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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Past is Dead...Not



Bad Religion - True North
2013 Epitaph Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

It's not just their longevity that's impressive, nor their prolificness.  The fact Bad Religion has seldom disappointed in their three decades on the punk scene cements their legacy.  Even their lowest moment on record is still above-average and that has everything to do with their ceaseless angst and contempt for authority that has kept them real.  Granted, the message over the course of Bad Religion's career has been stuck in stasis, but nobody sells the anti-establishment creed better than these guys, that's a fact.

True North is just as fast, just as scathing and just as imperative in tone as Suffer, No Control and Against the Grain, the band's widely-acknowledged classics.  Since bringing Minor Threat/Dag Nasty/Junkyard guitarist Brian Baker into the fold, Bad Religion has upgraded their speed attack from a guy who can go as fast or as slow as he's needed.  For instance, he helps keeping the whirling tsunami of "Robin Hood in Reverse" gusting with tuneful bravado.  By attrition, Bad Religion's historic sense of musicality has spiked as of 2000's New America and 2002's The Process of Belief, the latter when the briefly-departed Gurewitz rejoined the band to hone out a triple guitar attackAlready masters of harmony set on hyperthrust, Bad Religion have their brisk-moving, accusatory craft down pat as holdouts of a SoCal punk scene that's more talked about in reflection than preserved at-large.

Perhaps watching ghosts of their contemporaries crop up only intermittently gives Bad Religion extra fang and extra spit to keep going as scene regulars.  "Past is Dead" on their latest album would be more than indicative that Bad Religion has said a figurative goodbye to nostalgia and kept to their own collective task.  Of course it can't be discounted the fact guitarist Brett Gurewitz owns Epitaph Records and his constant exposure to new talent that grew up on his band's early catalog keeps his--and his bandmates, by benefit--fires going. 

16 songs in under 35 minutes, True North is a classic in the making for a band that has plenty enough classics already.  Greg Graffin may be a tad more laidback in his delivery than he used to be, but it's only by a hair.  You won't feel like he's missed a venomous lick on "Nothing to Dismay" or  "Land of Endless Greed ."  As ever, his supporting back-layered "ahhs" from the band keeps a lofting conscience overtop the sheer anger Graffin wields more than he lashes these days.  Together, they're outright beautiful on "Crisis Time."
 
While True North opens in a flurry of velocity with the title track, "Past is Dead," "Robin Hood in Reverse" and "Land of Endless Greed," the album varies its tempos through the remainder of its fast ride, exploding with a climax on the trifecta finale "My Head is Full of Ghosts," "The Island" and "Changing Tide," the former ringing very much akin to Dag Nasty's "Ghosts" from their brilliant and passionate Minority of One album--of which Brian Baker was a party to. 

In fact, True North might be the best punk album since Minority of One.  This is not only a brutally honest mini epic of punk dogma, it's a preconditioned reaction to a way of being, not merely playing.  Still attacking the while collar world on "Robin Hood in Reverse," "Dept. of False Hope" and "Land of Endless Greed" and societal apathy on "Vanity" and "In Their Hearts is Right," Bad Religion puts their few rubbed nickels where their saliva-laced mouths are.  Greg Graffin uses "Fuck You" as a platform not for shock value but as a gentle "excuse me" moment to explain his reflexive, still adolescent need to shout back at the world despite his representative age.  In turn, he's looking for an extra pardon and a little bit of understanding on "Hello Cruel World."  This is a punk ethos you can't teach youngsters who need to learn it on their own and on their own terms.

The past may be dead, but Bad Religion shows that keeping their course set for true north into a future that seems hardly expired is not just the nobler way, it's the only righteous direction.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Spins of the Minute: 2/27/2013



Greetings, peeps, hope all's well around the metal frontiers. 

Coming up at The Metal Minute in the immediate future, there'll be examinations of the latest from Bad Religion, The Beyond and Centurion, and another installment of Notes From the Old School.

Been on a Rammstein kick aside from the new Voivod after reviewing Rammstein's seriously kickass three-disc DVD Videos:  1995-2012 for Blabbermouth.  Is this the tightest band alive, as I read one reviewer call them?   Maybe, maybe not, but these guys are so much more than just a next-gen metal-industrial band.  Between their outrageous stage theatrics and expressionistic videos, they just might be deserving of their own future-coined art movement:  Rammstein. 

Listening:

Voivod - Target Earth
Rammstein - Sensucht
Rammstein - Reise Reise
Rammstein - Mutter
Rammstein - Rosenrot
Rammstein - Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da
Soilwork - The Living Infinite
Helloween - Straight Out of Hell
Vreid - Welcome Farewell
Iron Maiden - s/t
Gojira - L'enfant Sauvage
Conny Ochs - Black Happy
Bad Religion - True North
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Juju
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Tinderbox
Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention - Freak Out!
Herbie Hancock - Inventions & Dimensions
Patti Smith Group - Easter
Fela Kuti - Beasts of No Nation
Lynyrd Skynard - Second Helping

Viewing:

Rammstein - Videos:  1995-2012
Mudhoney - I'm Now:  The Story of Mudhoney
A Fistful of Dollars

Monday, February 25, 2013

Doom For Folkies



Conny Ochs - Black Happy
2013 Exile On Mainstream Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

An alliance with doom sovereign Scott "Wino" Weinrich has made German soloist Conny Ochs a budding underground sensation.  Renaissance Man Wino seemed destined for last year's collaboration with Ochs, Heavy Kingdom, when you consider Wino had already issued his moody and introspective acoustic solo flight, Adrift.  Kindred souls met and Conny Ochs corraled an entire demographic he might've silently courted but probably never expected to win over.

On his latest album Black Happy, the title is indicative of what you'll be subjected to, a man belting acoustic and low-dialed electric guitar with random guest vocals whirring at his side and the occasional bass drum and percussion keeping time.  Ochs frequently writes the music in an upbeat tone even if the themes of his songs cast a beguiling range of emotions:  melancholia, aspiration, despondency, sarcasm and above all, enlightenment. 

It's Neil Young for the doom leagues, even if Conny Ochs' frequent troubadour's cadence puts him in distant company of another Ochs from folk yesteryear.  Conny and Phil may not be singing about the same things, given the relevancy of the times impacting each man's art.  Yet there's sincerity and authenticity emitting from Black Happy that would easily resonate with the folk scene along with the doom sect, both demographics being sparse and self-guarded.

Conny Ochs presents himself like a guarded man cutting himself loose in the company of lost souls in search of his crooning angst.  Ochs delivers to his audience like he spent years traveling the world's neo-hippie communes in order to hone his craft.  Black Happy checks in under twenty-eight minutes and Ochs is both sparing and fulfilling with his eleven self-contained numbers.  "Blues For My Baby," "Borderline," "Phantom Pain" and "Stable Chaos" could've come straight out of the sixties and early seventies, while the album's honky tonkin' finale "Mouth" wraps Black Happy on such an upbeat jive despite its self-lamenting lyrics.

The opening number "Exile" will immediately endear Ochs to his newfound doom disciples with its beleaguered slides and subliminal distortion, even if the choruses sweep upwards to higher ground to keep the hapless lyrical content from submerging to the point of no return.  "No Sleep Tonight," "Blues For My Baby" and "Die In Your Arms" push forth their discomforting dispositions like Ochs tapped his own skein onto the paper where he scrawled the lumbering note lines and ambivalent chord progressions.  "Die In Your Arms" brings about a swirling eighties alt kick in the key of the Violent Femmes despite the happy-go-lucky harmonica almost laughing overtop the swinging minutiae.  Ditto for "Trust In Love," which carries even more of the Femmes' over-the-hedge snidery.

Where Black Happy succeeds most is its search for something real and tangible with which to climb out of the initial and afterthought despair the listener is confronted with.  Conny Ochs sings with conviction and with conscience.  He could've easily sunk into monotone on many of these songs and yet Ochs chooses to allay and soothe with brisk projection and high pitches in order to keep his album from qualifying as straight-out dirge.  There's a quantified play for something deeper than merely wallowing in misery for eleven songs.  By the time he hits "Trust In Love" and "Borderline," Black Happy gravitates towards something on the edge of spiritual.  The album may wrap with a downplayed thumb bite, but there's every reason to feel comforted by Conny Ochs, who brings his love of Neil Young, sixties folk and rock and old-time blues into a harping but sensuous mingling for the modern age.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Welcome to the Grid, Chewy



Voivod - Target Earth
2013 Century Media
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Everyone keeping their eyes on the Voivod camp knew what was at stake the minute Dan Mongrain stepped into shoes almost no one else would dare to.  The writing was on the wall, though, considering Mongrain's previous unit Martyr morphed cyberpunk overtures of Voivod into their extreme death-prog modes.  Martyr's superb, one-click-quicker cover of "Brain Scan" showed Mongrain had the chops to replicate the late Denis "Piggy" D'Amour, a feat which he achieved to the surprise of everyone coming to Voivod's recent performances, captured on their Tatsumaki DVD and Warriors of Ice live album.  Even better Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault hooked back up with the band to legitimize its proper return.

The real test of "Chewy" Mongrain has arrived now that Voivod has committed to him as permanent guitarist.  While the spotlight is decidedly thrust upon him, it's the band as a collective that stakes one hell of an improbable comeback with their first post-Piggy album, Target Earth

It's highly recommended you give Target Earth more than one spin before making your full analysis.  Upon the first go-through, there's so much to absorb as Voivod breaks Chewy in, it becomes a mondo outpouring of information overload.  Their reputation for expressionistic prog-thrash that seems so distant from the period of Rrroooaaarrr through Angel Rat is meticulously reconfirmed on Target Earth.  It's as if Voivod adopted not only a back-to-basics ideology to begin writing new material without Piggy's multifaceted impressions, but they serve up a precognitive set of in-house experiences to give Dan Mongrain all the palettes he needs to make an impact.  Following suit, Blacky brings back his sorely-missed bass vibratum and all the glorious guttural feedback he's historically expunged with inky grandeur.  Theriault's reclamation of his pivotal place on Target Earth once again establishes he is one of the greatest metal bassists alive. 

Whereas Piggy and Blacky had the inhuman propensity to follow one another note-for-note at hyperspeed on Voivod's most acclaimed works Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross and Nothingface, Blacky and Chewy bounce reverb off of one another in a tributizing attempt to conjure the spirit of Piggy between their massive metal ballistics.  Piggy is no doubt flicking ethereal horns, because Mongrain tastefully heralds D'Amour's spellbinding distortion echoes on nearly every final note strike and all throughout the album.  Mongrain and Blacky fill their spaces with as much wonderment as they can conjure amongst themselves in workmanlike manner.  Thus Target Earth carries a vintage feel about it with precisely the right throwback nuances Voivod freaks cautiously hoped for.

Happier news, Denis "Snake" Belanger turns in his best vocal performance since The Outer Limits, even if the titanic booms of his supporting cast smother him in the mix at times.  Nonetheless, he is to be applauded for digging deeper than he has in years on "Warchaic," "Kaleidos," "Mechanical Mind," "Resistance" and "Empathy for the Enemy," while he obtusely secretes the pummeling thrash of "Kluskap O'Kom" with gravelly mysticism.  On the title cut, he's nearly as shamanistic as he was on Nothingface even if the song manifests itself more from Dimension Hatross.

Michel "Away" Langevin, the only Voivod member to have appeared on every album, might be the most re-energized player in the studio.  He's given the opportunity to step back into red times and he drops more clattery rolls and punishing double hammers than he's executed prior to the death of his comrade.  If anything feels like Killing Technology on "Kluskap O'Kom," "Artefact" and the even faster "Corps Etranger," it's Away's frantic free-thrashing.

Target Earth may sound rough around the edges in a couple of spots, but the overall homogenization of the new lineup unleashes plenty of the extracurricular cyber-psychedelic oddities, progressive tailspins and echo-happy fusion tunnels that characterize a Voivod classic.  The slightly brackish production is a punt backwards to the Noise Records era and that alone should comfort Voivod purists.  On the other hand, "Mechanical Mind" contains more signature swaps than a Hall of Fame induction party and it's far more than any of us could've expected from Voivod in 2013.  The fact Away, Snake, Blacky and Chewy can write this damned well without their fallen leader is more than just a sigh of relief.  Their prankster's hearts couldn't be filled with better intent by cutting off Target Earth in the midst of what goes down as a moshing outro, "Defiance."  Then the rabid mongrel huffing at the beginning of "Kluskap O'Kom" is hilarious but addictive, much as Chewy and Blacky's top-flight shredding is once the track zips forward.

Katorz and Infini appeared to signal the final hurrah of Voivod with Piggy's posthumous blueprints left behind as components for a bittersweet farewell that still felt unfinished despite the band's best efforts to piece them together through their own interpretations.   However, like Killing Joke has achieved something genuinely special in the wake of Paul Raven's passing by reuniting their best-known lineup, Voivod recalibrates themselves through the anguish and determination of their survivors.   They're aided by an acolyte who's achieved the impossible by summoning the delicate characteristics of his predecessor and still Dan Mongrain leaves his own imprint as he enters the blaring psychic vacuum that is Voivod perpetua. 

Iron Gang forever.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ray's Guest Editorial in Ghost Cult Magazine # 5



In the latest issue of Ghost Cult magazine, I was invited to contribute an editorial entitled "Quantum Physics and Disposable Meatheads." 

Head over to Ghost Cult # 5 through this link.  You'll also find interviews with Jason Newsted, Anathema, Pig Destroyer, Antimatter and more.

Salud...


http://issuu.com/scratchthesurface/docs/ghost_cult_issue5

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Spins of the Minute - 2/17/13




Greetings once again, readers.  In the midst of a review blast for Blabbermouth, but expect to find some reviews coming this week here at The Metal Minute including the new Voivod album, Target Earth

Keeping the banter short and sweet for this round.  Thanks as always for being here.  \m/


Listening:

The Gathering - Disclosure
Voivod - Target Earth
Saxon - Sacrifice
Destruction - Spiritual Genocide
Neurosis - Honor Found in Decay
Kingcrow - In Crescendo
Conny Ochs - Black Happy
Nekromantix - Dead Girls Don't Cry
Deftones - Koi No Yokan
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King
The Cramps - Songs the Lord Taught Us
Patti Smith - Horses
Patti Smith - Wave
Patti Smith - Peace and Noise

Viewing:

Patti Smith - Dream of Life
Skyfall
The Empire Strikes Back
Ominous

Reading:

Patti Smith Complete:  Lyrics, Notes and Reflections

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Where Were You When S.O.D. Came Out?



Thrash started earlier than S.O.D., of course, but if you were there in 1987 when the completely nuts Speak English Or Die came out, you'll likely attest this was one of the fastest albums you ever heard. 

I don't have to rehash the famous (and infamous) legend of S.O.D. since anyone who's metal has sat with this album at least once if not a hundred times.  It takes little commitment, only a half hour of your time, and while it's offensive as hell all over the place, Speak English Or Die is mandatory mosh.

Created in less politically correct times, Billy Milano, Scott Ian, Dan Lilker and Charlie Benante went full throttle on the velocity and then raised their combat boots off of any sensitivity buttons in their proximity.  Sometimes they were spot-on in whom they targeted, i.e. Greek snobs with "Pi Alpha Nu," wimpy husbands on "Pussy Whipped" and especially poser glam acts on "Fist Banging Mania" and "Douche Crew."  If you've lived with an interminably loud woman on the rag, you can certainly enjoy a private chuckle or two at "Pre-Meunstral Princess Blues." 

"Kill Yourself," "Fuck the Middle East" and the title track tend to create far more discomfort these days versus the era in which they were created.  All preluding the explosive turmoil of future desert wars and a hyper-depressed generation with nowhere near the same outlets for their aggressions as their ancestors, Speak English Or Die was a mean-spirited son of a bitch.  I mean, anyone with the cajones to whip a few second faux homage to Jimi Hendrix in which his legacy is pissed on instead of celebrated... 

On the other hand, when you submit yourself to the blinding speed of "Chromatic Death," "Pussy Whipped," "Douche Crew," "Milano Mosh," "Sargent 'D' and the S.O.D." and "Fist Banging Mania," you can probably understand why we Gen X metalheads took to this album.  For me, it was all about the outrageous celerity more so than the lyrical content.  That is the actual reckless lore of this album, in my opinion.  It was, for a moment in time, the fastest shit you could get a hold of outside of hardcore heavies Discharge, The Exploited and D.R.I.

The fact Speak English Or Die was even faster than Metallica, Anthrax and Megadeth, the crowned lords of speed metal, was hard to comprehend at first.  Even better there were punk roots to the sucker along with knucklehead humor and breakneck tempos.  It's why the punkers of my school had a copy of it before us headbangers.

I won't forget when a single copy of Speak English Or Die passed through our hands, punks and metalheads, and we all taped copies to wear out in our stereos until the local record stores caught up to speed (pun intended) and ordered vinyl copies.  Then we gobbled them up.  Do keep in mind that tape trading and sharing hardly impacted record sales back in 1987.  Better, they increased sales.  We all knew taped copies blew chunks, but they satiated us until full-presssed packages became available to buy.  We supported our artists to the fullest extent our teenage paychecks and allowances could afford us.  Not so much the case in today's market.

When Speak English Or Die came into my possession, I went out of my skull in my bedroom.  Many times the knock upon the door came from folks with demands to turn it down.  I was relatively easy on my parents, but this album was the most insane thing I'd ever heard and I kept pushing the volume knob as loud as I dared, spinning Speak English Or Die over and over again. 

Even better that MTV gobbled soundbytes from the album for show breaks on Headbangers Ball.  Man, those were good times, even when HBB switched from S.O.D. to Prong.  There have been a zillion metal acts since S.O.D. who've outclassed them on speed.  Slayer, Cattle Decapitation, Pig Destroyer and Morbid Angel come to mind.  Still, this album is one of the craziest, ballsiest and fastest albums the genre's ever seen.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Two Poems


Under the Bleachers

Ray Van Horn, Jr.

1/11/13 

 

I hear echoes of Football Fridays past

the din of juvie hormones grinding in fifth gear

they hate their teachers, their parents

and the visiting team

their peers sieve out their aggressions for them

playing up to their outcries for  blood

junior gladiators, masters of one of a thousand junior gridirons

 

I see recluses of yesterday and tomorrow

sitting here where I now sit

perhaps writing their own poetry

perhaps talking themselves out of suicide

perhaps grooving on a tune and a doob

only the weekend joggers

obtuse to their confiscation in subterfuge

blast away their reveries,

clomp clomp clomp clomp

 

I don’t mind the broken glass

and the discarded candy wrappers

it’s what teenagers leave behind as imprints of their four-year-plan

and their booster parents are no better

all of this filth seems appropriate beneath the soulless aluminum  

 

in some ways I envy the ripped open condom wrappers

the memories of spontaneous, reckless copulation

and spent, wasted seeds leading to new days of freedom

still, I wonder,

if the ripped, lavender Size C

was left behind by consent or otherwise
 
 
 
 
‘Round Midnight
2/10/13
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
 
 
my heart sees things
I never want you to know
I embrace the sacred cacophony of silence
and I crave audience with the effigy of euphoric nothingness
 
your fragile fingers
and your tireless legs
know nothing of pain
nothing beyond the skinned knee
or the spill of milk in your silly, slight lap
 
play on, little man, play on
 
peace is mine when I know you’re asleep
and my words torment only me
I cherish your stillness as much as your noise
 
when you’re safe in slumber’s keep
then the voices inside are all I hear
screaming  for ambient empathy
from a wellspring of audile comfort
 
the stereo understands me better than anyone else
 
when it speaks, I know my day’s duty is done

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Notes From the Old School: My First Trip to the Pit: Government Issue, 1987



As mentioned in my Black Flag post under this series, me and a couple of my close metalhead brothers came into alliance with our school punk sanction.  At the time of late 1987, I had recently gained my driver's license and was on my way towards a bad breakup with a girl I had full intentions of marrying one day.  I was at the height of my teenaged angst as I believed foolishly at the time I was gaining a sense of how the world works.  My automatic need to rebel against it was at least held in check by a wonderful near-year romance.  That was gone.  So too, for a stretch of time, was my sanity. 

It happens in teenage life no matter what your generation may be, young lovers grow up and grow apart.  Only a handful of high school sweethearts make the grade together after graduation.  I'm impressed to see a few couples from my graduating class have actually stuck together and I applaud them.  I thought that would've been my path at the time, but life had a different route for me.   I dated many girls later and ultimately married someone else I've been with for nearly two decades.  Consider the old candles long burned out.

Nevertheless, I saw the writing on the wall with my high school girlfriend, Monica after she ventured off to college a year ahead of me.  I felt my emotions hitting a peak to the point I needed some sort of desperate alleviation.  I wasn't experienced enough as a driver to yet venture into Baltimore and Washington, DC to catch all the metal and punk concerts that came through, though I'd been to many with other friends driving.  I do wish I'd been to more shows at the original 9:30 Club where all the punk icons played:  Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Dag Nasty, Rites of Spring and of course, Government Issue.  I'd gotten into these bands through my punk friends and this was the right vibe I needed in my life since metal had gone commercial and my girlfriend had gone to university in the mountains where there was nothing else to do socially but drink and pair off.  You do the math equating into our dissolution.

As fall was turning to winter in '87, I was ecstatic to hear that Government Issue (or G.I. to us east coasters) was headlining a gig at a college in my county during their cycle for the You album.  While You isn't quite the full-frontal storm of Boycott Stabb, The Fun Never Ends, Joyride or the Give Us Stabb or Give Us Death EP, I do love the former album as a melodic extension of what Government Issue could be.  They were heading towards alt rock pastures on You and the subsequent Crash album just as Dag Nasty shifted members and tones on Field Day within the same timeframe.  Yet G.I. was still as underground as it got.  You were in the know if you knew about them.  The fact G.I. came out to play for us was looked upon by the kids in our region as a gift.

The opening bands, if I recall correctly, were mostly local acts who've since bitten the ether of anonymity:  Jade, Black Friday and M.F.D.  Inconsequential in the grand scheme, yet I recall each of these bands giving their all and collecting a few fans before G.I. took the stage.  The local press had come out for this show, albeit the photographer and writer had no clue who Government Issue was.  Only the fact that a punk rock show going down in our right wing community seemed to matter to them.  I have a newspaper clipping of that article, mainly the photo of John Stabb pulverizing the mike onstage with me and my friends lined up along the front of the stage.  I still smile at the ghosts of our younger selves, hanging like acolytes in front of Stabb.  One of our semi-sorta crew of music freaks, John Budosh, is seen screaming with his fist outwards and I remember when it happened, vividly.  I even remember it was "Jaded Eyes" from You that we were all shouting back to Stabb while that photo was taken. 

During the newer songs from You, everyone mostly jumped in place and sang along, but when Government Issue dipped into the faster, fiercer back catalog, here is where the mosh pit broke out.  I remember feeling the bite of my inevitable breakup with Monica, and how I momentarily pondered suicide.  It was an awful month after it was evident she was going to move on from our relationship and I'm ashamed of how I reacted in front of her, then in private.  I've since vowed to never let anyone make me feel that low again. 

Thankfully I'd found the Ramones after the break-up and they healed me.  For a few weeks, though, I took up smoking and sneaking a few drinks where I could find them.  Considering I professed a straight edge way of thinking, I feel a little hypocritical about it, but teenagers seldom think things through.  Their hormones are propagated by instinct, not rationale.  I was so depressed over that break-up I'd slipped into a short fugue.  Fortunately, the Ramones brought me to a happy place where I kicked everything to the curb:  the cigarettes, the sour feelings, the urge to end my life.  I can't stress enough to anyone thinking about suicide, DON'T DO IT.  Life is a gift, and it flies by fast once you hit your adult years.  Embrace the gift you've been given, even when life kicks you down.  I repeat, DON'T DO IT.  Live.

Thus it was with a combination of fury and joy that I leaped into the pit as Government Issue whirled a tsunami of speed.  It was a giddy moment of detachment from things beyond my control and an expression of crazed euphoria.  It was also a quick life learning session.  No sooner had I entered the pit as a virgin, I was knocked to my ass.  I recall laughing like a lunatic but suddenly scared I'd be trampled on.  I'd seen a few remnants of the old punk-metal rivalry from punkers I didn't know and frankly, they were beastly kids whom I thought wanted to trash me and my metalhead clique. 

Yet it was one of those meaty gorillas who'd hoisted me off the floor and nudged me back into the swirl.  You have to remember, at this time, there was a code to the pit.  The punkers honored it more than the thrashers, I'm sorry to say, but the code was simple:  someone falls, pick him up.  I was grateful the code was in force at this show and once I gained my footing and bopped and bashed around in repeated circles, it was my turn to pay it forward when another kid stumbled in front of me.  I remember that kid shaking his entire body around like he was being electrocuted from inside, but I indeed paid it forward.  By show's end, we all either nodded to one another or shook hands.  Such chivalry hardly exists today, but I'm proud to say the majority of us were genteel in the way we unleashed our hostilities.  It was never towards each other, but to that invisible receptacle of purged anger.

The only time the pit got heated, everyone ganged up on the offending jock-in-disguise.  That bruiser was shoving kids from outside the perimeter of the pit and cocking his fist at everyone as they swam by.  It got out of control and we literally tossed him to one of the bulldog bouncers who had the musclehead kid out the door faster than G.I. could peel off "Fun & Games."

One of our own, Brenden Benner, ended up splitting his head open at the show and yet somehow he'd miraculously showed back up towards the end of the set, stitched up and back in the pit.  I think I learned an extra thing or two about toughness from that guy.  In later years, he'd become my running partner and we laid down many miles before hanging up our mangled track shoes and going our separate ways.  We ate a lot of vegey subs in that time and talked about the G.I. show, though Brenden would downplay it all as if it was just another night.  We would later find ourselves in another pit for Suicidal Tendencies and then Pantera, and that's a story for another day.  Nothing like the G.I. show, though.

I'm glad to see that moshing today has returned to its whirlpool roots.  I was afraid all of that chop socky kicking and punching crap a few years back was going to destroy what is, in effect, a wonderful release for teenagers to rid themselves of their penned-up aggressions.  When executed correctly and with honorable intentions, the slam pit served a great purpose back in the day.  We confronted ourselves and one another, knowing we were all combusting inside with no way to unleash our inner hatred without getting arrested.  In essence, we took our bullshit out on one another with fireball music that fueled our need to wipe away our self-inflicting inhibitions.  As long as the jugheads and 'roiders didn't infiltrate the pit, it worked.

Government Issue recently did a reunion gig in Washington, D.C. and I wish I'd been there.  Most of us who were there back in their glory years are too old to slam, but I do imagine it was quite the joy ride in itself with those in attendence calling up shadows of their younger bodies writhing the tune of "Blending In," "Mad at Myself" and "Notch to My Crotch."  I'm grateful it was G.I. who'd scored my debut in the pit and not, say, Slayer.  I might not've lived to recount the story.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Spins of the Minute - 2/7/2013

                                               


Hey hey hey, readers.  I want to thank you all once again for making January the best month of traffic The Metal Minute has yet enjoyed and I thank you for your encouraging words about "Saved by Zero."  I've whet your appetites, and the best is yet come.  I'll be keeping everyone informed once the novel sees the light of day on the marketplace.

In the meantime, it's back to business.  Keep those neck ligaments loose and fists high in the air.  Better to punch the sky than one another, so take your aggressions out upon the inanimate and let's keep this scene alive with dignity.


Listening:

Tomahawk - Oddfellows
Tomahawk - Mit Gas
Tomahawk - Anonymous
Hatebreed - The Divinity of Purpose
Saxon - Sacrifice
Manilla Road - Invasion
Pump Up the Volume soundtrack
Neil Young - Freedom
Mogwai - A Wrenched Virile Lore
Bad Brains - Into the Future
Green Day - 1039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours
Green Day - Warning:
Ted Nugent - Cat Scratch Fever
Jurassic 5 - Feedback
Peter Tosh - No Nuclear War
Siouxsie and the Banshees - Peepshow
Primal Scream - Vanishing Point
Sammy Hagar - Unboxed

Viewing:

Pump Up the Volume
Animaniacs
Crash
Friday the 13th:  The Final Chapter
Friday the 13th:  A New Beginning
Friday the 13th (2009)

Reading:

The back of my eyelids when I can

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Shark's Dream Goes On



Manilla Road - Invasion reissue
2012 Shadow Kingdom Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One thing about this prolonged metal revival, the longer its stays in favor, the deeper old league pundits and resurrectionists are digging to bring the obscure into the limelight.  Recent excavations into the catalogs of seventies and eighties-based cult acts such as Iron Claw, Poobah and Pagan Altar come to mind.  Now you can add the equally inconspicuous Manilla Road to the welcome back committee's list.

The Kansas-based Manilla Road was never a huge name in metal, namely due to their momentary aural collapse in 1987 with the poorly-received original cut of Mystification.   Nonetheless, Mark "The Shark" Shelton and a revamped lineup following Manilla Road's first two albums managed to stir up a quiet frenzy in the underground with Open the Gates, Crystal Logic, The Deluge and The Courts of Chaos.   Shelton pulled the plug on the entire endeavor the first time in 1992 after recording what was essentially a solo record forced into submission under the Manilla Road moniker, The Circus Maximus.

The band returns to action this year with a new album, Mysterium, but the sometimes power prog, sometimes thrash band has been trolling about since 2001 after Mark Shelton decided to make a go of it again.   The band's more recent outings Atlantis Rising, Spiral Castle, Gates of Fire and Voyager have opted more for a classic metal sound.  We can assume that trend will continue on Mysterium now that Shadow Kingdom Records sends the original trio's 1980 debut Invasion back for a second examination.

The thing that sticks out the most with Invasion is the veneer that gleams through its primitiveness.  Despite the sharp acoustic overture "Centurian War Games" that feels like a pulp novel interpreted by Emerson, Lake and Palmer on downtime, Invasion is a crunky, often mucky affair.  Nevertheless, it's well worth sitting down with for its historical perspective, much less its electric ear candy courtesy of Mark Shelton.

The stylish and bombastic closing number "The Empire" legitimizes Invasion as an American cousin to the NWOBHM.  With a dash or two of Rush, sprinkles of Uriah Heep and Hawkwind and the faintest touches of ELP, "The Empire" is a sprawling, solo happy epic birthed at the dawn of heavy metal.  The song, along with the rest of Invasion, also represents a rekindled global love affair with Robert E. Howard and his bloodthirsty Cimmerian bad boy. 

It's a wonder "The Empire," much the less the tapping opener "The Dream Goes On" was only discovered by the deepest of genre purists.  Mark Shelton shreds his frets on both tracks like he was feeling right now and in his prime, to paraphrase the lyrics of "The Dream Goes On."  With hung over acid washes to his mincing solos and quick-ticked riffs, Invasion feels just like that in its beginning and endgame phases.  Not many had heard Manilla Road's booming proclamation, but now's a good a time as any to listen up.

"Cat and Mouse" may remind some of a downplayed homage to Black Sabbath on its intro and primary riffs, yet if you study this track deeper, you'll hear early Judas Priest on the primary riff structure more than you will Sabbath.  Then the translucent reverb in the solo sequences preluding the choruses of "Cat and Mouse" is enough to wonder if Jane's Addiction tripped over this album in their own formative days.

The hokey "Street Jammer" is nowhere near the adrenaline rush it purports itself to be in title, yet "Far Side of the Sun" before it basks in the balmy oddities of Krautrock and Uriah Heep at the latter's most experimental.  Written in post-Space Race times when the United States was suffering its lowest morale, "Far Side of the Sun" attempts to present a portal of escapism through grinding rawk riffs after the extensive psychedelics in the first section.  Again you'll hear some Priest factoring into "Far Side of the Sun," (and "The Empire," of course) especially as former bassist Scott Park bobs along as if devouring a tasty groove cast by Ian Hill from the opposite end of the Atlantic.  There's a wallowing, burping feedback to the cut that prevents it from being as spectacular as it was written, yet once again Mark Shelton pulls out his mojo to keep "Far Side of the Sun" from spilling too far from its axis.

If you've never heard Manilla Road before, it's a no-brainer that Invasion is where you should start.  Manilla Road was directly influenced by the British prog and early metal gods and in turn, they gave back a pretty nifty salute from the midwest.  Invasion fell on mostly deaf ears in its time, but now a return visit reveals there was a lot more going on in the founding father stages of this genre outside of Saxon, Judas Priest and Tygers of Pan Tang.

Monday, February 04, 2013

New Reviews at Blabbermouth




My reviews of Rammstein's maxi single "Mein Herz Brennt," new joints courtesy of Hatebreed, Blood of the Sun, Sybreed, Darsombra, Funeral for a Friend and the debut from AC/DC replicons Sticky Boys at Blabbermouth. 

Friday, February 01, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter



They're so bloody awful you can only appreciate them if you're a horror fan, especially if you'd lived through the succession of Friday the 13th films that appeared faithfully each year during the eighties.  To watch them on the tube is brainless fun, but really, the Friday films' purest viewing element was, naturally, the movie theaters. 

Not quite the stuff of cult legend like the notorious midnight Rocky Horror screenings that were booked for ad infinitum, you had to have been there for a Friday the 13th film back in the day to really get it.  The kids who attended the 2009 Friday remake got it and I recall laughing under my breath how much they ass-clowned, shouted at the screen, blared sexual innuendo and cheered on all the sex and the gore...exactly as my generation had throughout the eighties.

I was too young to get in to the first three Friday the 13th films, and I was still too young to see Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter.  Yet I come from an era where frivolent lawsuits were seldom filed and we lived in a less-hyper society, so much that I was able to pass my 14-year-old self and all of my neighborhood buddies into the theater when the laughably titled Final Chapter came out in 1984. 

Our parents knew where we were and since I was the unspoken leader of our development tribe, the parents automatically trusted me.  One of my friend's dads hauled the whole lot of us to the theater and on the way took us down a creepy dirt road just to mess with us since he knew we were off to the horror show.  I love Mr. Steve for that, he was a righteous dad.

I'll never forget stepping up to the box office and getting my own ticket for the first time to a rated R flick and then answering the lady in the booth that yes, all those other kids who apparently looked their ages in her eyes were all with me. It was a moment of triumph probably best savored if you're a young boy already anticipating the gore, the cussing and best of all, the T&A scattered (or splattered, if you like) throughout Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter.  I felt like I'd pulled of the scam of a lifetime.




While hardly the stuff of Oscar worthiness, I tend to favor The Final Chapter over most of the other films, as do most Friday freaks.  Even though the original Friday has future star Kevin Bacon in it, this one came to play with Corey Feldman, who was well on his way to fame as a child star of the eighties, plus Crispin Glover.  If soap operas are your thing, Peter Barton (who'd also been in Hell Night previously) would go on to enjoy notoriety on The Young and the Restless.  I'm not saying the script and the acting of The Final Chapter is stellar stuff, but it does take the time to build our sympathies for Feldman's family of Jarvises before the clothes fly off at the adjacent party pad and Jason Voorhees comes to crash the festivities.

Really, the biggest star of The Final Chapter--and he doesn't physically appear in a single frame--is Tom Savini.  While his special effects and makeup work in the first Friday is brilliant, consider The Final Chapter one of his masterpieces.   Today I'm more fascinated by the monster masks Savini created for Corey Feldman's bedroom of bedlam, but the kill scenes in The Final Chapter are one of the reasons for the film's enduring popularity.  For me, I still appreciate the film's setting and attention to detail.  Just the opening segment of all the chaos involved in cleaning up the aftermath of Friday the 13th Part III then sudden silence of the farm as everyone hauls out is a rather nifty bit of storytelling that didn't appear in these films too often.

You can imagine my underage self, my undererage friends and a sold-out theater screaming with revulsion and then applauding like mutants during the blood-drenched scene where Jason saws and twists the head of Bruce Mahler.  We groaned like we were half sick when we finally see Jason's full hockey mask by the time he smashes through the partition in the shower and crushes Peter Barton's face to a pulp.  What I remember most was everyone in the theater going out of their minds during Crispin Glover's one-two punch kill with the corkscrew and meat cleaver.  He'd played his character to such a dorky lilt no one could believe he'd scored with Camilla More, thus his brutal dispatching was actually celebrated by the crowd with shrieks and hysterical laughing.  Ditto for watching Corey Feldman shave his head to look like Jason then whacking the butcher upside the face with that machete.  The way Jason slides down that blade through his eye is something horror fans still marvel at today.

I remember being quite a showoff at the theater, making "boingy boingy" noises during the skinny dip scenes and cracking the audience up.  Everyone got into the act from there and the entire experience became as much a riot from the audience participation.  The only thing that was missing was the flying toilet paper and spinning popcorn buckets.

Really, you had to have been there.