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

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spins of the Minute - 4/29/13



No rolling preamble this time, just a friendly check-in and well-wishes to all of you readers.

Cheers...

Listening:

Killing Joke - The Singles Collection:  1979-2012
Killing Joke - Night Time
Killing Joke - Absolute Dissent
Killing Joke - MMXII
The Ocean - Pelagial
Oceans of Slumber - Aetherial
Dust - Hard Attack/Dust reissue
H.I.M. - Tears On Tape
Sacred Steel - The Blood Summoning
The Cars - s/t
The Cars - Candy-O
Anger as Art - Hubris, Inc.
John Williams - Star Wars Episode VI:  A New Hope soundtrack
Sade - The Best of Sade
LCD Soundsystem - s/t
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown
AC/DC - Flick of the Switch
Stravinsky - The Firebird Suite
Holst - The Planets
Can - Ege Bamyasi
Can - Future Days
Can - Delay 1968
Leadbelly - Goodnight Irene
Suicidal Tendencies - 13
Suicidal Tendencies - How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today?

Viewing:

Killing Joke - XXV Gathering
Iron Maiden - Maiden England '88
Soylent Green
The Man Who Fell to Earth
Immortals


Reading:

Frank Miller - Sin City TPB
Frank Miller - Elektra Assassin TPB
Gail Simone - New 52 Batgirl series
Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins - The Merciless Book of Metal Lists

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Killing Joke, Live at Union Transfer, Philadelphia, PA 4/21/13









All Photos (c) 2013 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gail Simone's Batgirl is Well Up to the Hype



I don't give too many plugs for things outside of music, but this one's compelled me. 

Comic books are just too freaking expensive, that's a fact.  The superhero renaissance in cinema has kept a mainstream interest in them when they were nearly extinct a decade ago.  As a one-time diehard collector of comics, I've passed on the passion to my son and after taking him to a comic shop where I once worked a lifetime ago, I was happy to trip over Gail Simone's Batgirl resurrection under DC's New 52 revamp line. 

I've always felt DC has squandered the Barbara Gordon character since she was violated and paralyzed by Joker many crises ago in 1988 via Alan Moore's vivid and disturbing The Killing Joke.  As Oracle, Babs has served as a dark horse character giving hope to our disabled citizens that there's life after debilitation, but that was so long ago and frankly, Oracle's long served her purpose.  She needed to be set free.

In the hands of Gail Simone (also the writer of Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, Secret Six, Deadpool and others including a current co-writing stint on The Fury of Firestorm), Babs is back under the cowl operating under New 52 rules and Simone's knife-edged narration and chewy insight has made me a believer.  Batgirl rules.

By all means, check it out...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Ray's Editorial on the Queensryche Division Appearing in Ghost Cult Magazine Issue 7

In my second editorial for Ghost Cult Magazine, I was asked to chime in with my thoughts about the controversial Queensryche division.  Check it out in Issue 7, also featuring interviews with Intronaut, Soilwork, Cathedral, Six Feet Under, Enslaved and more...

                      




Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ray's Latest Reviews Up at Blabbermouth

                              


Now running at Blabbermouth, my reviews of the latest from Clutch, Otep, Puscifer, Arbogast, Nader Sadek, Ruins, Baptists, Focus, Cold Steel and the Mudhoney documentary, I'm Now.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Oh Oh Candy-O



Those who were Tower Records habitués can hopefully relate to this little nugget from the past.  There was a time when music stores were not just emporiums of sound, but cultural hubs where like minds could congregate, future artists could refine their knowledge and loners could find those special voices who spoke their language on record.  You never knew when the next Jeff Beck, Buddy Rich, Larry Graham or Rob Halford was going to be proverbially birthed from the annals of record shelves and listening booths.   Meanwhile, profiteers sat back and watched vinyl (and later, cassettes and CDs) fly out with the chunks and tings of old cash registers adding a synthetic, commercial glaze overtop whatever happened to dominating the store loudspeakers.

In Baltimore, we used to have a monster-sized music store that's long gone the way of Colecovision and Frosty root beer, the Record Theatre.  About half the size of a Tower Records and maybe one floor of the colossal Virgin Megastores (both also long gone), the Record Theatre was still the place for tunes in our area, along with Waxy Maxy's, but the latter was located in a different part of town. 

I remember when Record Theatre was flourishing, it was filled with wall-to-wall people, much like the Virgin superplex in Times Square.  I miss both dearly, albeit for me, the smaller homeboy record shop like you'd find in High Fidelity or Pretty in Pink is truly where I'd find myself home.  In Baltimore today, that distinction belongs to Sound Garden and Record and Tape Traders, two music shacks still holding on in tough times and still experiencing a respectable influx of never-say-die tune freaks.

Back to Record Theatre, however, the place seemed like a castle to young eyes such as mine in the late seventies and early eighties.  Being stationed in an urban location, I always thought the owners were shrewd in catering to all tastes, even if R&B sold more than rock 'n roll (albeit the Stones sold more than anyone, period), but that wasn't always the norm depending on what time of day diverse pockets of clientele would show up.  At one point, the Record Theatre hired some punks and metalheads who worked certain shifts and they hijacked the store stereo to spin hardcore and thrash.  I tended to show up during their shifts on purpose, just so I could hear new things I identified with and to have someone who knew what made me tick behind the register.

Before all that, the store was supported mostly by soul and pop sales, thus walking in would submit you to a lot of Rod Stewart, Luther Vandross, Donna Summer and even Kiss.  I remember buying "I Was Made For Lovin' You" on 45 there when I was a kid and my folks had stopped at the store with an uncle of mine.  I can't remember what they were after, Conway Twitty or Willie Nelson for I all know.  The Record Theatre had the area's best country selection, go figure.  It was one of the few times I'd been allowed to venture on my own and since I was a Kiss loyalist at the time, I had to have that 45.  I'd been teased by one of my cousins-in-law for picking up "I Was Made For Lovin' You" because Kiss had done the unthinkable by going disco.  In hindsight, they were right for harassing me, but I digress.

What was eye-popping about Record Theatre aside from the neon piping along the perimeter that was precursor to the tubular glitz of eighties' arcades, was the giant framed album cover art mounted around the circumference of the place.  They collectively propagated as much of a pseudo pop art gallery of its time as they were glaring advertisements, yet many of those hoisted pieces never came down until the store went under in the late eighties.  Some of those remained up for nearly a decade and one of those eternal holdouts was The Cars' Candy-O.

If I owned a record shop today, I would have Candy-O along with Roxy Music's Country Life, Roger Waters' The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and Robert Palmer's Pressure Drop high up on the wall of my hypothetical store.  Whitesnake's Lovehunter would certainly be a temptation, but it does cross into actual porn territory.  Call me a pervert if you must, it's all good, but I maintain that each of these risqué album covers are boundary-pushing fine art of the modern age.  The art world has been historically been consumed with interpreting the nude in poetic manners, and while Roxy, Waters and Palmer's album covers contain nudity, they're reasonably tasteful.  Appositely, the nudity is merely suggestive in the case of Candy-O, and that one fascinated me the most as a kid.  Hell, it continues to titillate me today.

Alberto Vargas gave us a rock 'n roll masterpiece on Candy-O that sums up the entire ethos of the genre upon the hood of a prototype street beastie with its alluring tamer spread across the hood.  Today I find fascination with "Candy-O's" gravity-defying bosom that hardly seems logical in such a perpendicular position, not without one of those missile-cone bras of the fifties.  The sheer fabric Vargas enshrouds his honeypot muse in suggests she's full-on beneath and as a young boy, I was completely entranced by it, slightly exaggerated or not.

It was the fiery red hair and the shadowy belly button that first attracted me at nine years old.  I knew vaguely that men and women and boys and girls had different anatomy and that (in most cases) they were drawn to each other.  It wasn't until I'd learned more about sex itself later that year after tripping over a stray copy of Hustler magazine when the rest of Candy-O's attributes became apparent to my greedy eyes.  As I got older and able to process desire for consummation with the other sex, I wanted Candy-O.  Who didn't?  The Cars had scored a home run by flashing Vargas' fleshly beacon call overtop their wax, and that's before listeners could dive into "Let's Go," "Double Life," "Lust For Kicks," "Got a Lot On My Head," "Dangerous Type" and the title track. 

It was vintage marketing.  Sex sells better than a glittering testimonial from God Himself.  The 1978 self-titled album had been such a powerhouse that Candy-O was going to be a hit by attrition.  The Cars merely sweetened the deal for one of their future classics by thrusting a smoking hot aphrodisiac into the package.

When I first beheld Candy-O on the upper tier of the Record Theatre, that disco Kiss slab in my paw suddenly grew icky.  I felt a then-unfathomable urge to betray my kabuki heroes and beeline for The Cars on the sales racks.  My mom, being ever vigilant while loosening the leash, did a beeline of her own for me once she'd seen what had ensnared my attention.  "Eyes down, honey," she'd told me in a gentle voice and steered me away from Candy-O's svelte and sleek invitation.  Kiss remained in my hands and thus came home with me, paid for with my dollar-a-week allowance.  Yes, I remember when 45's were only 99 cents, much less remembering them at all.

The more frequently we attended the Record Theatre as a family, it became a bit of a sport for me to sneak passing glances at Candy-O.  My mom knew all the time what I was doing, and it's to her credit she'd thrown the boundary lines at me while my sexual hormones were starting unravel by the time I hit age 11.  I think it was well-smart of her to hold me in check and now as a father, I hide all of the album covers I mentioned earlier from my son.  He's not yet ready for any of that, but I'll understand wholeheartedly when someday I catch him trying to sneak a peek at Candy-O and that bare-bottomed one-night-stand from Robert Palmer's voguish playboy days.

When the Record Theatre announced it was closing, I was in my late teens and hitting the place on a regular basis.  Some of the routine customers were being offered pieces of the store to keep as mementos.  You can bet what I asked for when they asked me if I wanted something.  She was still there in her glory on the high end of the wall, oozing overtop the jazz section as she always had since I'd first set foot in the place.  I've always loved that dichotomy, such a jazzy chick spilling rock 'n roll wantonness overtop a style of music that's subliminally sex-driven instead of outright sleazy.  When I asked if I could have Candy-O, I was given a laugh and told, "She's already claimed, Ray, sorry."  Instead, they sent me out with an album promo cutout for Elvis Costello's Spike, still a couple months ahead of its official release.  That was kinda cool, actually.  It gave me a taste of my future, having access to music in advance.

Like the eighth track on Candy-O, you can't hold on too long to much of anything and nowadays whenever I pass the exit from the beltway that used to lead to Record Theatre, I routinely sigh.  Nobody but me knows why I do it, but I miss the hell out of the place and I miss that giant Candy-O wall mount.  She was my first adolescent fantasy.  Blondie told me to call her over and over from my turntable, but Candy-O summoned me, if you will.  I used to have innocent crushes on Barbara Eden and Catherine Bach prior to, but Candy-O was there to prompt my first wet dream.  When I think about it, that gal popped my cherry long before the real event occurred.  Candy-O, I needed you so, apparently.

Listening to Candy-O on CD doesn't have quite the same verve as spinning on it vinyl.  Somehow, the turntable rolls a little extra revolution as if by naughty instinct and Candy-O's tunes sound sweatier on slab than on the digital transfer, "It's All I Can Do," "Night Spots," "Shoo Be Doo," "Got a Lot On My Head," "Double Life" and "Candy O" being the biggest distinctions.  I could be wrong, but I think Candy-O prefers things faster and wetter in that respect, ruby rings, sharp stilettos and all.  Ric Ocasek would say she's a lot like you...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Notes From the Old School: Seventh Scrub of a Seventh Scrub



Don't infer by the title of this post that I'm dishing on the immortal Iron Maiden.  As my stepfather has coined from the silver screen of yesterday, Mother Q never raised such a foolish child. 

Anyone who knows me knows Maiden is my favorite metal band of all-time and as I've been pecking at their latest video release Maiden England '88 for review at Blabbermouth, I've found it hard not to drift back somewhere in time inside my mind.  1988 was the year I graduated high school and it was also a year of other transitions and hard life lessons learned. 

I'd faced breakup and forced resignation from a grocery store job that had a policy I was due to receive health benefits after having worked there for nearly two years.  It was the year I missed my senior prom having gone a year earlier as a junior to my ex's senior prom.  Bully on her, she couldn't be bothered to honor the commitment she'd made me a year thence.  On the positive end, my curfew was extended and I was on the prowl most weekends, often coming home to watch Headbangers Ball on Saturday like it was liturgical, and sometimes I'd sneak back out and goof off with buddies in the wee hours until the fuzz politely sent us on our way. 

In 1988, I realized I wanted to be a writer more than anything and as I was accepted into the local community college, I was talked by my folks into aiming towards a business degree as a backup plan to my budding aspirations.  I'd also deluded myself into thinking I was marrying my high school sweetheart and though she didn't support my ambitions, I was willing to get on task of gainful employment, then chase after my dreams.

In the midst of all this change and growth in my life, I was cleaning corporate offices inside a Black and Decker complex that included a warehouse.  My closest headbanger companion Mark worked on the cleaning crew with me for awhile and then he moved into the warehouse end.  I was shrewd enough to know that our foreman only did two rounds of the facility to make sure we were staying on task and then he would crash in the cleaning crew's office and slack off.  He'd later join us for our ten minute break and then disappear again.  He would show up at precise and predictable moments of time, so he was easy to get over since the work was likewise simple and it hardly constituted the full allotted shift time.  You get the picture.

You might correctly assume that because of the flawless anticipation of the foreman's rounds, we on the crew would time our work so that we could gather on certain floors and horse around. Dustbuster Tag was a favorite game.  We'd flip out the main lights and dive under cubicle desks, stalking one another through the partitions and chasing each other with whirring dustbusters until everyone had been "tagged."  I can still see those grody gray-brown marks on my old concert shirts from those epic contests.  One of our lot used to call sex lines from the desks and we'd all laugh our fool heads off until he was fired for it once the corporate moguls put two-and-two together. 

For awhile, we young bucks had a lady on our crew and I made friends with her for the short time she'd been with us.  She took me to a projection booth inside an assembly hall on the premises and she'd let me vent about the stunning loss of my girlfriend.  Sadly, I don't remember this girl's name, but she had a couple years on me and had fallen into a bad relationship she wanted out of.  She gave me my first cigarette (a very short-lived habit I've long put to the wind) and we made out for a couple of minutes in that projection booth before she stopped me and said she didn't want her boyfriend snapping me in half.  A week later, she quit.

Once separated and attending to our tasks of emptying trash cans, ashtrays (this was still the days when people could smoke inside the office), vacuuming, buffing tiles and cleaning the bathrooms (sorry, ladies, but the women's rooms were always far more frightening than the men's), I would have my Walkman strapped at my hip while I worked.  The early form of an iPod, I used to do my job with cassette tapes spinning at my waist and the two heaviest hitters that ruled my Walkman at work were Iron Maiden's Somewhere in Time and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

The latter had just come out in 1988 and thus I spun it with the same obsessive consumption as I have every Maiden album that's crawled into my mits.   I could be wrong, but I might've listened to Seventh Son the most times out of any Iron Maiden album within my life span, considering it would get an easy two spins while on the job, reserving time for screwing off with my friends, break time and also when I would sit in the president's office and stare out of his massive window at the glow of the illuminated parking lot after-hours.  I took my headphones off then, just in the event the brass might skulk back in for a late impromptu meeting, which did occur now and then.

On occasion, some of the office workers would linger behind and while many were snobbish towards me, a few of the mid-level managers were really kind and talkative.  One man made the effort to ask what I was listening to and he nodded when I said it was Iron Maiden.  "I'm more of a Deep Purple guy," he'd said.  That stands vivid in my mind and I still find it way cool. 

I tried like hell not to sing "Moonchild," "The Evil That Men Do," "Can I Play With Madness" and "Only the Good Die Young" out loud when people were around working overtime, but when they were all gone for the night, the gloves were off.   I wanted to be Bruce Dickinson in the worst way and I know I butchered him in off-key, post-adolescent impression, yet it felt good singing the Seventh Son songs to no one in particular.  I knew when our super would be on the way, so the headphones would zip off my ears and dangle around my neck while I silently dumped trash and wiped down desks once he moseyed through my floor at 6:40 p.m. faithfully.

There was the one time, however, when I was caught "whoa-ohhing" along with Dickinson during the title track by the floor receptionist.  I was embarrassed beyond words and tried to get out of her vicinity when I saw her laughing.  However, she nicely told me to carry on, that she was only there to retrieve her purse she'd left behind.  This woman turned out to be the mother of one of my closest friends in high school, Heather.  By this time, we'd all graduated and gone our separate ways, a few of us keeping up with the "K.I.T." (for keep in touch) prompts we'd scribbled in one another's yearbooks.  I was very fond of Heather back in the day and supportive of her rotten relationship with some guitarist who went into the military once we'd all left school.  What I never knew, once I'd been formally introduced to her mother at Black and Decker, was that she'd wanted to see me.  Apparently I'd been given a glowing review to Heather's mom and her mother supported the idea of us taking a stab at a date.  This, despite the fact I was a gritboy headbanger with torn jeans, Megadeth and Overkill shirts and a ponytail.

Avoiding as much drama as I can, I was ecstatic once I had Heather on my ear and she'd agreed to go out with me.  I'd been coming out of my personal funk from my breakup and thankfully avoided suicide.  That little makeout session in the projection booth had restored some of my confidence and now this was going to put me right on top.  I'd held a silent crush on Heather for a long time in school, often hoping she'd break up with the loser she'd been with.  They had lasted through high school and I gave up on any notions of getting together with her, much less any of the ladies I'd been attracted to in school outside of my year-long girlfriend, Monica.

Seventh Son of a Seventh Son continued to roll in my Walkman, in my car and in my bedroom stereo.  I fucking loved that album, despite some of the negative press it got.  It was symbolic of change, change within Iron Maiden's sound and change in my own personal life.  Today I still feel all the emotions I ever did when I couldn't get it out of my various tape players back then. 

The unfortunate ending to my time at Black and Decker and my foiled date with Heather came out one night when I stupidly tried to act heroic for one of the warehouse ladies who'd gotten her chips stuck inside a vending machine.  I was looked at as one of the stronger guys on the crew, and I dumbly took that as a responsibility, thus I shook, titled and ultimately forechecked the machine until the Plexiglas shattered.  I got those chips out and we all had a laugh over it, but the critical error I'd made was assuming our supervisor was going to discuss the incident with the right powers and explain it was an accident.  I told the security guard who'd seen it go down that I was willing to pay for the damage, but no one spoke up and I went back to work.  Later, an entourage escorted me out of the building and onto the street. 

When I called Heather the next day to tell her what had happened and confirm our date, she told me she'd been forbidden by her mother to see me.  By this time, I'd had many conversations with her mother.  In fact, I knew her mom had hung behind after her time was up just to share a few words with me.  I liked that woman and felt her reciprocation.  To this day, I often wonder if fate hadn't intervened, what course life would've taken.  It's nothing I agonize over, since life goes on and you make the most of what you have.  Still, given how I thought I'd won that woman over, I felt betrayal, even though she was just doing with a mother would and should do under the circumstances she'd been presented. 

It had gone around the plant that I had picked a fight with the security guard and thrown him into the vending machine.  Heather's mom bought into this fabrication and after I pleaded over and over to be heard out, I was left with a click in my ear.  No one believes a teenager, especially a scrub like I'd been back then. 

I felt a tremendous sense of loss in that fragment of time, on an equilibrium to my breakup earlier in the year.  I was furious, dejected and right back to that deep-down sense of low morale I'd slugged through and would have to slug through again.  With no sense of irony lost, I pushed play on my stereo after Heather sobbed in my ear and hung up on me.  "The Evil That Men Do" chimed on.  Call it figurative if you must, but life does blow raspberries at you that way.

And so, as I watch the Seventh Son tunes roll before me on Maiden England '88, I think about how the band had incredible moxy to tackle a concept album and to buck the naysayers that were blowing their own raspberries at the addition of synthesizers to Somewhere in Time.  Those were increased on Seventh Son and nowadays it hardly sounds shocking.  It's just a natural progression and experimentation that still manifests in their music now and then today.  The acoustic elements on Seventh Son remain some of the most graceful textures the band's ever dabbled with.  At least history has mostly been kind to both albums and I maintain that the songwriting on Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, while lacking the galloping thunder (minus "The Evil That Men Do" and "Only the Good Die Young") and tone-drenched power of its predecessors, is one of their most refined recorded works and one of their finest overall achievements.  Powerslave, for me, is the definitive Iron Maiden album, but Seventh Son is glorious in its own right.

I choose to think more about the Dustbuster Tag games and pretending I was master of the domain in the big boss man's chair than I do the butt ugly conclusion of my teenaged tenure at that complex.  I do wish I'd been given proper audience by everyone who'd disparaged me by grossly misstating the chain of events.  I thought I was being noble and ended up making a yeoman mistake.  It cost me much, but not the cost of the Plexiglas, funny enough.  My honor and reputation had been smeared and that's really about all I lament these days.  In many ways, my future career actions have set about to not necessarily atone for that incident, but to wipe it clean altogether.  Only with infinite dreams and a little cajoling of the proverbial clairvoyant have I managed to achieve that.