Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Now at Smashwords, a young boy's coming-of-age moment in light of the John Lennon assassination: "John's Dead," by Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Do you remember where you were the morning of December 9, 1980 when news of the cold-blooded murder of John Lennon brought Beatles fans all over the world to their knees with grief? Ten-year-old Darrin McKenzie wakes up to find his mother sobbing at the kitchen table and the school faculty mourning the death of Lennon. Darrin's young life will take an unexpected turn on this day as another tragedy hits closer to home.
Click here for a digital copy of "John's Dead": John's Dead, by Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Posted by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at 7:44 AM
Monday, March 05, 2012
Photo by Jim Summaria, courtesy of Wikipedia
With another heavy sigh to be cast amongst us survivors, another music legend leaves this plane for the great rock hall perpetua. Ronnie Montrose, a grossly-underrated axe slinger responsible for some of rock music's most gargantuan riffs and slides, has succumbed to his five year battle against prostate cancer.
I suppose my generation and those within us must be feeling shades of our mortality right about now. First Davy Jones, the daydream believin' frontman of The Monkees passed away last week at age 66. Over the weekend, Ronnie Montrose, 64, follows Jones through the final earthbound turnstile, hopefully to take his place next to an always-warm amp where he can plug in and wail away to his soul's content. Though there's virtually nothing in common between Jones and Montrose, that's two heavy blows my generation has to sustain in terms of our identity and to however extent you read it, components of our popular culture. Before Jones and Montrose, we recently lost Whitney Houston and Don Cornelius. For crying out loud, this sucks.
I'm personally not over the loss of Ronnie James Dio. The memory of my interview with Dio still ranks high amongst my professional accomplishments, but more so, my ear canals feel just a shade hollow without Dio's imprint upon them. Fortunately, he left behind a heck of a recorded catalog, as did Ronnie Montrose.
Problem is, Montrose never really achieved the level of recognition he should have. It's almost to the point of crusade where writers and deep rock aficianados have had to take it upon themselves to educate others about Ronnie Montrose's contributions. If we're lucky, folks know Montrose's self-titled band as the launching pad for Sammy Hagar. The Van Halen sect are the ones most in the know about this tidbit and depending on what era of Van Halen they grew up with, the anecdote of Sammy Hagar residing in Montrose is met warmly or with revulsion.
Seriously, though? Hagar and Ronnie Montrose were a lethal combination, especially on the 1973 debut Montrose album, one any rock fan worth his salt ought to own. That's not bravado speaking, it's gospel. "Bad Motor Scoooter," "Rock the Nations," "Space Station #5" and "Rock Candy" are all foundation blocks of hard rock and heavy metal, birthed from a love of Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin, but going one step further. If there's any real connection between Montrose and Van Halen, it's not quite the Hagar bonding agent between them. Montrose was fundamental to the outrageous heaviness of Van Halen in their early years, long before Hagar ever stepped into the latter's realm. Eddie Van Halen owes as much to Ronnie Montrose as he does to Paganini, Bach, Jimmy Page, Link Wray, Ritchie Blackmore and John Lee Hooker. Just as Mick Mars of Motley Crue owes Montrose more than due royalties for liberally borrowing Montrose's grinding outro to "Bad Motor Scootor" as the intro to Motley's "Kickstart My Heart." Tribute may have been Mars' intent, but "Kickstart" became such a massive hit there's an understated angst to be cast against casual rock fans attributing that well-known riff to the wrong originator.
Montrose may not have enjoyed the overt success between his namesake band and nine solo albums, but he was all over the place in the music scene, backing up or laying down contributions to Van Morrison, Edgar Winters, Boz Scaggs, Gary Wright, Kathi McDonald, Kevin Crider, even Herbie Hancock. Let's not overlook his work in the obscure Gamma nor his production achievements with fun in the sun hard rockers Y&T and more extreme metallers Heathen and Wrath. A prime example of Montrose's dexterity, Montrose also produced Mitchell Froom and Jerry Jennings.
Troll through Twitter this very second and you will see an outpouring from seventies and eighties-based rock and metal musicians who are all paying tribute to Montrose and commenting on their time spent around the guy. Cavalier would be the word I'd use to sum up the unified emotions in remembrance by Montrose's past associates. For me, it's just been damned maddening listening to people rave all over Mick Mars for "Kickstart My Heart" ever since the Crue's Dr. Feelgood came out in 1989. Being a rock journalist, you come across like an elitist nobody wants to hear when you set the record straight that orgasmic riff was engineered by Ronnie Montrose first, but it's a statistic worth fighting for, in my opinion. Okay, a number of blues guitarists had a hand in evolving that wailing titania, but Montrose intuitively played it like a growling engine, much like Link Wray figured out that a hard, vibrating twang was the appropriate sound to a street fight in "Rumble."
Even sadder, though, will be the collective question mark dotting people's heads when they see the headline over the web about Ronnie Montrose's passing. That's criminal, but it's also a case of poor marketing and being out of one's place and time. Van Halen made the most of their explosive capabilities and brash stage theatrics and were rewarded for it. Motley were rewarded for the same, plus they gain from the mysticism of how they still manage to walk the earth given the debauchery they've set precedence for. Ronnie Montrose, a mean mutha wielding a savvy collection of distorted cacophony he stitched together to create rock 'n roll heaven. If justice hasn't been served in this world for Ronnie, may the Lord welcome him home with proper fanfare. God is a bigger headbanger than Satan, I guarantee you that.
Posted by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at 8:55 AM
Friday, March 02, 2012
Earth - Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light 2
Southern Lord Records
Release Date: Out Now
The Deacon of Drone, Dylan Carlson, returns with the sleepwalking finale to his Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light couplet. This remarkably spooky and soothing installment is abetted by a screeching, wallowy cello courtesy of Lori Goldston. Peaceful in the opening number, "Sigil of Brass," expect Carlson, along with Goldston, Karl Blau and the mistress of skin shambling, Adrienne Davies to take you on another creep-along through a dark and dusty desert trail where even Duane Eddy might fear to tread. When it comes comes to this vibrating, somnambulist vibe, nobody can touch Dylan Carlson and Earth.
King Giant - Dismal Hollow
Path Less Traveled
Release Date: Out Now
Just when you think the entire sludge-doom sect has said all it has to say, up steps King Giant with a demonstrative command of the style, sounding like complete masters within only two albums. Myths and passed-about terror tales within the Appalachian Mountains are the reported inspiration behind Dismal Hollow. While the songs never get beyond mid-tempo, there is still a throbbing punch and a headbanging kick that transcends the implied glut and gloom King Giant overpowers their own amps with. Heavy, heavy, heavy stuff.
Cannibal Corpse - Torture
Metal Blade Records
Release Date: March 13th
As we are in the midst of a subcultural renaissance of zombie worship, it's no surprise Cannibal Corpse are thriving. Moreover, they're growing, at least in their song structure, if not their sicko splattercore lyrics. As indicated on their previous few albums, The Wretched Spawn, Kill and Evisceration Plague, there are only so many grinding triplicate speed zones they can extol in succession without stirring the sinewy stewpot at least a few times. Produced by Hate Eternal's Eric Rutan, Torture is one of Cannibal Corpse's most precise slabs of controlled mayhem in their considerable catalog. Don't let the sophomoric titles "Intestinal Crank," "Followed Home Then Killed" and "Torn Through" deceive you. Cannibal Corpse throws heaps of rock grooves into their blistering thrash on this one, freshening up as much as they slice 'em up. It shouldn't be any surprise Cannibal Corpse sounds so perfectly calibrated, but this band has truly refined their songwriting, even though they were bloody likely watching a marathon of Don't Let Him In, Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer and Chromeskull: Laid to Rest 2 while penning Torture.
Exciter - Death Machine
Release Date: Out Now
Also quite likely watching an equally set of gory films as Cannibal Corpse while working on their 2010 album, Death Machine, are legendary Canadian speed mongers, Exciter. Death Machine, being re-released for a second trip through Masscare Records, will still likely be doomed as far as mass market distribution due to this nervy, disgusto album cover that never would've flown back when they started in the eighties. The good news for their fans, however, is that Exciter is now probably the fastest they've ever been. Death Machine is ruthless, chunky and massive, even though it is all tone-drenched to the point of primitiveness. That seems to be Exciter's objective, though. The songs are beyond immature, the title-repeating choruses are laughable and at times monotonous, but Death Machine is still a riotous, dirty throwback to thrash's (and Exciter's) infancy years when Heavy Metal Maniac ruled the underground. For better or worse, this is how it all sounded when there was such a thing as Cryptic Slaughter, Dream Death, Carnivore and Cyclone alongside Exciter, Exodus and Overkill.
Sigh - In Somniphobia
Release Date: March 20th
Japanese black-death-proggers Sigh continue to astonish on their ninth soon-to-be masterpiece, In Somniphobia. While we wait to find out if Gonin-ish has anything left to offer the metal world following their spectacular Naishikyo-Sekai from 2005, Sigh (along with the mighty Boris) prove once again to be the elite metal lords of Japan. If you thought Sigh's genre-splicing Imaginary Soundscape was mind-melding, prepare yourselves. In Somniphobia summons the synthesizers and glam theatrics spread throughout Imaginary Soundscape's skull-crushing speed, but the velocity and the out-there possibilities are uncapped twofold this time around. You will find yourself dizzy from Sigh's courageous genre clashing of everything from fusion jazz to Gregorian chant to (say what?) dreamy waltzes and tangos. All part of the plan as Sigh whirls their listeners through a hellish audile examination of dementia and terrifying dreamscapes. As I've said in the past, Japan (and all of Asia, for that matter) represents the final frontier of metal excavation.
Posted by Ray Van Horn, Jr. at 7:11 AM