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

Thursday, December 30, 2010

CD Review: The Ocean - Anthropocentric

The Ocean - Anthropocentric
2010 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Do you know what The Ocean's greatest talent is? It's the fact they're on their sixth official album (including their double platter, Precambrian) and even at this point, it's damned near futile to come up with a concrete answer to the question, "How would you describe this band?"

If you've been following Robin Staps and his teeming ensemble of interchangeable musicians (all-told nearly 40) comprising The Ocean Collective (the group's original name), the phrases "math metal," "expressionistic doom" and "post metal" always come up.

Yes, The Ocean admits their affinity for Neurosis and they still harbor a brackish doom inlet to much of their ebb-crashing compositions. What's separated The Ocean from most of their peers and brought upon them a beacon light of interest is their willingness to texture and their wherewithal to sculpt both carefully and recklessly with progressive--sometimes soft--measures. Jazz tones, chamber sweeps and other modes of non-metal have lavished The Ocean's work into 2010. Well-evident all over their adventurous Heliocentric album released earlier this year.

The initial announcement of The Ocean unleashing two individual projects in the same year hinted at a bonding theme between Heliocentric and their latest offering Anthropocentric. That lock has to do with a musical exploration of Christianity from two dichotomous viewpoints. Heliocentric lyrically posited the inevitable twisting and molding of conventional Christian belief in light of the advent of both Darwinism and the topical view that the sun was the center of spirituality.

Meanwhile, Anthropocentric takes both an earthbound and astral stance in communing terra firma with the universe as a conjoined hub from which Creationism can be validated. While The Ocean takes little stance of its own on both of these albums, they have have written a pair of intellectually-stimulating records which are varied in audile tone.

Heliocentric is perhaps the more daring album from a songwriting perspective since The Ocean incorporates far more diverse tactics ranging from fusion to jagged rock amidst its loud complexities. By contrast, Anthropocentric rattles the bars and amps things back up to the decibel output of Fluxion and Aeolian, though with random interludes of quietude. They come courtesy of the whispery instrumental "Willie Zum Antergang" and the electro hallucinations and fugue-oriented violin slashes agitating "The Grand Inquisitor III: Tiny Grain of Faith."

Mostly, Anthropocentric is fierce, brutal and sometimes ugly, though always engaging. Instead of dangling a few fish hooks to drag in their listeners and spill religious rhetoric into their ears, The Ocean pummels its audience into submission with the title track, "She Was the Universe" and "The Grand Inquisitor II: Roots & Locusts." The latter tune is especially detailed and organic despite its initial velocity and terrifying hostility. "Roots & Locusts" turns a dime on itself as Loic Rossetti (who was masterful all over Heliocentric) about-faces from growl motifs to a soul cage of effervesence in response to the track's lofty choruses. It's an airbourne swirl guaranteed to steal one's breath away in the face of deliberate aggression on the remaining parts.

The prog-heavy "Heaven TB" likewise goes for the jugular with rampaging speed and far-from-timid signature rolls; its bravado is administered by its crafty jet-skid-rat-a-tat rhythm punches. Keep on your toes for delicately-planted harmonies amongst the sleek tempos which range from mosh to march to grind.

"Heaven TB" is just about too much to consume in one sitting, as is the entire album. If the verbiage of Anthropocentric isn't enough to digest alone, the combined bludgeoning and caressing on this album will require a break then a return. Heliocentric is compelling upon immediate contact, while its companion requires a deeper study, and an ear that digs and revels in exploration. Heliocentric is largely well-refined ear candy for the metal hip, while Anthropocentric is the voluminous stepsister demanding more attention and interaction from its consumer. Even when throwing in a palatable ballad "The Almightiness Contradiction" at the end to settle the nerves of such note-heaping onslaughts, The Ocean stamps their sugary finale with a resolute question mark for their listeners. No easy way out with this band.

Is there something beyond the world we know, The Ocean asks? The answer depends on your viewpoint, but assuredly, The Ocean has created a rousing and often ear-crushing sense of metallic transcendentalism to help you on your journey towards the truth, whatever that may be... Without question, this is one of the most ingenious and artistic metal units on the scene today.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 12/29/10

Howdy, neighbors, and a Happy New Year 'round the world!

As we drift out of 2010, I have to say I'm optimistic about the next year coming, which offers new opportunities and room for more growth. Before the holidays officially started, I enjoyed a gnarly chat with Matt Sorum of Velvet Revolver, which you can read in the second issue of Retaliate, coming sometime in early 2011. Not a bad way to wrap one year and get into the groove for the next one.

I've been obsessed with Daft Punk's terrific score for Tron: Legacy. The film was mostly a dandy feast for the eyes minus a bit of extra Zen we didn't really need, yet the movie recaptured the magical essence of the original Tron and Daft Punk's intense symphonic-electronic soundtrack is even more breathtaking in isolation from the film. This is one hell of a transition the French electro duo has made and I'm still in awe of their composing skills, which rings like a bit of Hans Zimmer meets Blade Runner meets a Paul Verhoeven action yarn, all dashed with electronic sprinklings and on a few tracks, hard techno and trance. Astounding work.

So let's move forward into 2011 with the past year at our backs and give thanks to the heavy metal industry for a loud 'n proud 2010. There wasn't a whole lot of suck to complain about and while mediocrity flourishes no matter how successful or not a genre is, who can complain about 2010 for metal? A few breakouts zipped up Billboard, while a lot of metal bands have crashed the charts in a way the music industry overall can't help but notice. They'd be purposefully blind if they missed the impact of metal upon their quarterly sales figures. Maybe metal still can't compete with Eminem or Rhianna, but we're stuck in a neo-disco age and metal is still there, capturing ears and hearts around the globe.

I won't be so corny as to say metal will never die because I'm a businessman by training and have seen phases, trends and fads galore, but I would readily say heavy metal has had far more staying power than anyone could've imagined.

It's the fans who have created its endurance and approval, and for that, give yourselves and each other a big pat on the back. But dammit, talk to each other out on the street instead of snubbing one another, eh? It's embarassing to see brothers and sisters of the faith look the other way when crossing paths. If you're socially averse, just flick the horns in silence like bikers have their low-dropped easyrider sign to one another on the road. Unity is nurtured and fostered; it's not a given.

Here's hoping the metal community continues to prosper...




Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Jimi Hendrix - Blues
Rolling Stones - Let it Bleed
Rolling Stones - Beggars Banquet
The Ultimate Christmas Album Volume Three
Twisted Sister - You Can't Stop Rock 'n Roll
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Ramones - Brain Drain

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Metal Minute's 2010 Up to the Minute Awards

Welcome once again, faithful lot, to the third annual Up to the Minute Awards! As in years past, this feature is running in conjunction with a number of other metal and rock blogs whom you can find listed at the end of the ceremonies. With that, let's can the pomp and circumstance and get on with it...



Metal Album of the Year:



Enslaved - Axioma Ethica Odini

Other Metal and Heavy Favorites of 2010:



Killing Joke - Absolute Dissent
BXI - s/t EP
Deftones - Diamond Eyes
Rosetta - Determinism of Reality
Ihsahn - After
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Kylesa - Spiral Shadow
Sigh - Scenes From Hell
Fear Factory - Mechanize
Dio - Dio at Donington UK: Live 1983 and 1987
Accept - Blood of the Nations
Slough Feg - Animal Spirit
Danzig - Deth Red Sabaoth
Filter - The Trouble With Angels
Exodus - Exhibit B: The Human Condition
Heathen - Evolution By Chaos

Mouth of the Architect - The Violence Beneath EP
The Ocean - Heliocentric / Anthropocentric
Ratt - Infestation
The Absence - Enemy Unbound
Keep of Kalessin - Reptilian
Halford - IV: Made of Metal
Ufomammut - Eve
Finntroll - Nifelvind
Zuul - Out of Time
Jon Oliva's Pain - Festival
Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis
Overkill - Ironbound
Armored Saint - La Raza
Grave - Burial Ground
October File - Our Souls to You
Raven - Walk Through Fire
Dommin - Love is Gone


Favorite Non-Metal Albums:



Devo - Something for Everybody
Jimi Hendrix - Valleys of Neptune
Daft Punk - Tron: Legacy soundtrack
Mini Mansions - s/t
The Memorials - s/t
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Microtia - Spacemaker
Heart - Red Velvet Car
Medicine Lake - s/t EP


Guitar Rock Album That Didn't Wank:



Paul Gilbert - Fuzz Universe


Worth the Return Trip: Reissue Heaven:



Poobah - Let Me In
Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power
Neurosis - Enemy of the Sun
Jimi Hendrix - Blues
Jimi Hendrix - First Rays of the New Rising Sun
Bruce Springsteen - The Promise
Blind Illusion - The Sane Asylum
The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
Earth - A Bureaucratic Desire for Extra Capsular Extraction
Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions


Thanks, But No Thanks:


Ozzy Osbourne - Scream
Beatallica - Masterful Mystery Tour


Would'a Been Great Minus the Trendy Bonus Re-Recordings:


Lillian Axe - Deep Red Shadows


Because There Was No Original AC/DC Album in 2010:


Airbourne - No Guts. No Glory.
Krokus - Hoodoo


Bringin' the Anvil Metal Feelgood Story of 2010:


Accept


The Undying Obsession Spin From Yesteryear:



Beach Boys - Pet Sounds


Favorite Music DVDs:



I Need That Record! The Death (Or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store
Jane's Addiction - Live Voodoo
Rockpalast Hard Rock Legends Vol. 2: Michael Schenker Group
VH1 Classic Albums: Rush - 2112 and Moving Pictures
Frank Zappa - The Torture Never Stops
Heaven and Hell - Neon Nights: Live in Europe
Megadeth - Rust in Peace Live
The Rolling Stones - Ladies and Gentlemen
Electric Light Orchstra - The Early Years
Suicidal Tendencies - Live at the Olympic Auditorium


Most Hardcore Metal Event Of The Year (Forget Terror or Full Blown Chaos):


The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage by Roxana Shirazi


Most Intense Live Performance:


A Storm of Light


Most Un-Metal Moment:


MTV relegating Headbangers Ball to an hour at 3:00 am on Mondays


In Memorium:


Ronnie James Dio


Peter Steele


Creepiest Concept For Film:



Frozen


Most Welcome Franchise Reboot:



Tron: Legacy


Red-Hot Popcorn Film That Didn't Need 3-D To Be A Spectacle:


Inception


Still Sicko After All These Years:


Silent Night, Deadly Night


Best Coffee Ray Tried in 2010 That Kept Him Going:


Mickey's "Really Swell" Coffee


Malcolm McDowell Favors It And So Does Ray:


PG Tips


Best Name For a Microbrew Ale:


Raging Bitch by Flying Dog Brewery


Twilight Zone Award:


The entire 2010 NFL season


Slowly Cleaning Up His Image and Now the Toughest Meathead in Football:


As the majority of the NFL defensive squads have seen fit to mete out their own form of justice, give Big Ben tremendous credit for taking it all like a man and playing solid football on a broken ankle and twice-broken nose. No Brady Rule for this guy...


This May Be a Generation Gap Thing, But Is This Shit Really That Hip?


Jersey Shore. All they need is their own action figures and line of canned tan spray. Ridiculous.


The Fix Is In (Or the Bull-shit! Bull-shit! Award):

Sarah Palin shamelessly using her daughter as a pawn and her political buddies for an unjustified defeat of Brandy. Thank God Jennifer won DWTS.


The Only Reality Show That Matters:


Survivor


Yet Another Reason The United States Is Hated By The Rest Of The World:


Snuggies


Cue Up The Beatles' "Yesterday"


The Double L


Are We Not Men? Nuh-Uh:


Metros and their lame-ass faux hawks


And You Think Your Job Sucks:


President Obama


Because He Can, Obviously:


The Hef Gets Engaged


Returning Champ as Still the Hottest Celeb in Hollywood:


Jane Seymour. Rowrrrrr...



Please also visit these fine bloggers for their year-end lists and specials:


All Metal Resource — http://allmetalresource.com/


Bring Back Glam — http://bringbackglam.squarespace.com/


Hair Metal Mansion — http://hairbangersradio.ning.com/


Hard Rock Hideout — http://hardrockhideout.com/


Heavy Metal Addiction — http://heavymetaladdiction.com


Heavy Metal Time Machine — http://metalmark.blogspot.com/


Imagine Echoes — http://www.imagineechoes.com/


Metal Excess — http://metalexcess.com/


Metal Odyssey — http://metalodyssey.wordpress.com/


The Ripple Effect — http://www.ripplemusic.blogspot.com/


Hard Rock Nights — http://hardrocknights.wordpress.com/


Layla’s Classic Rock — http://laylasclassicrock.blogspot.com/

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lost Retaliate Review: Heart - Red Velvet Car

Heart
Red Velvet Car
2010 Legacy Recordings



After proverbially telling John McCain and the G.O.P. “don’t tread on me” for playing “Barracuda” without consent at the 2008 Republican National Convention, the Wilson sisters return to the studio to enjoy one another’s company in their less-hassled recording sanctum. With no statute of limitations hanging atop them to rewrite Dreamboat Annie or to dense things down with the embossed whump marking their romance rock of the eighties, Heart opens up their sound space and colors against the numbers on their 13th album, Red Velvet Car.

Perhaps only ZZ Top bested Heart hit-for-hit in the glitzy transition from seventies rowdy to eighties veneered. While Heart, along with Starship, Kiss and Genesis fundamentally modified themselves from their glam-slammed wardrobe down to their mainstream-thinned songwriting, it’s Heart who came out of the eighties with their reputations unscathed. “Never,” “These Dreams” and “What About Love?” still hold a magnetic rein over listeners’ ears today. More than you can say for Genesis’ anti-prog lollygagger “I Can’t Dance” or Starship’s barf-o-matic cash cow “We Built this City.”

Still, if the throwback Heart logo crowning the cover of Red Velvet Car (and their 2004 album Jupiters Darling preceding) isn’t an indication the Wilsons are through writing formulaic power ballads, get a listen to the about-faced rock, folk, country ‘n blues material swirling about here. Throwing all sense of Big Eighties production out the door, Red Velvet Car is a swampy and lofty musician’s album, much as it is a music lover’s album.

This is Heart more in tune with Led Zeppelin ala “Queen City” as well as getting dirty on their shucked rockout session, “WTF.” Heart in 2010 is more like the Heart of Dog & Butterfly and Bebe le Strange on the affectionate “Hey You,” which deals out a yummy country-splashed intro featuring Nancy Wilson on lead vocals. It then ropes in just enough folk rock layering and happy-go-lucky “na-na-na-nas” to conjure up memories of polyester snug around your tickly spots.

Red Velvet Car would come off as a ladle dip into a punchbowl of analog afternoon delights if not for the beat machine behind the opening cut “There You Go” and the subversive electro brushes providing extra bass on the amped-up “Wheels.” The action-packed “Wheels” is a song Heart tinkered around with for the film Midnight Run. It came to Red Velvet Car instead and it contrasts “Safronia’s Mark” and “Death Valley,” the former song riding on the crest of spilled jambalaya, the latter yielding a touch of post-country Eagles.

Heart is less concerned with the big hit and more concerned with creating a dynamic rock experience which Red Velvet Car cozily offers, whether you’re talking the bluesy title track, the organic Beatles splash raining upon “Sunflower” or the whispery fade away song, “Sand.” The swishy “Sunflower” is Nancy’s charming ode to her sister while “Sand” is Ann’s bittersweet farewell to lost friends originally written for the Wilsons’ offshoot nineties project, The Lovemongers.

No loud ‘n proud electric anthems for the G.O.P. to hitch upon and no titanic makeout jams to be found here. Little Queen is yesterday and so is Bad Animals. As the Wilsons are more in tune with their younger selves as of Jupiters Darling and now Red Velvet Car, this Heart is now about the ride, forego any commercial stakes. Ann Wilson is still a voice to be contended with (she punctures your defenses on “Red Velvet Car” and “Sand”) and Nancy can still jerk, strum and twang with anyone out there. Together, their songwriting hasn’t been this pinpointed and progressive since before the self-titled Heart. For the second album in a row, Ann and Nancy Wilson prove they have plenty of their namesake throbbing inside to carry them another decade if not more.

Retaliate Rating: 8

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas With Gwar

Have a Merry, Gory Christmas, y'all...


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Lost Retaliate Review: Devo - Something for Everybody

Devo
Something for Everybody
2010 Warner Brothers Records



The Atari generation has grown up and turned Republican with Blueteeth, iPods and Blackberries wielding from their extremities in a subversive ploy to stay red-hip. As Mark Mothersbaugh and company predicted as far back as 1978, postmodern America has continued to de-volve instead of advance, despite the wondrous gig-world uncorked from the minds of those who were likely bopping to “Whip It” harder than most back the day. People have learned to use their freedom of choice but they now hide anonymously under a veil of lethargy marked by convenience. Sorry, but the warnings were issued beyond the gates of steel from flowerpot-crowned snarkies of the Tron age.

Unfortunately, after 1981’s New Traditionalists, Devo didn’t give anyone much blip-blopped radicalism to chew on. Too bad, considering Devo almost singlehandedly (with Kraftwerk and The Cars) spawned the electro rock revolution years after Duty Now for the Future, Freedom of Choice and New Traditionalists opened the motherboard for future musical growth.

It’s 2010 and the spudboys are back in the digital saddle with the Mothersbaughs and Casales assisted by new drummer Josh Freese. At this point, a figurative question mark lurks overtop Devo’s latest project Something for Everybody. It’s partially because of the group’s inability to evolve in their own right following Oh No! It’s Devo and partially because one had to wonder if Mark Mothersbaugh could step out of the synth sugarcane yummying up his compositions for Rugrats, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse and the H.R. Puffinstuff yank for today’s kiddos, Yo Gabba Gabba. Could he punk it up again after scoring ditties about wet diapers?

The question mark turns into an improbable exclamation point because Devo is back. Despite issuing a handful of sporadic albums over the years, Something for Everybody is the resolute successor to New Traditionalists and it makes up a hefty chunk of lost time—30 years worth. It serves as reminder why there’s such thing as Lords of Acid, Gorillaz, Mindless Self-Indulgence and to some latitudes, Skinny Puppy.

Yet there’s no sweltering darkness to Devo’s brave return despite some lyrical fang in the form of “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man),” “No Place Like Home,” “Please Baby Please” and “Later is Now.” On the contrary, Something for Everybody is a Gen-X homecoming party from a group once ridiculed as nerd chic and later praised as bald-faced rejecters of convention. Is there a better cover tune in this land than Devo’s disassembly of the Stones’ “Satisfaction?”

Granted, this album is more likely to appeal to those who fiddled with Rubik’s Cubes after school and remember Devo appearing in cameo on the short-lived eighties sitcom starring a young Sarah Jessica-Parker, Square Pegs. The hilarious and right-on poke at relationships “Mind Games” from Something for Everybody could have been that series’ opening theme if it had lasted more than half a season.

“Fresh” kicks this album off with a delightful bobbing verve and it’s a declarative vote of self-confidence that Devo can reboot with instant identification. Even happier Mark Mothersbaugh can work the vocal magic he had in Devo’s earlier years, because Something for Everybody feels authentic because of it. Ditto for Jerry Casale when lending his response orations and the two Bobs with their singular, pinpointed guitar strikes and pong-struck synth paddles; catch that gnarly solo on “Human Rocket,” willya?

Don’t be surprised if “What We Do” becomes the creeper hit of the rave underground, Devo is this on. It’s hard not to laugh with joy when Mark Mothersbaugh yelps “Yyyyyowwwww!” and scats about bumps, grinds, gas and, um, cheeseburgers. The lucky ones are going to be the first to go, Mothersbaugh jibes. Bring it on then walk like a perp and be Mark’s perpetrator.

“Sumthin’” usurps the hi-hat crash drive of “Whip It” while “March On” starts off like a distant cousin of “Snowball” from Freedom of Choice then works into a bizarre electronic two-step merge of emo rock and freaking Abba. Fret not; it’s cooler than it sounds. “Step Up” thumps with a dancy robotic resonance sounding well at home in 2010 as 1981, while the machina ersatz aiding the spacedusted metrosexual roast “Cameo” (shaved dick and all, holy anti-Gabba!) is both ridiculous and catchier than an all-star centerfielder.

Whatever you do, don’t discount this record’s potential to hook you. Something for Everybody is no joke and it is crazy-infectious. It’s nostalgic beyond Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and it serves up a reckoning. Something for Everybody is for the fans waiting decades for this spark of tubular fun and it carries its dweebish badge with the pride of Robert Carradine leading a panty raid. You know that’s pep.

Retaliate Rating: 9

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 12/22/10



Happy Holidays, everybody! Hope everyone's surviving the ant farm squish-alongs in the stores and not yet ready to vomit with the umpteenth playing of Vanessa Williams' "What Child Is This?" Believe it or not, I once had a buddy who leaked flatulence into his own mix of the track. Riot, I assure you. Hey, God has a sense of humor, right? Why else would the Backstreet Boys ever have come into existence?

As we wrap up 2010, The Metal Minute will finish the year with a couple of extra reviews including two omitted from the first issue of Retaliate. As I was absent for a couple months this year, I can't rightly come up with justifiable 25 Immaculate Receptions list since that would be unfair to those releasing material in that timeframe. I know, play the canned audience-spewed "Awwwwwww...."

However, there will be the third annual Up to the Minute Awards, which comes in conjunction with a host of other metal and rock bloggers such as Heavy Metal Time Machine, Hard Rock Hideout and many others. I have crowned a winner for Best Metal Album of 2010, so do stay tuned, won'tcha?

For now, rock out with your Santa sock out and have a great holiday, everybody. Peace...



Reverend Horton Heat - We Three Kings
Elvis Presley - It's Christmas Time
Brian Setzer Orchestra - Boogie Woogie Christmas
Halford - Winter Songs
Curtis Mayfield - The Best of Curtis Mayfield
Larry Williams - Bad Boy
Mars Volta - Octahedron
Blue Oyster Cult - Tyranny and Mutation
Gorillaz - Plastic Beach
Twisted Sister - Club Daze Vol. 1: The Studio Sessions
Kiss - Creatures of the Night
Japanische Kampfhorspiele - Hardcore Aus Der Ersten Welt
Velvet Revolver - Contraband
Rob Zombie - Icon 2

Monday, December 20, 2010

CD Review: Rob Zombie - Icon 2

Rob Zombie - Icon 2
2010 Universal Music/Geffen Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.




First, let me get the praise out of the way. For everything I've heard in my professional circles about Rob Zombie--both good and bad--I will always respect the guy for numerous things. One, Rob and White Zombie were exactly what the doctor ordered in the early nineties when heavy metal had gone pop and the phrase "douche crew" could be slung at many bands from the upper tiers on down. Right as grunge was about to stage a hostile takeover of the American music scene, White Zombie's La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. 1 had, along with Pantera, Living Colour and Alice in Chains, turned the hard rock scene on its ear. White Zombie was precisely the rump-shaking bit o' fang we needed in 1992 when corporate sales turned the decibels into dollars. "Thunder Kiss '65" has been well overplayed since it struck, but you know, it still carries a groove and it's still a dirt rock classic.

Next, you're seldom wont to find a guy with more malleability than Rob Zombie. If he's not in the studio, he's on tour. If he's not on tour, he's in the director's chair working on a horror film. If not there, he's doing voiceovers for animation or appearing on t.v. as host to hour-long documentaries. In our time, Rob Zombie has managed to become the Stephen King, Alice Cooper and Hershell Gordon Lewis wrapped into one biker-shredded facade. Granted, nothing Rob Zombie has recorded will ever be "Cold Ethel" and almost nobody can outwrite King, no disrespect to the likes of Clive Barker. Yet, for all the many quirks about his films, Rob Zombie has a flair and pastiche to his celluloid work that at least makes you pay attention and wonder what's he intends to submit you to. His Halloween films are both travesty and bravado, but damn, despite their huge flaws, they're compelling at their core. Nobody can say the guy doesn't have balls. The Devil's Rejects alone is why Rob Zombie keeps getting offers to direct feature films. I, for one, won't ever think of "Freebird" the same way again.

Finally, the man has such a professional candor I can personally testify to in my one interview with Rob. All-business, Mr. Zombie, but he knows his shit and that makes him an intriguing subject matter to converse with. In my interviews with other horror film directors, his name comes up with reverence and appreciation. He may be a commercial sensation, but Rob Zombie is a horror fan, first and foremost.

Everything laid out thus far on paper likely quantifies the word "icon." In many ways, Rob Zombie has justified himself, yet there's something annoying about an album called Icon 2 when one, there are so many others with longer standing who deserve the title more, and well, Rob Zombie appears to be well-entrenched in all of his endeavors that he's hardly going to stop or settle down. Perhaps the best is yet to come from the man, but overextension has been one of Rob Zombie's adversaries and his recent projects suffer as much as they flourish because of his hyperactiveness.

Of course, co-headlining a major tour with a true icon like Alice Cooper does much to raise one's stock, yet really, if we're speaking in terms of music, Rob Zombie needs at least a few more barnstormer platters and films to elevate him to the stature of icon. Rob Halford, icon? Indisputably. Rob Reiner, icon? You betcha. Rob Zombie, icon? Well, he's getting there and if he stays his course, then yeah, he'll likely be fitting of the title.

For Icon 2's purposes, it comes close to the holiday season with an iPod mentality for the hard copy purist. In essence, Icon 2 is The Rob Zombie Party Album because it has hit after hit after hit and just about never comes off the high tip until "The Lords of Salem" and "Let it All Bleed Out," which appear at the midpoint on the second disc of this compendium.

If anything, this singles-oriented two-disc project, is destined for future Halloween sojourns and pumping pumpkin parties. It's full of Rob's most adrenalized cuts, beginning with six tracks from White Zombie (give ya a clue which six, eh?), then it tramps through Rob's solo career, which is all electro rock bump and grind courtesy of "The Great American Nightmare," "Superbeast" and "Dragula." These, like "Meet the Creeper," "Scum of the Earth," "Demonoid Phenomenon" and "Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Groovy)" are straight-up devildog dance numbers and from that standpoint, you can be assured Rob Zombie will be considered an inevitable icon. These tunes, along with "Feel So Numb," "Living Dead Girl" and of course, the White Zombie staples "Black Sunshine," "Thunder Kiss '65" and "More Human Than Human" will rock the iPods and stereos of the next generation or two.

However, Icon 2 does feel like a last-minute packaging with its inclusion of Educated Horses and Hellbilly Deluxe 2 tracks to give it an updated polish, because, yeahhhhhhh (one of Rob's favorite lyrical words), Rob Zombie has dished up the hits assemblage in the past. In fact, in recent memory, Rob's somehow managed to follow up most of his solo albums with an immediate remix, live album or hits package and unfortunately, for all the man's talents, there's a bit of a huckstering feeling at this point. The man knows his capital worth and so do his benefactors. That being said, do consider Rob Zombie is no longer affiliated with the label providing this compilation, even if there was an apparent axe-burying (or proviso) for them to gain access to Rob's new Roadrunner Records material.

Nevertheless, it's the fans who are expected to tolerate and even buy these things until Rob coughs up something new with his name affixed to it. At least Rob hardly makes them wait.

Rating: ****

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mandatory Holiday Vibes

Not feeling it this time of year? I can empathize. The past years have been insane around the holiays with a child coming up and somehow having to get creative in financially surviving Christmas. This year's perhaps the hardest trying to scrape money we don't have, but as they say, the holidays are about having one another instead of material objects. For me, it's also about good Christmas music to kick me out of the doldrums. The FM stations do a good job, but honestly, you get the shits of "Feliz Navidad" at day three, right? So here's Ray's compact guide to some of the best holiday music out there guaranteed to snap the anger spells...



For me, this is the be all, end all of Christmas music...even when I don't want to get into the spirit just yet, one spin of Guaraldi sedates me like no one else can at the holiday season...



Tchaikovsky... 'nuff said...



Christmas rockabilly style...Santa gets mondo horsepower here



Setzer's become the mack of Yuletide Rock 'n Roll albums, and this is where you should start first...



Hard to track down on CD, Elvis can whoop it up and bring you to your knees with his Christmas songs. Fret not, there's a ton of different Elvis Christmas albums, so get some!



It's not Christmas until Nat sings...



Even if there's a controversy about "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" being originally recorded by Savatage and swiped for this album, it's still a good time, particularly if you've seen TSO live...who would've thought metal and Christmas could co-exist back in the day?



Might be the best acapella holiday cheer you can grab...



It's okay, you're not a wuss. This is simply divine...



Dig him or not, this is solid crooner revival holiday mooz...and I dig Harry.



Of course, we have to acknowledge the Chairman...



This one almost makes me wish I was alive in the forties...Bing and The Andrews Sisters, yeah, right on and swing it...



Cheesy, but it goes down like a port with good wine...



Chuck Berry's the true king of rock 'n roll and "Run Rudolph Run" is the greatest Christmas rocker of them all...



"Merry Christmas (I Don't Want to Fight Tonight)..." Seriously, what a gem. Miss you much, Joey...



C'mon, you know you want to laugh...



Resistance is futile, so just laugh...