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

Sunday, November 27, 2005

xLooking Forwardx

Coming from Maryland, I can say that back in the day our local music scene boasted a few notables like Kix, Boot Camp, The Ravynns and Crack the Sky, but nowadays, this once minor league area is suddenly sprouting with major league-worthy musicians like Clutch, Scott "Wino" Weinrich, Trephine, Swarm of the Lotus, Recourse and now this straight edge hardcore group, xLooking Forwardx.

xLooking Forwardx – The Path We Tread (Facedown Records) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

19 songs in less than half hour…GOD, I am so proud of where hardcore is going again these days! What can I tell you about Maryland’s xLooking Forwardx other than they come in a stream of seriously good hardcore albums just when I’d given up hope on the genre? Fans can blame Hatebreed if they like for the way hardcore sold its soul to The Almighty Breakdown, however, I blame their unimaginative imitators, especially in light of a recent interview I had with the very professional Jamey Jasta. What makes Hatebreed special is the fact they honor punk and metal of the past by streamlining the two forms so effectively both sanctions have no choice but to embrace them. Where their disciples failed was the fact they focused on one aspect of Hatebreed’s bludgeoning sound, thus creating a one-dimensional medium. Bands like With Honor, Recourse, Seventh Star and No Innocent Victim have proved recently that the old school of hardcore and punk provided invaluable fundamentals for future use, and continuing this trend is xLooking Forwardx.

“You’re Worth It” lifts the breakout riffs from Golden Earring’s “Radar Love” and runs like hell for 1:17 the blatancy is forgivable in light of how fun it is. “Not For Sale” is a raging motherfucker that issues a declaration of xLooking Forwardsx’s values, the intensity of which is even surpassed on the ensuing minute-long masher, “Sidelines.” From here, xLooking Forwardx rushes forward with purpose, sounding like a cross between Nuclear Assault and Youth of Today and The Descendents. Sound good? As when talking about Shaft, you damn right.

The sheer righteousness of “Displacement Theory” is evident in its melodies that aren’t found anywhere else in hardcore, while their straight edge messages flare out of songs like “Waste of Time,” “Take Care” and “All Aces.” The accusatory “Heroes of Your Revolution” jabs at posturing punks with clueless ideals, and xLooking Forwardx also attacks commercialism with “A Year From Now.” In other words, this album covers all bases.

In all that’s sacred in the names of Minor Threat, Rites of Spring and Naked Raygun, if you’ve turned your back to hardcore, I don’t blame you, but about-face yourself and get around this album. The Path We Tread is high octane hardcore with principled intent, to use their song title, “For Those Who Believe.” And trust me, you’ll be a believer (either again or for the first time) after this album if you weren’t already. /

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

a little soul before Thanksgiving

I'm a little worn out these days. That's nothing no one else breathing mortal life in a hyperactive new milennium existence can't say the same for themselves. Whatever the walk of life, be it a parent, which is more of a challenge in these confused, modern times, or the people working two jobs to barely put a turkey on their tables this Thanksgiving, or those fighting through teary, sleepless days over the loss of a loved one or the inevitable loss, we're tired, weary bunches of walking flesh in need of not only empathy, but a genuine release that doesn't come from a bottle or at the misfortune of others.

Given the tiredness I feel in the midst of everyday life, I pass out within a half an hour watching t.v. whenever I have time. I stagger home from work, realizing others in the office put in even more time than I, but I have my alternate music life which is equally demanding but more satisfying. When co-workers infiltrate your mind and you can't stop talking about them, how hard they work, how petty they might be under certain situations, how incredibly hot some might be, how well you work with some and how not so well with others, it's a problem. It's also a problem if there's raw attraction to someone you see more than your family, especially that grass is always greener thing the hopeless romantics daydream about. Likewise, it's a problem when you feud with a co-worker and your anger spills out of the office and into your home. All of these are hypothetical situations that takes much of the hilarious starch out of Office Space, and it's likely you might relate to one or two things I'm bringing up here.

When creating an inner sanctum in your home, it becomes hard sometimes to shirk the coat and hang up the hat for the night, when there's just one little thing you could've accomplished before leaving, or something you should've mentioned to someone that could affect the next day's output. I suppose if you have a child, you come home and let your children ease you out of your daytime roles, unless you're an absolute workaholic, and that's the curse of the working class as it is the curse of the dreamers. Chasing down goals and dreams while working your tail off in an environment that demands more from you physically and mentally each's inevitable to feel worn out.

Coming up to the Thanksgiving holiday, the only people I feel sorrier for in the workplace than myself and my comrades are the poor fools working retail this coming Black Friday! I have to say that despite the fact I felt like I had my head kicked in on a brutal day where most of the staff left early when there was still much to do, the fact one of our attorneys laid out serious money for bottles of alcohol to many of us as a token of appreciation warmed me up a bit. I received a bottle of expensive vodka, and after giving my soon-to-be new partner (a beautiful person on the outside and in and someone who sacrifices much to do her job) a holiday hug on the way out the door, I felt like Mr. Walters laggardly shuffling his way out the door at the end of each episode of Taxi (come on, you know what I'm talking about), I let Mastodon rumble my way drive home and yet I ended up finding myself later in the evening checking in with VH-1 Soul after dozing off on Left Behind II, which my wife was watching.

I give little credit to today's soul and hip hop scenes. It's a cash cow, plain and simple. That probably offends many people reading it, but Public Enemy nailed it years ago on Fear of a Black Planet with "Who Stole the Soul?" Who did steal the soul? I mean WTF, people? When did hip hip, rap and soul turn into a limp-noodled, over posturing state of blah? When it started concerning itself over freaking bling bling, that's when.

The ability of what was once known as "urban music," kind of a derogatory term if you live in the country or at least the suburbs and happen to like R&B, soul or rap, to ingrain itself on a cerebral level is pretty astonishing if you consider the best of what the form has to offer.

I only watched 3 videos on VH-1 Soul, Mos Def, India Arie and Les Nubians, and I felt everything negative wash away. I felt cleansed. Mos Def, one of the important rappers of our times never fails to grab my attention. Thoughtfully provoking, Mos Def is a rare "voice" in a generation of rappers who loudly concern themselves over getting high, getting laid, getting stylish retro clothes, getting props. It's all so goddamned artificial I can hardly stomach it anymore. I can look at the Tribe Called Quest disc sitting here on my desk this very minute, and already it seems like a lost artifact because Q-Tip had a brain, and Tribe's music was usually engaging. Mos Def runs in the same vein.

India Arie is someone my mom, of all people turned me onto. Arie is a genuine poet, a Lady Soul for today, and her hippie-like acoustic approach to her soulful vibes are the necessary down-tuning we need in this world. On her video for the song "Video," she gently struts and soaks in the ambience of her world, proud of who she is, never shy to express a self-love that is pure, not self-destructive. Not the average girl in your video indeed... Les Nubians always catch my ear for their 70s organs, but their take on Sade's "Sweetest Taboo" is so different from the original, which is quite an accomplishment, considering how sexy Sade's version is. The sexuality Sade herself radiates in body and song is the female equivalent to Barry White; both have the ability to make you want to seduce the closest potential lover within grasp, while Les Nubians put less of sexual radiance to theirs and more of a lackadaisical, all-is-well kind of vibe you might feel in Floetry, D'angelo or Maxwell.

Alright, I know the metal fans reading my blog are freaking the hell out right about now, but the fact of the matter is, there's so much music out there and so much to get around. Metal is a loud, exciting expression of relinquished frustration. At its best, you feel uplifted, energetic and empowered. At its worst, you feel like smashing something up. The same can be said of rap, if you think about it. Pure, genuine soul, however, there's no anger, there's no loudness; good soul is Teddy Pendergrass, Al Green, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Prince and Alicia Keys. It washes you clean, it caresses you, it loves you as much you love it back, it invigorates as it stimulates, it gives you hope there's something positive in a hurry-up kill yourself kind of world. Why else would they call it soul?

Saturday, November 19, 2005


A little something about letting your emotions get the best of you...

Hatred is an ugly but powerful thing. Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars could corrupt any turnable pupils to the dark side of The Force by playing up its seductiveness up by noting that "hate makes a man stronger." As chilling as that sounds, he's right. But at what cost? If you want to extend the Star Wars analogy a bit further, you can pinpoint the loss of humanity that is the summation of Darth Vader. You take a basically good person with character flaws and through exploitation, he turns evil. It can happen just like that. Not that the plot of Star Wars Episode III is all that plausible, it nonetheless shows how quickly someone can succumb to his inner hatred given certain external stimuli setting the chain of events in motion.

I'm not unlike anyone else walking the earth when I say I hate. As much as I love, I also hate. I embrace the loving, peaceful side of me, but all it takes is certain tweaks and my hatred comes raging full-force. I hate the negativity in the world, I hate the bigotry in the world, I hate the fact the general population blindly accepts the status quo, I hate that people vote with their wallets instead of their brains, I hate faking smiles when I'm hurting inside, I hate dealing with pettiness, I hate being petty myself, I hate the business I work in, though I should be (and am) grateful to be employed (the events of this past summer gave me a better appreciation), I hate stress, I hate phony people, I hate backstabbers, I hate having people you thought were out of your life suddenly showing up again, I hate the fact most people value humans lives over animals (hypocritical of me since I'm a meat eater, I know), I hate the fact America is ethnocentric in general and is doomed to be the next Roman Empire on it current course, I hate...I hate...I hate...

Most of all, I hate exchanging my values and code of conduct in light of a misunderstanding or gross ignorance. I hate to be wrong but openly invite to be proven wrong. When I am wrong, I'll be man enough to admit it and seek to rectify it, but if the resolution doesn't suit the other party, or further, they try to press an advantage, my hatred erupts in full force. Case in point, I had a misunderstanding in light of apparently bad information and lashed out blindly. The scenario was over an interview I had scheduled at a local venue that was screwed up because of the greedy bastard clients of my day job. Not the first time I've had to cancel out and reschedule band interviews because of work, and it likely won't be the last. After an 11 hour work day that was miserable from start-to-finish, and having to accept the embarassment of missing my appointment, I then received information from the band that someone used my credentials to sneak into the show. Given the fact I was supposed to meet a couple of friends there after the interview, my shock and outrage of this news led me to believe I'd been betrayed by these friends and I erupted over it.

After settling the issue and acknowledging the innocence of the parties in question, I was then confronted once again and after offering an apology, my mind snapped to a place it hasn't been since 1982 when I beat up 5 boys who wouldn't leave well enough alone. I felt challenged and called out, and if you're a hot-tempered male, or even one like myself who seeks the peaceful route in all situations until provoked, the rage inside was uncontrollable. I'm grateful the exchange was over the phone because the hatred I felt in the split second of this moment after feeling guilty of my accusation...all I can say is that a loving wife, two playful cats, a cup of chai and some Sepultura made it disippate for the most part. I haven't needed a wind-down period this lengthy in ages. 35 years old and hating everything in the world like I'm 15. 35 and ready to duke because I was pushed too far after admitting wrong and apologizing. 35 and full of pride that is always the thing that keeps my spirit afloat but has the potential to be my undoing. It's just not right.

All I can say through this, and it's a bad example, but if you see how easily Anakin Skywalker can turn to the dark side, it serves as a basic life example for reality. Yeah, we're all stressed individuals, and we all have the potential to be cold-blooded killers if the right circumstances trigger the emotion. What stops the majority of us from acting upon hateful, hedonistic impulses is reason. Otherwise, we wouldn't have lasted as a society past the Dark Ages.

So yes, hatred can make you strong; Lord knows I felt strong enough to rip car doors off last night, and that's a very sad thing. Part of my efforts and goals designed towards peace is because hatred is a waste of precious life expenditure. You can choose to walk in darkness or you can strive for something higher and of deeper substance. Unfortunately, emotions are so delicate and unpredictable it becomes harder to subscribe to a preferred mode of behavior. The x-factor is likewise unpredictable and is almost always the catalyst towards hatred. My ugly behavior last night stems from life frustration and a very bad year personally (with the exception of my music life), and the sad reality is that I vented on the wrong people. It comes with holding it all in and letting hatred overwhelm my peaceful inhibitions. I don't think I'm much of a stranger in that regard...

The best thing to do now is to hit my Staples Easy button incessantly...