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

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spins of the Minute - 1/30/2012


Hope you all have been enjoying the "Saved by Zero" novel chapters.   I've savored the generous comments from a few readers and I look forward to the future once this project sees the light of day.   I invite your feedback, so please leave your comments here or reach out to me using the contact prompt on the site.

The traffic here at The Metal Minute continues to spike with more than double the daily hits since the turn of the new year and I'm happy to report January, 2013 has been the most successful in the site's history.  I'm invigorated by your support.  Thank you.

While I've wrapped on my month's load for Blabbermouth, expect to see some reviews here at The Metal Minute in the near future along with more installments of "Notes From the Old School" and other flotsam as it trails in.   Be well and keep coming by.




Listening:

Talking Heads - More Songs About Buildings and Food
Talking Heads - Talking Heads:  77
Talking Heads - Remain in Light
Elvis Costello - This Year's Model
Destruction - Spiritual Genocide
Hammerfall - Gates of Dalhalla
Darsombra - Climax Community
Tank - War Nation
Herbie Hancock - Man-Child
Little Feat - Time Loves a Hero
Circle Jerks - Wild In the Streets
Discharge - The Singles Collection
Suzanne Vega - Solitude Standing
Ben Harper - The Will To Live
Fela Kuti - Expensive Shit/He Miss Road


Viewing:

Dr. Phibes Rises Again
Twice Told Tales
The History of Rock 'n Roll


Reading:

Stephen King - The Shining

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spins of the Minute - 1/22/2013



Want a free copy of one the best albums of 2012, Killing Joke's MMXII?  Why would you not?  All you have to do to be in the running is post your playlist right here and right now.  How much simpler can I make it?  I'm not even asking you to solve a three-part trivia question or send in pictures of yourselves stage diving into snow, albeit the latter might be a riot and something to consider as a future feature with the raw grit of winter upon us.

Give me your playlists on this site by Friday and the winner will be announced at the end of the week.  Come on, you know you want this one if you don't already own it. 

With that, I'm moving on to my own current playlist.  Cheers, mad love for all you mofos.



Listening:

Dag Nasty - Minority of One
Uriah Heep - Demons and Wizards
Uriah Heep - The Magician's Birthday
Rammstein - Mein Herz Brennt maxi single
Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose
Sticky Boys - This Is Rock 'n Roll
Pig Destroyer - Book Burner
Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind
Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier
Gov't Mule - High & Mighty
Gov't Mule - Mighty High
Gov't Mule - The Deep End Volume 1
Funeral For a Friend - Conduit
Trouble - The Skull
Trouble - Psalm 9
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peep Show
Dead Boys - Young, Loud and Snotty
Billy Idol - Rebel Yell
Overkill - Taking Over
Megadeth - Peace Sells...But Who's Buying?

Watching:

NFL playoffs
Tank - War Machine Live
Diamonds Are Forever
Godzilla:  Final Wars

Reading:

James Patterson - Merry Christmas, Alex Cross

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Billy Idol's Rebel Yell

 


You're either comfortable in discussing the first time you had sex or you're not.  I'm cool with it.  Chances are you had music spinning once you popped your cherry.  It's no secret sex and rock music are chemically dependent of each other, whether the songwriting passages be blunt or subliminal.  It's only fitting one takes their sexual rite of passage with some bit of music in the background, whether it's by chance or with intended meaning to at least one of the partners engaging in the act.

As you might infer, it was Billy Idol's Rebel Yell that scored my foray into the pleasures of the flesh.  Say what you will about Idol's music as you will.  I prefer the Generation X catalog over Idol's new wave and party rock branches as a solo artist.  The 1982 self-titled album for me has moments of cool and songs that are disposable.  Don't take me there with Whiplash Smile.  Please don't.  Charmed Life, cool for a kickback.  I do have to say Idol and his main man Steve Stevens worked some slick magic on Devil's Playground in 2006.  Yet for me, while it's not perfect, there's no denying Rebel Yell is Idol's definitive body of work.

Does it have to do with the fact I think of the girl I lost "it" to once I hear "Eyes Without a Face" and how I nearly busted a nut before we conjoined with sweaty anticipation during the pumping throb of "Blue Highway?"  You betcha, but these are also quality rock songs, along with the heavy-handed pulse of the title track and the pimp stride of "Daytime Drama."  All of it is surefire foreplay leading to Rebel Yell's sweltering climax, "Flesh For Fantasy."  If you don't interpret Steve Stevens' jagged riffs during the solo section of "Flesh For Fantasy" as blasting ejaculation following the panting, inveigling verses, you don't know much about rock 'n roll.

I'd been fortunate to have an experienced and patient partner who brought me into my own as a man and while I'll leave her identity anonymous, I will make the point she was a major Billy Idol fan.  She could forgive his ridiculously trite cover of Tommy James and The Shondells' "Mony Mony" as could most of my generation.  It was an improbable shit hit I still cower from, albeit if you rolled through the eighties, you look at one another knowingly when that song is on, flashing devilish smirks and hinted echoes of "Hey everybody, get laid, get fucked!"  That was considered way-hip to shout back during the gaps of "Mony Mony's" verses as Idol gimped them. 

My partner was so head over heels for Idol she told me a few times she was going to throw her body at him should she ever meet him.  This was a promise, not a threat, even though I was insecure enough at the time to entertain the thought as potential reality.  After all, I would become a music journalist sitting before many of the bands we all dug in the day.  One-ups on her, I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Stevens around the time Devil's Playground came out.  Stevens was her fallback daydream.  So nyeh to you, my dear.

To be fair, I couldn't have asked for a better partner on my first outing.  I'd laughed when she first asked me to toss on my vinyl copy of Rebel Yell.  Yet once I saw the effect it had on her, how her hips lolled in time to the rhythm to the title cut and how her skirt came sliding off by the eruptive hit of the first chorus, I'd discovered some naughty little secrets about her, and happily, she was willing to share them all with me.  As she began introducing me to foreplay techniques for men and women, I then got why she was a big Idol fan.  Had I been more experienced at the time, I could've seen us going right at it full frontal during "Rebel Yell," as I'm positive more than a handful of folks back in the day did.  It carries the perfect sex hum, much as "Blue Highway" does and (assuming you make it that far in the album), "(Do Not) Stand in the Shadows." 

Most of what happened between us that night I'll leave between us.  I will say I cannot listen to the first half of Rebel Yell without reliving that super-groovy moment and by the time I was built up to a near-climax without having yet crossed the final frontier, I couldn't flip the record over fast enough to get "Flesh For Fantasy" on.   I knew my partner enough at that point to know she'd wanted to save that song for the moment.

Within the first few slinky bars of "Flesh For Fantasy," she coached and coaxed me into her with a soothing voice and boiling reception.  I'd like to say I was a sex god from the get-go, but I'd be a goddamn liar.  In fact, I call out my entire gender of liars who claim they lasted up to ten minutes on their first go-round.  Bullshit.  You can bop your baloney for a week straight before losing your virginity and you're still going to spill within a minute, two at best if you're graced by the invisible touch of Eros.

I didn't quite make it all the way to Stevens' electric splooge and thank God we were both using contraception.  Frankly, I was as frightened as I was elated to be having intercourse and then I was immediately embarassed since I might've reached the minute mark and not much longer.  My partner, kind soul that she was, kissed my nose, then my lips and she hugged me tight.  She congratulated me and told me not to worry, that her previous lover had done exactly the same.  We fell asleep for an hour after the needle lifted off the closing track of Rebel Yell, "The Dead Next Door."  In its own weird way, that track served as a synthesized lullaby.  We woke up naked and with no music on, we tried it again.  I made it a fiver that time and felt like I'd truly graduated.

I only dated this girl for three months but in the time we shared, we humped like mad dogs and I thank her with everything I have deep inside me that she was the inherently sweet girl she was.  We played AC/DC, Scorpions and Kix a lot while we made love, yet  one day we decided we weren't meant for one another since our values and thought processes differed drastically.  We shared a beautiful Christmas together, at least.  We made love for the last time in her bed and with no parents home on New Year's Eve.  We rang it in with you know who.  I'd lasted the entire duration of Rebel Yell since we'd come to know one another so well carnally in so short a time. 

When we broke up, she was already initiating contact with another guy, but she gave me the decency of telling me she wanted loose to pursue him.  We kissed one another goodbye and sure, there was a little bit of tenseness thereafter since we'd haunted many parties together and I'd been on a straight edge kick at the time.  We'd become infamous for socializing long enough for her to down a few shots while I pulled on a soda, then ducking into the first empty bedroom we could find.  I still run into a few of those folks we knew and nobody brings up the past.  There's no need to, albeit it's nutty to think I gave her such a hard time for her partying ways since I've long abandoned straight edge. 

She moved on and so did I.  There was no real animosity between us, only awkwardness.  Since I was waiting tables, I put the gentle moves on nearly every girl that came aboard.  Some were receptive, some were not, but I was always a gentleman about it and those were good times.  Damn good times, as David Lee Roth would say.  I later met my wife in the same restaurant, so there you go.  Funny enough, the first album my future wife and I had sex to was the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik.  No further commentary needed.

When I think about Billy Idol today, 100 punks rule in my mind, even though I'm sadly finding you have to be a diehard punker out there to know the Generation X material.  I think of a hot and wonderful moment in my life that Idol sang over.  Interesting that one of his biggest, most sensuous hits is derived from an old horror flick, but it does remain one of my favorite of Billy Idol's songs for obvious reasons.  Les yeux san visage, Miss T...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Old Relics



Found some old relics from my stamping days in the eighties.  Can't believe I can actually strap 'em on.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Overkill's Taking Over



Like many headbangers from my generation, the ascension of thrash between 1985 and '87 became an all-encompassing thing.  Interestingly enough, it was one of those punker friends (referenced in last week's Black Flag post) I'd made who'd slipped me a taped copy of S.O.D.'s Speak English Or Die.  I was instantly turned into a speed freak, my addiction solidified once my main rolling mate, Metal Mark, handed me Metallica's supreme trifecta of velocity.  Then I came to Megadeth and it was all over.  To this day, I don't think I've played any thrash album with more dedication than Peace Sells...But Who's Buying? and that's speaks miles.

Of all the old school thrash bands, only a few have remained consistent or fairly thus, over the decades, Overkill being one of them.  I'll always consider this band one of the best of the best, despite the roster shakeups.  Read into the reasons as you will, but Overkill has remained pure to their craft and they've only gained momentum, particularly on their blinding fast recent albums Ironbound and The Electric Age.  Overkill is a band I never gave up on throughout the years and in turn, I've had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth a few times, Bobby Gustafson once and I'm proud to consider Rat Skates a personal friend. 

One story I've shared with each of these men from Overkill's original core, and it's nothing all that special, truth be told, happened the summer of '87 when Taking Over hit the masses.  I'd already heard Feel the Fire beforehand and was impressed by Overkill's chunky mix of grind and NWOBHM.  By the time the "In Union We Stand" clip hit Headbanger's Ball, I already knew this was going to be one of my all-time favorite metal bands.  Such a muscular anthem, it fit my weighlifting regimen in high school and became a song I sang to myself while pumping iron amongst my peers.  My lifting partner Jay must've thought my head was in the clouds when I wasn't spotting him, but "In Union We Stand" tallied me higher reps and raised me into a higher weigh class as well.

I pestered the snot out of our local music peddler to order me Taking Over until he called me at home to let me know it was in and I'd "better have the money for this shit," quote verbatim.  Small town economics at its best, it was owned by a biker, Ron Curry, who reaped his till off of me and Metal Mark every Friday when we got our part-time paychecks.  More on that record store in a future post.

I'd brought my Walkman since Ron had scored me a cassette copy of Taking Over.  I walked home from the shopping center to my house on the train tracks as I did nearly every day until I had my own wheels.  I was bowled over by the first two songs and remember howling like a werewolf along the rails.  "Deny the Cross" and "Wrecking Crew," such punishing rhythms, Rat was a freaking monster.  Brutal chugging riffs in front of his double-hammer pounding, Christ, such a heavy tone you can't really get today, not without it being recorded in analog on vintage instruments.  Gustafson's shrieking solos?  Tailor-made for Chaly the skull-bat.  DD Verni's energetic burping bass lines on "Powersurge?"  Only Steve Harris, Dave Ellefson or Cliff Burton could outclass that.  Blitz's razor-sharp pentameter even through caterwauling?  Hard to top, all of it, no matter your skill level.

There may be faster albums in Overkill's repertoire, but for me, "Fatal If Swallowed," "Electro-Violence" and of course, the band's calling card jam "Wrecking Crew" from Taking Over remain some of the most beastly cuts metal has ever been confronted with.  Then there's "Overkill II (The Nightmare Continues)," a closing epic to rival many. 

My story?  Oh yeah.  Well, on the 4th of July that summer when Taking Over did just that to my portable stereo, I'd invited Metal Mark to our family picnic stationed at a highly conservative farm museum that we've attended nearly all of my 42 years in the life.  That summer, you can imagine us longhaired goofs dressed in sweat-inducing jeans, black concert shirts (Megadeth in my case) and skull rings.  I'm sure my family was mortified by us since their Little Ray had morphed into a shaggy headbanging teenager with more than one chip on his shoulder.

I'd brought my boom box with us as Mark and I crashed out on a blanket spinning our metal tapes in combat against the venue's stage acts filled with folk, country and barbershop quartet music.  Frankly, we were assholes and we'd set out to be assholes that day.  At one point we got up and paraded around the farm museum grounds as I carried my box around.  We threw on Taking Over and I will never forget the horrified looks of the grounds staff and other visitors as "Deny the Cross" thundered around us like a shroud of shifting metallic energy, rebuffing anyone who had any thoughts of saying something to us about it.

Now, if you know me, you know I reject Satan as a mere construct mankind has engineered to keep order and to sell heavy metal albums and horror flicks, but I knew damn well I was out of line that day.  Me and God had a little one-on-one about it later that night after the fireworks were done and Mark and I were parched from stupidly wearing our metalhead garb in mid-nineties weather.  We were so devout to our metal scriptures we'd come out of the farm museum smelling like hogs and we'd left our metal thrashing mad imprint upon the farm museum to the point I'm surprised they still let me in today.

The point to this nonsensical story is that raging teenage hormones make you do crazy things.  Overkill, like Testament, Anthrax, Megadeth, Metallica and Metal Church, had the capacity to purge a lot of those ionized balls of angst, but they also empowered us--me, especially.  There's not a year that goes by when I'm at the same picnic on the 4th of July where I don't take a ceremonial walk by myself down the same path and headbang inside my head with echoes of "Deny the Cross" wallowing like a ghost.  I then rejoin my family and surprise, surprise, I act normal amongst them.  I'm a dad now, so I have to set an example.  No worries, though, once the little lad's gotten much bigger, maybe he and I will take that ceremonial walk together as I pass him the torch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

To My Poet Pirates of Yesterday

Some haiku in honor of my open mike comrades, written with some Gov't Mule in the air...


To My Poet Pirates of Yesterday


gnarled amp cords, hissing espresso

rednecks, frat boys and stuck-ups blow raspberries

the artist’s soul weathers on

 

--Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind



I'd been christened into heavy metal courtesy of a cousin I no longer see anymore, which is a shame, since it was he who'd sat me down at a shaky time of my life in late 1982 and exposed me to Iron Maiden's Killers and Number of the Beast then Dio's Holy Diver and Ozzy's Diary of a Madman.  That same day, his brother passed me a spare turntable and an extra copy of AC/DC's Back in Black and thus my indoctrination was complete.  Music held an entirely new meaning for me.

At the same time, MTV was getting its footing and quickly becoming the mass-marketed junk cereal for the eyes of my generation.  Nothing else seemed to matter when MTV launched, which is how I suppose the term "vidiots" came into being.  It was during this crucial period of my lifelong obsession with music where I saw, amongst Greg Kihn Band's "Jeopardy," Rush's "Limelight," Duran Duran's "Hungry Life the Wolf" and Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" the jaw-dropping promotional video for "Flight of Icarus" by Iron Maiden.

At first I didn't recognize them since I'd been in the kitchen trolling for some Dr. Pepper and bacon flavored Cheetos.  Insane as it may sound, I mistook Maiden for, of all groups, Three Dog Night.  My father was a big TDN fan and we'd spent many Saturday nights at his bachelor pad spinning Cyan and Hard Labor, sure as we were sittin' there.  Hey, I was 12 and my ears weren't as keen and tested as they are now.  I remember bolting for the living room the first time I was exposed to "Flight of Icarus" since I thought Three Dog Night had inexplicably amped up to that loud vibe which had thrilled me in my cousin's bedroom only months prior.

I remember dropping my bacon Cheetos bag on the way back when I saw a long-haired young king shrieking his guts out into a dangling microphone inside what I assume now was Compass Point studio in Nassau.  It was the near acapella gang choruses of Iron Maiden chanting "Fly...on your way...like an eagle...fly as high as the sun..." that had fooled me into thinking them to be Three Dog Night.  Obviously that's about all the two bands have in common, but as the "Flight of Icarus" video rolled on and those impressionable orange-hued scenes of an ocean (seemingly wading over Hell instead of the other place) and the mad monk who served all of us astonished kids a freaking brain at the end of the clip...  If you've been around metal long enough, you can understand how much of an impact "Flight of Icarus" left upon me.

I won't get into the neighborhood and the middle school I was a part of during this transitory period of my life.  I was a miserable kid, forced to fight after getting beat up for no reason other than I had no self esteem.  Eventually, "Flight of Icarus," along with Devo's "Whip It" kicked me in the seat of my pants to the point I was able to stand up for myself and the manifest repercussions weren't pretty.  I'm afraid to confront that version of me again, honestly, just as I'm sure those five little pricks who tasted my fists would be as well.  I seldom had any serious trouble amongst my peers thereafter, even when my folks moved us out of that drug zone and into the country.

By the time we moved, I knew all year long what I wanted for Christmas:  Iron Maiden's Piece of Mind album.  My folks are the coolest a kid (and adult man, for that matter) could ever hope to land in this life, but Piece of Mind did not show up under the Christmas tree in '83.  I was raised right, so I didn't pitch a fit since my parents are the generous type anyway.  It so happened they'd stapled a twenty spot to an old Baltimore Colts pennant (yeah, Baltimore Colts, people) with the insinuation I could buy Piece of Mind myself.  They even said they'd drive me to the record store in the mall so I could get it.  Like I said, my parents are the coolest.  They'd ingrained my passion for record shops and I don't think I took pride in buying an album on my own more so than Piece of Mind.

To that point, I'd only seen the videos for "Icarus" and "The Trooper," but I knew I'd be in for something unique.  Just the cover of Iron Eddie shackled in an asylum was enough to bait me if I already hadn't been seduced by the album's two mega singles.  Verily, I sat on my bedroom floor with Piece of Mind disassembled before me, chuckling at the picture of producer Martin Birch and cover artist Derek Riggs encased in armor--obviously too big for the latter.  Being young and daft, I thought it was Bruce Dickinson in Riggs' spot and laughed even harder.  Then there's that ridiculous photo of the band in the castle seated before a platter of cerebellum ala carte.  Adrian Smith and Steve Harris carry those "to hell with that expressions upon their facades while Bruce looks you square in the puss and dares you to comment.  Knights and spectres are omnipresent at Maiden's backs, ready to eviscerate the band if they refuse to chow down on that brain under glass.  Riot.

I can still see myself marveling at the intricacy of "Where Eagles Dare," "Revelations," "Still Life" and of course, the magnificent closing epic, "To Tame a Land," all songs I still look forward to with the same rabid anticipation as when they all greeted me the first time.  I couldn't help but crank "The Trooper" and of course "Flight of Icarus," which was tolerated by my folks for a minute or so before their singular warning knock on the door came.  All part of the game, as we joked amongst ourselves later after I'd grown up and gotten married.

I often wonder how my mom held herself in check hearing the repeated near-mantra of the word "die" spread across "Die With Your Boots On."  When you're young and already addicted to horror films and now suddenly music so freaking heavy it feels like a bestowment of power through the stereo speakers, "Die With Your Boots On" comes off like an ordainment.  Not an ordainment to slaughter your peers, mind you, albeit every teenager known throughout history has that on their immature minds.  Unfortunately, today's youth has been cursed by a score of hedonists who cannot seem to separate fantasy from reality.  No, "Die With Your Boots On," like many metal songs in history, did the slaying for you and you felt instant alleviation, moreover, the riddance of any violent urges.  Whereas I'd found my nerve in middle school in part because of Maiden, they helped cool my jets in the next phase of my teen years.  Thank you for that, lads.

My parents trusted me to process Piece of Mind and all the future heavy metal slabs that came marching through the door from that point forward with intelligence and respect for myself and others.  Did I hate my peers?  Yes, many of them.  It's all so stinking silly to think about now since I've seen many of them at impromptu class reunions in bars or we've befriended one another at Facebook or in the real world.  High school is a proving ground, though I'd been forced into proving myself as far back as fourth grade into sixth, even if I had reprieve in fifth.  Thank God Iron Maiden was there to bolster my anger.  My proverbial flight of Icarus soared instead of crashed.  In the name of God, my father, I flew!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Neil Daniels - Iron Maiden: The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast



You might assume I have Number of the Beast, Iron Maiden, Killers, Piece of Mind, Powerslave, Somewhere in Time or Seventh Son of a Seventh Son humming along while I write this, all iconic slabs of heavy metal, much less the representative best of the beast, depending on how you view them.  Nope, call me a sinner or traitor if you wish, but it's Iron Maiden's The X-Factor that accompanies my spraying fingertips this morning, albeit A Matter of Life and Death and The Final Frontier are on deck, so keep your stones relegated to the ground where they belong.  Like most anyone else, I don't rank The X-Factor towards the upper echelon of Iron Maiden's reknowned catalog, yet it is what I consider the dark horse Maiden album you either keep an open mind about or you don't.  Steve Harris considers it one his band's finest moments and history is finally softening its hardline condemnation of Blaze Bayley, who had the fortune (or misfortune, if you will) of helming that album and its ill-received successor, Virtual XI.  If anything, Bayley is slowly becoming embraced by the metal community for his solo work and his Wolfsbane years, if not for having the sheer balls to stand in there and suffer the wrath, the trash and the spit of Bruce Dickinson loyalists.

I consider The X-Factor an appropriate choice for this review of British author Neil Daniels' latest compendium, Iron Maiden:  The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast.  Why, you might ask?  Because what you're getting here isn't going to wholly satiate you if you're coming to this book looking for a comprehensive biography.  One day we're sure to have the principals themselves issue their memoirs.  You can feel them coming anytime now.  Bruce Dickinson is the likeliest figurehead to pen his story since amongst his other diverse roles, he's a published author (i..e. The Adventures of Lord Iffy Boatrace and The Missionary Position) and we'll all be there to buy it.  Steve Harris could probably offer us the most insight since Maiden is, as everyone knows, his baby.  Personally, I'd love to read Nicko McBrain's reflections since I've interviewed the man and he is total hoot on top of a gentleman.  Cheers, forevermore, mate.

We're here to discuss Neil Daniels, though, and in some ways, Iron Maiden:  The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast might be considered The X-Factor of Maiden books, if not No Prayer For the Dying.  This isn't to be misinterpreted as a rip on Daniels, an accomplished rock and metal journalist and author of numerous books.  The point is that Iron Maiden:  The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast is a pretty sweet package, in particular its 3-D hardcover binding courtesy of longtime Maiden artist Derek Riggs.  You're welcomed by a reverberating profile of Iron Eddie and the band atop his cranium upon the first crack and the inclusion of Riggs off-the-bat will bring an instant homefelt feeling.  The only real caveat to this project, however, is its overall sense of bare bones.  

There are more than 400 images including vintage and seldom-seen live photos plus Maiden memorabilia such as tour posters, promotional cut-outs, seven and twelve inch cover artwork, ticket stubs, t-shirts and press passes designed to generate a front-and-center access to the band for the reader.  Daniels invites a gaggle of esteemed heavy metal authorities such as Martin Popoff, Ian Christe, Mick Wall, Daniel Bukszpan, John Tucker, Garry Bushell and Gavin Bradley to contribute their critiques of Iron Maiden's recorded body.  Daniels includes city-by-city itineraries for every known Maiden tour and their respective set lists.  You can safely bet "Running Free" and "Sanctuary" dominated the curtain calls for many of them.  The latter features are charming and intriguing from a diehard's point-of-view.

Daniels assembles a cut-and-dry retrospective of Iron Maiden's career using an assemblage of external journalistic sources in addition to his straightforward narration.  Appropriately his research is deeper fetched into the formative years of the band, while the remainder of his sojourn down Maiden's sea of madness is more-or-less a primer to the later years.  In-between his documentation is no-holds-barred record analysis from guest scribes and they're sure to piss off the devout at times with their articluate derisions that offset their toasts of Somewhere in Time, Dance of Death and even a few quibbling tolchocks against the mighty Powerslave.  It'll be no surprise how they evaluate No Prayer for the Dying, Fear of the Dark and the short-lived Blaze Bayley era.

Therein, Iron Maiden:  The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast comes off like a well-constructed fan book since the objectivity is countered by opinionted critique you can value for the superb writing or you can ho and hum your way past them while chanting "to each their own" like a mantra. 

Daniels' book does carry a warm vibe to it, as if it should be nestled in your lap with Live After Death, Flight 666 or Visions of the Beast whirling simultaneously on the tube.  Many of the photos Daniels gained permission to release are out of the old Hit Parader, Kerrang and Circus days.  One of the most nostalgic is Richard E. Aaron's amusing shot of Bruce Dickinson pointing a fencing sword towards a markered and taped sign for a demonstration he was giving in California during the World Piece Tour.  Another is one that will make headbangers of old laugh with gleeful remembrance, as in Dickinson and Dave Murray mugging it up at Capitol Records, as if the giant gauntlet of commercialism is plunging in for them.   That gem, also from Richard E. Aaron, subliminally cues to mind the more cryptic artwork for Queen's News of the World.  At least Maiden have remained true to themselves in the major leagues, scoffing at that proverbial gauntlet with smarmy farts cast in its general direction.  Then there's Virginia Turbett's hilarious capture of bell-bottomed headbangers of 1980.  These are your forefathers, young 'uns, respect!

As Daniels constructs Iron Maiden's legacy and the ascension of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, we're treated to classic photos of the Paul DiAnno years and the back story of Iron Maiden's first breakout success with the inclusion of "Sanctuary" and "Wrathchild" on the halcycon Metal For Muthas comp from 1980.  What really comes off as fascinating is seeing who Iron Maiden shared the stage with at the glorious Marquee forum, noted to be "the spiritual home of the NWOBHM" by Tygers of Pan Tang vocalist Jess Cox, much less Rock City in Nottingham:  everyone from punkers UK Subs and The Adverts to new wavers XTC and Human League to alt gurus Echo and the Bunnymen.  Even the freaking Kinks, who, sadly, were pale shades of their bombastic selves at that point.

Frequently offering the literature behind such hallmarks as "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son," "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" and more recently, "The Longest Day," Daniels astutely imbibes the spirit of connection between written and audile media which illustrates Iron Maiden to be one of the most learned bunch of their ilk. 

By doing so, Daniels gives Iron Maiden:  The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast a sense of art surpassing its initial air of mere worship.  The vast portfolio of Derek Riggs alone is enough to have this book on your headbanger's coffeetable, but the vivid live photos and touring flotsam are an added attraction.  Where it pales from a lack of totality and too much arbitrary analysis, Daniels does give his audience a swift and often eye-popping trip down Iron Maiden's not-yet-final frontiers.  Consider the irons upped formidably in that respect.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Take 5 With Jason Myers of Icarus Witch



Long overdue, the return of The Metal Minute's Take 5 interview section, kicking off with our bud Jason Myers of Icarus Witch...



The Metal Minute:  Icarus Witch did some road dogging lately in support of Rise.  Give me a recap of the tour, what you felt was the best gig on this round and where you found the most hospitality.

Jason Myers:  We did a brief tour of North America focussing on the east coast of the U.S. and Canada with White Wizzard and Widow. The best gigs, in my opinion were New York City, Toronto, Raleigh and Atlanta. To be honest, the most amazing part of the tour was the fantastic hospitality we received in almost every city!  

This tour was scaled back and when you’re on the road at this level, the difference between a decent experience and an amazing one is often the time you spend before and after the show.  We were so fortunate to have friends, relatives and in some cases generous strangers open their homes and (bravely) their bathrooms to us.  Many times bands are forced to choose between the uncomfort of sleeping in the van or digging into merch money to get an occasional hotel.  On our summer tour we stayed at actual homes every night and that is where you really create some of the most lasting memories and camaraderie.

TMM:   You had quite a bit of a roster change-up coming into the recording of Rise.  We discussed the addition of Christopher Shaner, who I likened to Jeff Scott Soto and you mentioned a number of people said the same. Certainly he's brought a different dynamic to Icarus Witch this time. Tell me how you feel the band's changed with Christopher and Dave Watson.

JM:  The addition of Christopher’s vocal style and writing approach broadened our base and we began noticing a lot of new support from the melodic and modern rock circles, whereas in the past our niche was a bit more relegated to the smaller trad scene.  

The addition of Dave Watson was just as significant.  While bringing the band back to a dual guitar lineup, he also added a new level of production excellence with his keyboard skills and engineering acumen. The result of both additions really pushed our sound into a more modern realm while still remaining true to our classic influences.

TMM:  I have to know where the inspiration for all of that erotic artwork on Rise's packaging derived from.  I detect some Lovecraft, the old American International Goth flicks and love of a different nature altogether.

JM:   For that you would have to ask the photographer Sergey Bizyaev although you may want to brush up on your Russian.  His visions and art are so stunning that I knew the second I saw his work at lovecsnov.com I had to commission him for the new Icarus Witch campaign.  Rather than delve into his inspiration or creative mind I prefer to simply enjoy the results of his eye and we are quite fortunate that he agreed to work with us, as the nude Witch became as much a star of Rise as the music itself!
 
 
 

TMM:  You have a funny post at Facebook about the 2012 Mayan prophecy turning out to be a bust and, to paraphrase, now you'll have to wing your future plans for 2013.  What's on your horizon, hypothetically and realistically?

JM:  To be honest, after the drain of writing, recording, promoting and touring on Rise, I really needed to unplug and shut down to recharge.  The past few months have been a bit of psychological rehab and we are now just getting back into the mode of regrouping and plotting our next phase.

TMM:  A number of years ago I went in to the original Primanti Brothers and ordered a Killian's with my steak sammich and fries stuffed inside.  The place went deathly quiet around me and if I hadn't been wearing my Jerome Bettis jersey, I suspect they might've picked a fight with me.  I quickly changed my beer order to Iron City and everyone went right back to their business. That still cracks me up to this day.  Are you really a dead man in Steeltown if you don't order an Iron City at the bar?

JM:  That’s hilarious and sad at the same time in that exemplifies both the charm and limitations of a city like this.  Since Primanti’s isn’t the most vegan friendly restaurant, I don’t eat there often but I would suggest ordering a Yuengling or Lion’s Head if they have it.  Both are high quality lagers and since they are Pennsylvania brewed, you can still eat in peace avoiding both Yinzer confrontation and the unpleasantries of the digestion process that may accompany Iron City consumption.

 
(c) 2012 The Metal Minute / Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Spins of the Minute - 1/10/13

Formerly Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday, I've opted for a change-up to the playlist feature here at the site, now known as Spins of the Minute.  This segment will appear in more random increments instead of on a routine weekly basis as before. 

For those of you who feel like sharing your playlists, cozy up and drop 'em in the comments bucket.  The site traffic has spiked by 30% in the past week, so I know there's even more of you out there reading.   As always, I thank you all, newcomers and mainstayers.  2013 is off to positive start here at The Metal Minute and your support is all the reason.





Listening:

Skyfall soundtrack (Thomas Newman)
Voivod - Angel Rat
Voivod - Killing Technology
Voivod - Dimension Hatross
Voivod - Nothingface
Blood of the Sun - Burning On the Wings of Desire
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown
Dropkick Murphys - Signed and Sealed in Blood
Pig Destroyer - Book Burner
Slayer - Haunting the Chapel
Faith No More - The Real Thing
Sacred Reich - Independence
Stone Axe - s/t
Mudhoney - Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
Mudhoney - Piece of Cake
Suzanne Vega - Solitude Standing
Mogwai - A Wrenched Virile Lore
Joss Stone - LP1
Circle Jerks - Wild in the Streets

Watching:

Metallica - Quebec Magnetic
Snow White and The Huntsman
Prometheus
From Beyond
Mother's Day (1980)
Count Yorga, Vampire
Vacation

Reading:

Neil Daniels - Iron Maiden:  The Ultimate Unauthorized History of the Beast

New Reviews at Blabbermouth

 



Kicking off the new year at Blabbermouth with my reviews of Pig Destroyer's Book Burner, the Dropkick Murphys' Signed and Sealed in Blood and Metallica's Quebec Magnetic.

Get some!

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Voivod/Soundgarden/Faith No More, Live 1989


This morning I'm ripping through Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross, Nothingface, Angel Rat and Infini in giddy anticipation of Voivod's newest album, Target Earth, due later this month.  Naturally, there's a lingering air of melancholy without Denis "Piggy" D'Amour in the fold and naturally, there's going to be more than a handful of mutants out there slinging mud against Dan "Chewie" Mongrain.  You know who you are, but for once in your miserable lives, try and keep an open mind. 

I too would've thought a replacement for Piggy would've been considered blasphemous at one point.  After all, I regard Voivod as one of my top ten bands of all-time, a band I've held dear to my heart since the mid-eighties.  Yet I'd reviewed one of Mongrain's Martyr albums (2006's Feeding the Abscess) before Piggy passed and deeply impressed, I felt Martyr was within arm's reach of Voivod's greatness.  I thought  Mongrain was more than influenced by Piggy; he was a bona fide acolyte.  Obviously the rest of Voivod agreed and thank God Blacky is back home to affirm the ensuing era of these prog metal legends.  Let's cut Mongrain some slack and hope for another Voivod masterwork.

All of this has me thinking of the fall in 1989 when Nothingface arrived and Voivod had their shot at a commercial breakout with Mechanic Records.  I was the assistant editor and music columnist of my college newspaper and if I wasn't already smitten by Voivod's work up through Nothingface, I was convinced they were on the verge of ruling the world.  No other band outside of Rush possessed the third eye they did and Rush had veered down a much different path while Voivod was coming up.  I boldly declared Voivod in print to be "The Band of the Future" and while certain people who read it approached me on campus to learn more about Voivod, I think back and realize my prophecy was rash in the way a 19-year-old fanboy with his first writing gig would act.  It's not for lack of talent.  Voivod is still one of the most gifted bands there ever was, but you can't dictate market flow and force something of depth into a mass target audience that prefers simplicity over virtuosity.  Nevertheless, I still think the world of Voivod and they remain one of the genuine greats.  When I was fortunate enough to interview Denis "Snake" Belanger for Pit magazine a few years ago, it became one of the highest moments of my journalism career.

But back to '89, I was in attendence at a triple bill of awesomeness you had to have been there to fully appreciate.  On paper, it looks amazing and when I recount this gig to people, their mouths tend to fall slack when I tell them Faith No More and Soundgarden were openers for the mighty Voivod.  While many of these folks still have no clue who Voivod is, the impact is still felt when I mention that Faith No More and Soundgarden were only on the cusp of breaking out and this tour by all means brought them extra awareness, as did MTV and Headbangers Ball.  For awhile, Headbangers pimped the video of Voivod's sterling cover of "Astronomy Domine" by Pink Floyd, while Faith No More's "Epic" became a mega-hit, with Soundgarden's "Hands All Over" right behind it.  Unfair that Voivod, deserving headliners, would drift from MTV's playlist, but let me tell you something:  Faith No More and Soundgarden were amazing, yet Voivod blew each of those bands away.   Yeah, I said it.  Those bands were bombastic.  Voivod was cosmic.  I don't know how else to describe them that night at The Bayou in Washington, DC.

What stands out for me about Faith No More's set was watching Mike Patton climb into the venue's rafters and stretching out on his back while Roddy Bottum sprinkled out the old Nestle's jingle on the keys.  During Soundgarden, my buddy Bob and I were pogoing right in front of Chris Cornell and I lost my glasses from all the jostling around.  Bob shoved people off of my back until I found my glasses on the floor, but no sooner had they been replaced, Cornell had leaped out over our heads.  His amp cord latched around my throat while everyone was hoisting him back to the stage.  Fortunately, I was able to loosen it before it fully strangled me.  I laughed myself silly over the whole thing and flashed horns at Cornell's frets.  I do believe Kim Thayil had seen it all since he was getting a good laugh on himself.

These sets alone were worth the price of admission, but I cannot understate how Voivod turned The Bayou into a portal where The Twilight Zone caters to speed freaks and prog heads.  With bubble projections upon a silk screen at their backs as would've been apropos in sixties psychedelia, Voivod tore through their catalog beginning with their then-new "The Unknown Knows."  The volume was twice that of their rowdy openers and Voivod's meticulation was beyond spectacle.  Michel "Away" Langevin commanded a crushing beacon all to himself, and Snake was literally slithering all about the stage.  Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault banged and boomed his bass and mouthed sound effects as if possessed by some invisible manifest.  Piggy was near-impossible to steer your eyes from, his wrists were so fast.

Talking amongst ourselves after the show, my friends and I were all leveled by Voivod and listening to others straggling out of The Bayou on that legendary night, we'd shared a universal transcendence for metalheads only.  I wrote a follow-up article for the paper about this show which got the attention of Mechanic Records who subsequently sent me a nice care package including Nothingface on CD, a big deal at the time.  This was the infancy stages of compact discs and I'd had my collection entirely on vinyl on cassette prior to.  I was compelled to scrape my tips and wages from my waiter job to buy my first CD player, just so I could savor Nothingface in fuller depth.  I thought back repeatedly upon Voivod's majestic performance and though I couldn't convince my succession of girlfriends at the time to get on board, there was no album I played more until I started buying more CDs. 

Fitting that the band I pegged to be the future was there to usher me along with the advancement of audio technology.  Earth, beware come January 22nd.



Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Black Flag's My War


In high school, I was, of course, a grit, a headbanger, a longhair, a hockey head, whatever you want to call it, so long as you don't affix the word "mullet," since that term was never a part of eighties lexicon.  After a year-and-a-half in fierce defense of the music I loved against our mocking school body, I found myself in an interesting position.  I was hardly Marc Price's "Ragman" from Trick Or Treat, the beaten and bruised outcast nobody wanted around.  The secret I discovered to working the high school social scene despite having little in common with my peers, was taking weightlifting from sophomore to senior years and getting to know the jocks.  The more reps I pumped and the higher my weight class went, I was accepted despite my heaving boy-shag.  Then I was able to converse with girls about anything and everything.  That strategm didn't win me many dates until I found a serious girlfriend in junior year, but I'd become a soundboard for many of the ladies in our school and in time, I had double the amount of friends outside my own kind, as it were.

If there was one sect of kids I found it hard to penetrate, it was the punk rockers.  I loved punk and was always curious about the skaters and mohawks parading around the school in their leather, bristles and acne (to call upon GBH for a moment), not to mention their records, almost all of which were carrying Black Flag.  I dug the speed and the intensity of eighties hardcore and I tripped on the brackish muck of Iggy and the Stooges.  Before you knew it, I was adding records by Adrenalin OD, DRI, Agent Orange, Discharge, Broken Bones, The Exploited, the Ramones and of course, GBH to my metalhead library.

There seemed something secretive about Black Flag amongst our punk sanction.  Maybe it was because the farmer bruisers at school targeted them more than anyone else, albeit the mousier metalheads weren't far off their radar.  I remember one legendary day when one of the punks smarted off to the FFA clique and then a high speed chase ensued out of the school parking lot with the farmers beaming down on the punks via the then-backwoods throughway of our town, Hampstead well into the neighboring burg, Manchester.  Suffice it to say from those who followed the action, the punkers didn't fare well thereafter.

It was shortly following this incident that I made a point to get to know these punk kids.  They hated me because I was metal, albeit when push comes to shove, they had their own latent affinities for Black Sabbath and even the early years of Iron Maiden, since Paul DiAnno was a punk in his own right.  It took me some prodding and nudging into their ranks and mostly I was met with "fuck off" or "go to hell."  Soon enough, though, they'd found out me and my headbanger friends were listening to the same music they were.  Elusive as they'd been in the past, suddenly we were allied.  I knew that because of crossover, we were all bound to join ranks, which is why I pushed as hard as I did to align our causes.

Finally, the ice melted and I found Black Flag in my hands as we stepped over the subdivision lines and traded records.  I had Loose Nut, Damaged, Slip It In and My War on loan and I taped all of them onto cassette. It was then when I realized just why those punkers were so protective of these records.  For them to swap these slabs of destruction with others outside of their own bracket really became a profound thing.  I laughed myself silly over "T.V. Party" and the perverse sex moans of "Slip It In."  For the longest time, I muttered the chorus of "Black Coffee" under my breath in the school hallways, even to my then-girlfriend who thought I was insane--even more so when I'd actually played the song for her.  A fond memory indeed, right up there with the time she was changing clothes in my car while I had Anvil's "Mad Dog" pounding in her poor anti-metal ears.  Yet by the time I put on My War in private, I was no longer laughing. 

If you can find an angrier song on this planet than "My War," I'm not sure I want to hear it.  "My War" is by far the most dangerous song I've ever encountered, and yet, it's strangely empowering.  If you're in control of your emotions, "My War" is full-on adrenaline to draw unimaginable power from.  If you're in a dark place, though, "My War" is likely to set you off or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, heal you.  By no means would anyone want to be the bullseye of Henry Rollins' wrath circa 1984, complete with all of the spit and the howling he tosses into "My War."  His voice in Black Flag was always the sound of writhing angst, unchained fury, a rabid, tatted harbinger of borderline nihilism.  Yet the man possesses high-end intelligence that makes you listen up, scary as the prospect may be when confronting My War in its entirety, much less the scathing title track.

If you're familiar with My War, you'll attest it's a yin and yan audile experience with the first half of songs set on an ionized, heavy-stepping pace of aggression, while the second part is slower, tempered, in harmony with punk and doom favorites, Saint Vitus and of course, Sabbath before either of them.  We can all relate to the claustrophobic, hyper agitation of "Can't Decide" and "Beat My Head Against the Wall," while "Three Nights" and  "Scream" are meticulous, scraping modes of punk drone that, frankly, have the potential to scare the shit out of even the most stoic listener upon first greeting.

Greg Ginn is a fuzz-bombed superstar on "My War."  Even going so far as to handle the bass duties under the alias of Dale Nixon while Black Flag was in a contractual skirmish during the recording of this album, Ginn's work on My War is probably the most laborious, pinpointed and harrowing of his Black Flag era.  Rollins frequently screeches like his nads are being electrocuted by Ginn's reverb, particularly on "Scream."  You understand full well why the punk rock class of '84 held this album tight upon their hypothetical chests.

Damaged is acknowledged by many as Black Flag's finest hour, yet, I pose that if you have the stones to confront My War, you'll get a better grasp of what Black Flag stood for and moreover, what they meant to their audience.  Otherwise, you're just one of them.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Van of the Dead DVD/Blu Ray Review: Mother's Day 1980



There are some movies so depraved and so gonzo you're compelled to watch.  The films that leave you feeling partially ashamed of yourself are bound to become legend.  Cannibal Holocaust, Make Them Die Slowly, Blood Feast, I Spit On Your Grave (take your pick from either version) even the Hostel films not only push the boundaries of good taste, they push the viewers to the edge of their own wherewithal. 

Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz probably had no idea they were engineering a nasty number in 1980 that would later be considered groundbreaking, particularly when they'd devised a plot so insidious even the original Last House On the Left seemed a mite tame in comparison.  Not by much, mind you, and both films mirror one another (along with the two Spit films) in terms of the rape-revenge motif set inside creepy-assed wooded settings. 

The original Mother's Day, however tongue-in-cheek it may have set itself out to be, still cuts to the nerve where it breaks from farce and sublminal social commentary and turns brute ugly.  One of Troma's original beasties before camp and lampoon became their creed, Mother's Day 1980 (unlike the 2010 remake) dares to make you laugh at and even sympathize a hair with a couple of butt-ugly goons you know are going to make life hell for a trio of former sorority sisters who should've known better than to stage their annual mystery weekend in the woods.  Ironically, this film's location is spotted in direct proximity to where the original Friday the 13th was filmed.  In fact, there's one frame in the opening moments of Mother's Day where the soon-to-be victims are driving down the same exact pastoral Jersey incline you see in Friday.  No way to have known back then, but now it heightens the mythos of both films having been filmed at the same time and in the same locale.

While both films possess a nervous sense of humor before unleashing their inevitable carnage, Mother's Day is more ruthless.  Kaufman and Herz take the time to weave an actual back story to the trio of girls Abbey, Trina and Jackie (Nancy Hendrickson, Tiana Pierce and Deborah Luce, respectively) before turning them loose in the woods as inevitable playthings for a pair of sicko brothers.  Their "toys" are actual appeasements for their screwy mama (the illustrious Rose Ross, who did Broadway and repertoire acting prior to this film), in the way dogs and cats drag the carcasses of rodents, birds and rabbits to their masters for their approval.  Ike and Addley (Holden McGuire and Billy Ray McQuade) are perverts, rapists and murderers, but the double entendre to their repulsive actions is that all of it is done strictly for the gratification of their mother, not necessarily themselves.

Frankly, the only moments of satisfaction Ike and Addley derive for themselves is when they're doing their killer drills (in a frankly hilarious workout sequence whipped up in the Rocky Balboa era), beating the snot out of one another and most importantly, jabbing one another over their music preferences (i.e. their glorious "punk sucks," "disco's stupid" sparring).  They're still kids mentally, given the broken toys, the constant presence of televisions playing all around the house and their Big Bird alarm clock spread all over their dilapidated hellhole that's full of graffiti, mold spores and paint-flaked, hole-infested walls.  Even their windows consist of nothing more than sloppily nailed rows of plyboard.  To them, it's the ultimate clubhouse where they don't have to hide their inclinations from parental figures.  In this situation, they're encourage to cater to their inner ids often to comedic effect, which makes this version of Mother's Day far superior to the recent redux.  The new version celebrates the violence more so than the goofery and that's its biggest fault.

Not that there's anything constituting a soul in having these filthy mongrels stage mock film scenes in which to humiliate and rape their victims in front of their mother (serving as director with a sports whistle ready to flag them for any mistakes), but there's a shaky hilarity to the whole thing that lifts some of the detestation to what's presented.  Yes, the entire matter is disgusting as an audience, we're to feel abhorrence towards Ike and Addley.  Knowing at least one of the girls is going to die (Jackie, as it turns out), we're already cheering them on to dispatch these rat bastards somehow, which is how Mother's Day pays its viewers off.

The final segment is far more brutal than anything Ike and Addley have extolled--and they've performed acts of degredation, closed-fist maiming and decaptiation before they're held accountable.  Their penance is a savage moment of redemption for the girls, certainly inspired by Last House and the original Spit, yet there's an orchestrated cheekiness to the survivors' vengeance.  Drano being forced down the throat of Ike prior to being crowned by a t.v. is masterful manipulation of nihilistic humor, while Addley having his crotch split by an axe and then asphyxiated is a perfect eye-for-an-eye moment.  Let's not forget the perfectly nutty felling of Mother by an inflatable tit. 

How this woman could sanction having such a thing in her house is telling of her own personal whims and perversions, much less her dread of "Queenie," a purported sister lurking out in the woods set upon killing her.  The boys have been trained in the art of violence partly because their mommy is fucking evil, but her primary motive is to have a pair a burly, capable watchdogs at her beckon call.  While Addley questions the actual existence of Queenie, smartly cueing an element of confusion to his bloody upbringing, we learn in the final moments there is such a thing.  Worse, it's our pared-down duo of Abbey and Trina who find out the hard way.  While these types of "shock" endings (remember Jason jumping out of Crystal Lake in Friday, which leads us to beleive both film crews were well in touch with one another) have zero appeal to today's desensitized horror audience, the Queenie leap back in 1980 was scary as hell for its time.

The other moment of squeamishness to Mother's Day (and it's the most horrific moment of the entire film) comes when Abbey is lowering Trina out of Ike and Addley's workout room in a sleeping bag.  The film alludes to the girls having worked this stunt out of their dorm window in their collegiate years, and that's what makes the sight of the cord cutting deep into Abbey's hands as she tries to hold Trina in suspension overtop Addley's head absolutely painful.  The sequence is gory and excruciating and it adds to her well-illustrated feeling of possible failure, given this trick has served the girls so well in the past.  Abbey is responsible for a sickly, pain-in-the-ass mother, thus her trials seem even more unfair than what the historically abused Jackie suffers, yet it's Abbey who rises up and uses her own angst and frustrations as a catharsis.

On the face, Mother's Day appears to have no conscience.  After the nutty opening with Mother attending a life empowerment conference, she offers a ride to a pair of scruffy hippies who seem to be intent on mugging her and jacking her car.  All of it is a ruse to set up a car breakdown and subsequent attack by Ike and Addley.  Try not to laugh when you see the blood splatter all over the collar of the girl prior to her boyfriend's beheading.  The premise is immediately deplorable, but Mother's Day immediately switches gears to gain its audience's affection by showing Abbey, Jackie and Trina going over slides of their old college photos, which sets up the film on a shrewd note.  We already like these girls (or "lesbeens" as an old hick store owner calls them) and we know they're bound for trouble.  At least the girls, self-dubbed "The Rat Pack" are capable of a get-back, and that's why this film is one of the better eighties slasher flicks.

Amongst the special features of this Anchor Bay reissue is behind-the-scenes footage of test effects, plus a glorifying testimonial from next-gen director Eli Roth, who can't find enough superlatives to praise this version.  If you've seen it as many times as he has, you're a right sickie, but it's also understood.  Troma began their trash legacy as trashy as you could get, but there's an intelligence to the 1980 Mother's Day that's even more domineering than Rose Ross' haunting performance.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Slayer's Haunting the Chapel


If you've ever seen Slayer live (and you damn well oughtta if you haven't), you can all but guarantee "Chemical Warfare" is going to pop onto the set list.  Whereas many legacy bands might get the ruts of playing their best-known material from three decades ago to satiate their fan bases, you can't imagine Slayer having the shits of "Chemical Warfare."  You just can't.

One of the thrash giant's most perfect storms of annihilation, "Chemical Warfare" from Slayer's 1984 EP Haunting the Chapel might as well be considered the prelude to their halcyon album Reign in Blood.  It's been said ad infinitum that Haunting the Chapel is a stepping stone piece for the band and it's fitting that Slayer continues to whip "Chemical Warfare" out in their sets these days.  They still play the cut as a tribute to themselves with the same fiery angst as they originally conceived it and there's not a true headbanger alive who doesn't draw from the antagonistic energy of "Chemical Warfare."  If you don't dig "Chemical Warfare," hang up your denim and leather right now.

Of course, this is easy for me to say today as a journalist having confronted thousands of heavy metal records as both a fan and a writer.  Frankly, Slayer scared the snot out of me in my early teens and Haunting the Chapel was then for me no better than saying The Dunwich Horror got my rocks off.  I avoided Slayer's Show No Mercy, Haunting the Chapel and Hell Awaits as I did the entire Venom, Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost catalogs.  Call it living under the cross, if you will, since I had just completed my Catholic confirmation and I'd weathered a gauntlet of kids in school who thought I was in league with Lucifer for wearing a Motley Crue Shout at the Devil shirt around.  Considering they later wore Crue tees during the Girls Girls Girls period, you have to laugh.

All of it is pretty freaking silly in the grand scheme of things, since Slayer has emerged over the years as titans of this genre, a band who lures listeners from academia and medicine as they do from the darkened corners where disaffected loners hate everything and everyone.  Since I interviewed Tom Araya and he admitted to being a Christian on my tape, I've looked at my terrorized initial reaction to the band as utterly stupid.  Of course, at age 13 I'd bolted for the confessional the first time I saw The Exorcist because I thought I'd spit on God just by watching it--and it was a censored version, no less.

The thing with Slayer and Venom, for that matter, is they've ridden the rails of their careers in the name of Satan, but it's always been done to a smarmy roasting effect.  Celtic Frost and Mercyful Fate are just too great to dismiss.  When I saw Frost play live, it felt very much like a holy experience, and not of an arcane nature, though that certainly came through in their stage presence.  Venom for sure were larks and I've long since come to see them as a great big put-on who still kicked ass, especially on stage.  Ditto for Slayer.  They're nowhere near as tongue-in-cheek with their lyrical nihilism, much of it having been broiled over a hypothetical spit of burning brimstone.  Yet whatever their collective or individual attitudes on spirituality may be, Haunting the Chapel,  frequently blasphemous for certain, is an important cornerstone of heavy metal music.

No point describing "Chemical Warfare" beyond calling it thrash perfection.  I personally enjoy the back story of a younger Dave Lombardo and Gene Hoglan in-arms together at this time, to the point Hoglan was asked to grab hold of Lombardo's kit on the floor while Slayer laid down "Chemical Warfare." Hoglan, who helped Lombardo refine his trademark double kick, went on to smack skin for Dark Angel and he's enjoyed long-term success in his own right.  You've got to love that.

What I've always founded interesting about "Captor of Sin" is its merge of NWOBHM march rhythms with darker, uptempo crunk.  This one gives fans a peek into the band's future songwriting ethos, straight down to the punchy breakdowns and bat-screeching solos from Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman.  While nowhere no as fast as Reign in Blood, the moshing verses plus the blitzing bridges and solo section of "Haunting the Chapel" are by all means the blueprints for the inevitable juggernaut of crush, "Angel of Death."

Depending on which version you have, you'll get the grimy basement track "Aggressive Perfector" which belongs more on Show No Mercy or a Metal Massacre compilation trailing anything of the same period by Exciter.   All told, however, Haunting the Chapel represents a fierce excavation of speed metal's potential in its infancy years.  Even then, Slayer was dusting Metallica, the acknowledged champs of the Bay Area thrash zone and today, listening to such daring competition at play is something you can't necessarily convey in words. 


--Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Notes From the Old School: ZZ Top's Eliminator

 


Welcome to a new feature here at The Metal Minute, "Notes From the Old School."  The premise should be self-explanatory:  To share a few personal anecdotes focused upon noteworthy albums of hard rock, metal and punk of yesteryear. 

This morning I was writing a contribution piece for my English friend and colleague, Neil Daniels, who is currently working on a book about ZZ Top.  While I'm most fond of ZZ's early-to-late seventies classics Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres and Deguello, there's no denying their commercial breakout Eliminator from 1983 is a force in itself. 

You're either copasetic with or put off by the zippy synthesizers that accompany most of the pimp swinging pop rocks driving Eliminator like a sweaty mongrel in heat.  The Wookie shags of Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill that were remiss back in their knuckle-down blues and boogie years became part of their French-tickling circus of blues-fueled debauchery.  ZZ Top molded themselves into overnight sensations tailored for a then-fledgling MTV market.  Riding high on mack daddy strides and coagulating testosterone from the pistons of their trademark '33  cherry Ford Coupe, ZZ Top put the thrusters to the max on Eliminator for a generation of kids spending their pre-teen years blasting asteroids and trying to hide their wanking addictions.

Most Generation X'ers were already familiar with the dirty business behind "Tube Snake Boogie" on ZZ Top's preceding album, El Loco.  We sung the sleazy bits of that naughty cut under our breaths at home and then boldly amongst our friends in school cafeterias.  How ripe we all were for the impending sight of  babes in bangles, leather minis and teased curls sliding out of that fiery coupe.  "The Eliminator" was four steel wheels of sin yielding the inherent promise of gratification within.  All set to the meat bopping grind of "Legs," "Gimme All Your Lovin'" and "Sharp Dressed Man."  ZZ Top altered their everyman's roughneck image into dukes of dirt with their grubby overcoats, prospector's duds, perfecto shades and electric instruments outtrageously lined with fur, all as if the rodeo circuit had turned glam.  Tools for inevitable success, ZZ Top mined gold three decades ago with Eliminator, becoming ratty poster boys of the rock video age.

I personally favor the street tough "Got Me Under Pressure" and "I Got the Six" to the prime movers of Eliminator.  "Pressure" was a minor hit behind their groin-pumping trifecta and it might've fared even better with a stronger push.  Still, what "Gimme All Your Lovin'" alone accomplished for ZZ Top and hard rock in the early eighties is understated, particularly when you consider their subsequent album Afterburner was likewise a pop culture phenom. 

Thirty years later, all of these songs on Eliminator still sound horny and breathless.  Eliminator seldom keeps its upright boner in check, even when the pace slips out of the prevailing dance-crazed electro throb on "I Need You Tonight" and "T.V. Dinners."  In the case of "I Need You Tonight," the scaled-back, shuffling tempo carries even more tension and sexual angst than the payoff songs on Eliminator.  Rounding off with the jacked-up (or jacked-off, if you will) pounding of "Bad Girl," it's almost surprising an album this raunchy punched through the mainstream. 

Of course, this was the eighties, already embracing an attitude of decadence and party-mindedness that's well-fulfilled by Eliminator.  Frank Beard is forced into downplaying his beat patterns to the point of near-redundancy.  Earlier albums show Beard expressively decorating his percussive talents with rolls and backbeat signature slides.  Eliminator all but pushes him into economy mode, albeit the point can be made that this album gorges itself on groove, which is why it holds up remarkably well today.


--Ray Van Horn, Jr.