relegated largely to a primary beat pattern in his previous stable, the refurbished Ozzy Osbourne band lets Tommy open up and he has a field day. Rolls, fills, double hammers, polyrhythm, you go, brother. While we're talking Camp Zombie, bass associate Rob "Blasko" Nicholson also hooks up with the Ozz Posse.
If anything, Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne are two of the best in assembling a dream lineup. It’s why you care about Scream, plus riding the hope Ozzy has another Blizzard or Diary left in him, if not an uncovered Ultimate Sin sister slab. Scream will be a fun summer slam for the new generation raised on the Bozo version of Ozzy Osbourne. Those raised on the ostensible demigod of metal Ozzy Osbourne are likely to sigh at the newest caricature while taking comfort there’s at least a rebuilding process at work.
Saturday, August 07, 2010
Book Review: Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It) by Amy Sciarretto and Rick Florino
Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It) by Amy Sciarretto and Rick Florino
2010 McCarren Publishing
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Though I've been an official music journalist since 2003, I actually had a short go as an industry writer from late 1989 to 1990 when I was the assistant editor of my campus newspaper. I was given authority to maintain my own entertainment section, specifically a column I called "Musically Speaking." Being an unbendable metal and punk aficianado at the time, I wrote strictly about those genres and as might be expected, my initial audience was grossly limited. I'll never forget the student who came up to me (I was still wearing my denim jacket with buttons pinned down each side from top-to-bottom, which today I jokingly refer to as "The Armor") and asked me "Dude, who the hell's the Bad Brains?"
I spent more time than I should've explaining to a half-preppie half-surfer bum wannabe that the Bad Brains were (and still are) one of the most important rock bands of our time. Categorical punk, embraced by headbangers, yet the effect of the Bad Brains' angry sound in the name of love remains one of the most shattering cadences in music history. From there, I grew more and more passionate about the music I loved. I spotlighted metal and punk bands in word, forgetting in my zeal nobody save a handful of kids was reading what I spent much time typing on a manual typewriter then helping to lay out come press time. It wasn't until the staff adviser of the paper threatened my column with a killswitch if I didn't expand my musical horizons. Best lesson I was ever taught in life. I immediately invited a friend to write up Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians, then I myself fielded The Bangles, Depeche Mode and The Cure in addition to metal and punk. Ye-bang, instant readership.
I eventually found demo leads through word-of-mouth (remember, internet wasn't a part of everyday lexicon back then) and I briefly became entrenched into "the scene." Caroline Records sent me a glossy photo and stickers of the Bad Brains for my positive write-up of Quickness. Mechanic Records sent my first authentic care package of goodies on behalf of Voivod after I glowed all over Nothingface and then declared them in print as the band of the future after seeing them live with a yet-to-break Soundgarden and Faith No More as openers. Yes, it was as much an event as it reads.
From there, a particular band who came and went, Defcon, became my distant buddies from Chicago. They sent me all three of their cassette demos and I wrote them up. Their management invited me to come out to the Windy City and watch the band record their debut album once they'd been signed. Ditto for a couple east coast bands and a then-unknown hardcore juggernaut called Biohazard. Can you imagine being fresh into the adult world and discovering a new band that would soon break big? Yes, you read about Biohazard first in "Musically Speaking" and eighties fanzines around the world. You can imagine what a geeked-out feeling I had at age 19, recognized on a small scale by the recording industry.
So the question is, why didn't I capitalize back then?
Because I didn't have a book like Amy Sciarretto and Rick Florino's Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!)
If you work in the industry, Amy and Rick's names damn well ought to be familiar to you. If you don't and you have aspirations to join up with the teeming ranks of music journalists, jocks, press wranglers, band managers and label reps, get to know them right away. While Amy is one of the master emcees at Roadrunner Records, her legacy was built as editor of CMJ and every music-oriented outlet you can drum up. Rick Florino interned with New Line Cinema then opened his own periodical, Ruin, a quality glossy mag read by many metal followers. Rick is now editor of ArtistDirect.com, he is with Relativity Media and Rogue Pictures and penning his novel series Dolor.
These are self-made people, folks, a phrase you hear tagged upon CEOs of mega conglomerates as much as you would the president of a chicken feed company. They didn't wait for handouts from the industry; they went after what they wanted. They started on the bottom of the totem, interned for free, DJ'd, learned in the shadows, slept little and built their contacts to the point each now enjoy successful careers in the entertainment industry.
The cheeky title of Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!) has a slight misnomer in leading new readers to believe it's strictly about promoting heavy metal. While Florino and Sciarretto are headbangers at heart, each has worked in other genres on their way up, from pop to electronic. They've smartly diversified, stayed on the pulse and the dividends paid off.
This tutorial can cross over into the rap industry or the rave underground, even a small indie label or guerrilla film team. Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!) is a blueprint for successfully working yourself through the channels of the music industry, yet the lessons conveyed carry forth into any field one may pursue.
Tech is displacing more and more people from the music industry, that's today's reality. It's no news labels, artists, publicists and the press are all feeling the crunch as albums are en route to the time capsule where Alan Freed's culture lies dormant. Today's generation doesn't relate to forking over their teen job pay each week to buy albums in the mall or record stores. Not so easy to explain to them why a cardboard standup of Michael Jackson and subway posters of the Ramones, The Clash, The Smiths and Joy Division were so important to sales as they were to fan (or brand, if you will) identification. When you can pull the same images up within seconds on the web, it doesn't resonate with the lawnmower men of Generation Tech to bounce out to the record store and hunt for music in ritualistic fashion, despite living in a 24-7 keep-going world. Download and assimilate, those are the new tribal rites of music consumption.
This is the core challenge faced by neophytes coming to the recording industry. How can you hype product when the game has become so faceless? Emails and MP3s hardly constitute the hands-on marketing approach which put the "big" in "Big '80s" commerce, and while this writer was trained in marketing principles and has seen nearly every huckstering trick presented by the curriculum, there was a charm about music promotion pre-internet. Seldom few were invited to play along, but there was a mystique about the music business once. Now it's no longer fashionista-worthy. In fact, it has been forced to dumb down and reinvent itself in response to a larger pie eating contest with fewer pies for the contestants.
While the existing base of clientele who actually buy music continues to shrink, what it all boils down to for the new army of face people, tastemakers and buzz strikers is the refreshing tact of back-to-basics work ethics. Imparted true by Sciarretto and Florino in Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!)
In their book, Sciarretto and Florino take their readers to school on the fundamentals in building a career in the music business. The idea today of working for nothing in the hopes of a prosperous lateral transition is lost on the ears of most. Yet Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!) paints its dichotomous picture of nothing-comes-for-free accurately. Its advice may not be recession-proof, considering it arrives in the midst of economic purgatory, but do heed what Amy Sciarretto and Rick Florino pass upon their disciples in-arms.
A lot of the recommendations and rule sharing in Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!) are common sense, such as to avoid eavesdropping on department heads if you're an intern looking for a fast track, or to proof your emails and appear literate before clicking the send button. Don't expect to get backstage off the bat or to be rubbing elbows with the Korn guys just because you're passing around interoffice copies of their future sales prospectus. And for God's sake, don't text all your friends what a bigshot you are now that you've crossed the gates--and worse, promise them free tickets to an upcoming Machine Head gig. Rob Zombie's the man everyone in hard rock and horror looks up to these days, but don't expect an immediate shot at an interview just because you chatted up his Halloween II redux on your blog. Like myself, you have to interview no less than 200 or so up-and-comers to gain a publicist's trust with Rob. It's rewarding as hell to get Rob Zombie, Rob Halford, Nicko McBrain, Serj Tankian, Tom Araya and Alice Cooper, take it from me as gospel; but I guarantee you the reason I got them was by putting my recorder in front of every band I could first.
It goes beyond that in this book, though. While Florino and Sciarretto warn against fanboyism, elitism and posturing from the new arrival into the music business, the most urgent message is you will pay your dues coming up and it's best to accept that before shooting yourself in the foot. They suggest networking for all your worth, but know when not to inflate your value past its natural maturation process. Fish are smelled out from the bay to prison to the rock industry. Hyperextend yourself in shameful manner, you'll be cast back into a pond of indifference.
Practical business sense is a recurrent theme in Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make It In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!) but it's also a self-empowering manual of sorts. Florino and Sciarretto take their readers from the ground-up and give a pragmatic template for getting in, getting noticed and getting hip. Anyone who wants a piece of the action is told to be malleable, affirmative, upbeat, willing to learn and try every facet of the industry thrown in his or her direction. Diversification, friendliness, a courteous candor and the capacity to change hats at any odd hour of the day encompasses the prolific music industry hand, from writer to executive.
While the authors share their war stories from every angle they've experienced in the business, they also bring in a handful of guests to comment in the book's appendix "A Little Help From Our Friends." Here you'll find extensive Q&A sessions with musicians such as Troy Sanders from Mastodon, Wayne Static, Dez Fafara of Devildriver/Coal Chamber, Chino Moreno of the Deftones, Munky from Korn and former G-N-R and Cult drummer Matt Sorum about their thoughts on the industry as it stands now. Also brought to the party are label execs and publicists such as Mitch Schneider, Kristine Ashton-Magnuson, James Patrick, Ashley White, Paul Gargano and Mike Gitter.
Each has varied thoughts on music life in the digital age, most sharing the common thread that the industry is being forced by a cyber hammer into modification. Those who are willing to adapt and bust their tails forevermore in servitude of music will remain fortified upon the mountain. There may be an upgrade to the sound system, but there's still no substitute for a necessary refinement of the core characteristics to survive in a business growing thinner in opportunity and more ruthless accordingly.
I've enjoyed a reasonably healthy career as a writer in the music industry. No doubt, though, I would've been better served in life had Do the Devil's Work For Him: How to Make it In the Music Industry (and Stay In It!) been written and placed into my hands in 1989. For one thing, I would've found the money to get to Chicago and watch Defcon record. Sure, they're gone now like Rocket from the Crypt of this time and the old street crooners of Philly, Baltimore and Boston of the fifties. Still, the know-how employed in Sciarretto and Florino's book is life-changing, and I personally would've been motivated to alter my life in Chicago by asking to be taught the recording process while sitting in as a guest. It's a passed opportunity I flog myself for. If only I'd spent less money on albums and dating girls I might've been able to go. Of course, each gives me a passion to live and I've been well-served twofold.
I listened to the reason of parents and gained a business and marketing degree I could've used in Chicago or anywhere else with a pulse I've felt drawn to. I can't say it enough how this book would've put me precisely where I daydreamed I'd be while lulling about in my bedroom with Anvil and Savatage albums grinding into the night. As I write this, I'm spinning the new Accept album Blood of the Nations, and while there's no Udo Dirkschneider, the album does rock with a cock. I'm reminded why Accept's Metal Heart along with many other albums of the day made me want to get into the industry to begin with. "Musically Speaking" was a short-lived endeavor which might've been the catalyst to something bigger had I been inspired by Amy Sciarretto and Rick Florino's bible at that critical junction. Instead, I settled for the fan's role behind Nine Inch Nails, Jane's Addiction, New Order, Peter Murphy and Lush, letting another music movement go by without properly diving headfirst with the same investigative manner I do now. Heavy sigh.
If you have the guts to try your luck with the music racket, start here. Seriously. There's plenty of time to read The Dirt on the pot while working your way up the tier.
Sunday, August 01, 2010
The Acacia Strain - Wormwood
2010 Prosthetic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Today's threads of death, crunk and metalcore have become as close to a commodity in the metal scene as hairball heaven and crossover thrash was during the eighties. Attracting even more clones and wannabes to an updated world embracing them with open ISB ports if not hearts, it's getting damned strenuous trying to find the real players resonating under the extreme music radar outside of the usual suspects like Opeth, Machine Head, Lamb of God, Nile, Behemoth and The Black Dahlia Murder.
"Deathcore" has always been tagged upon the backs of Chicopee's The Acacia Strain. Sufficient enough to describe the bloodletting crunch of their previous albums 3750, The Dead Walk and Continent. Despite the trendy labelspeak, there's something The Acacia Strain possesses which whirls them away from the league of posers and imposters ripping out down-tuned chaos with one eye straying towards a Hot Topic target crowd.
For one thing, actual cadence and feeling. The vibe of The Acacia Strain is brutish and unforgiving, and that's exactly what you want in a modern metal band looking to push the boundaries of the genre. Brackish bass lines, outlandish, nasty wolfing and trip hammers galore are found in The Acacia Strain's construct. On their lastest album Wormwood, all three play prominence at a pinpointed, murky pace. All the better to set off ripping guitar buzzes at will engineering a menacing yet peversely entertaining trip.
Despite the steady mosh rhythms of "Ramirez" and "The Hills Have Eyes," Wormwood chomps and chomps with sluggish drag tempos on "Terminated," "Beast," "BTM FDR," (standing for "bottom feeder") "Jonestown" and "The Impaler." The pace is purposefully scaled back from The Acacia's Strain's previous work with a forced concretation on chunkier riffs, plunging note scrapes and rat-a-tat sublets expounded beneath the horrific crawl Wormwood slithers upon.
The album's gory bogginess is The Acacia Strain's fiercest output yet, straight down to the piercing fret screeches by Daniel "DL" Laskiewicz on "The Impaler" to Kevin Boutot's smashed-up polyrhythm on "Bay of Pigs." While the knuckle-scraped non-speed of Wormwood will possibly wear on the impatient, the blaring tones and professional scorching are the reasons to bear it out. Better yet, to succumb to its hopeless dirge.
"The Carpathian" does step up to mid tempo, and do expect random bpm spikes along the course of the album. However, the slow grind of Wormwood's ultimate design is to capture the nihilistic atrocities of mankind depecited in both the fictional and real-life theaters. It hits from "Jonestown," "Unabomber," "Ramirez" (as in serial killer Richard Ramirez), "Tactical Nuke" and "Bay of Pigs" to horror yarn roasts ala "The Hills Have Eyes," "The Impaler" and "The Carpathian." For fun, The Acacia Strain also pokes at It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia with "Nightman."
Fitting that "Tactical Nuke" is the lumbering instrumental drone finale that it is. It's like the fateful drop of genocide prolonged from the vantage of the gods who'd soon abandon the mortal race in a fallout of shame instead of helping to save it. By the time "Tactical Nuke" ends, your ears have been fully gouged, awaiting the death siren to announce our collective doom. Wormwood is that ugly and fearsome, you feel prepped for annihilation by the time it's finished. Also fitting the title Wormwood refers to the star in the Book of Revelations prophecied to poison a third of the earth's waters, snuffing those who would drink from them. Prelude to the global holocaust Wormwood the album rings and clatters in full warning.
Lending Vincent Bennett a few barked-up licks are Jamey Jasta on "Beast," Bruce LePage of 100 Demons on "Nightman" and Kyle Chard of Born Low on "Jonestown," although take the caveat Chard's vocal tracks only come on the iTunes and vinyl versions of Wormwood, not the CD albums. Sorry, but that's shady business at work. Isn't the CD having enough trouble these days without a flagrant cripple stroke?
That minor itch aside, legendary producer Zeuss helps turn Wormwood into one vicious son of a bitch that will scrape you up worse than falling face-first from a skate crash.