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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Potpourri - Larry Williams - Bad Boy

Larry Williams - Bad Boy
1989 Specialty Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

In my youth Friday evenings were largely spent in the living room after dinner in sessions I reflectively refer to as "Friday Night History of Rock 'n Roll." Of course, in the late seventies and early eighties, the rockarolla fifties and early sixties birthplace of American rock 'n roll wasn't really that old but it still was, same as my generation today sits in wonderment that the eighties music we grew up with is already two decades old. Twenty years is a lot of time, sure, but certainly not long enough to forget all the music we cherished and defined ourselves with through our own formative years.

My stepfather would drag out his cherished crate of 45s, meticulously organized even so much he had them all listed on a piece of cardboard tacked to inner side of the wooden lid. I jokingly think of Stephen King's short piece "The Crate" from Creepshow and the carnivorous nasty that lived in there, ready to pounce if cracked open and trifled with. My stepfather was strict but never an ogre, however, the repercussions for messing with that crate was nearly as deadly. As a former DI, you didn't want a piece of the man, trust me. His lungs were all the ammo he needed.

He protected that hidden list of music as closely as he did the 45s themselves, particularly since I was being given a rigorous education in music, and no period as critical as fifties rock 'n roll. In some ways you could call our living room a conservatory because those scratchy shorties of vinyl would spin non-stop all the way until 9:00 pm when Dallas came on, another family addiction. For at least three hours the sounds of The Marcels, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Everly Brothers, Danny and The Juniors, The Moonglows, The Coasters, Link Wray and just about anyone who ever cut a record in the fifties and sixties would fill the house at a din I'm sure my stepfather felt a giddy spirit of vengeance from having to turn his his record player down when he was a teenager himself, particularly rock 'n roll executed by black musicians; you can probably get the ugly picture of what came out of his living room when spinning the likes of Little Richard... Probably the same as many post World War II living rooms that was still in many cases inherently racist. Generally speaking, the Fabulous Fifties were only fabulous for whites...

Fortunately I was raised better than that since my mother was a progressive hippie at heart and my stepfather had survived Vietnam, where he noted that race played little part amongst the soldiers on the battlelines, one of the few places men are truly equal, sadly enough. My only dilemma growing up was trying to make sure I correctly indentified the musicians, who may have happened to be black considering their woeful blues wails from the Mississippi deltas originally helped shape (along with working class country) rock 'n roll and every form of rock, soul and hip hop thereafter. Months of Friday nights later, I could eventually decipher Bo Diddley from Howlin' Wolf and The Orioles from The Crests from The Larks. What was it about doo wop acts that made them name themselves after birds? Maybe the image of concrete forest chirping. At least there was The Platters to break up the aviary insanity of it all.

As my music ears were still developing, however, one trouble spot I had was separating the rowdy Larry Williams from his mad dog peer Little Richard and even Screamin' Jay Hawkins for that matter, much as I frequently flubbed the Beach Boys for Jan and Dean. Still, there is joy in error if you love your subject matter and if that meant my stepfather would back up and spin "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy" by Larry Williams again then hurriedly toss on Little Richard's "Tutti Fruitti" to point out the subtleties (actually, there weren't so many subtleties considering Richard was far more explosive), then all the better for me. Good music deserves a few spins, while great music deserves to be treated with reverence.

Larry Williams was, in the grand perspective of rock 'n roll, an unsung hero, considering his rival Little Richard would go on to rightly gain larger notoriety. Without Little Richard, I predict that "Mr. Personality" Larry Williams would've had a faster track to bigger success--despite his many high-charting hits--as well as a shoo-in vote to Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame, not that Larry's music (much less anyone's) needs to be judged and relegated in such a manner. Stop and consider the many tongue-rolling ditties Larry Williams recorded, bouncing songs such as "Short Fat Fanny," "Bony Maronie," "Dizzy, Miss Lizzy," "She Said Yeah" and the upstart rocker (and my personal favorite Williams tune) "Slow Down."

Listening to all of the songs in succession on Bad Boy, I realize that yeah, Larry Williams was doomed to have his fame and fortune extinguished due to his wreckless lifestyle, which many believe caught up to the rock 'n roll legend in 1979 when Williams was found with a bullet in temple. Suicide or foul play? Only those close to the man can genuinely speculate, but the cold case of Larry Williams to a public that likely has never heard of the man rates far behind the toilet paper Paris Hilton prefers to wipe her platinum butt with, and this is utterly lame. Terrible that our values as a society are spent in envy of an American-ordained duchess of debauchery instead of a rocking soul like Larry Williams who probably agonized that Little Richard ran away to the home stretch as one of the kings of rock 'n roll, while Williams was left in the final turn on faltering horsepower that had kept pace three-quarters of the way.

At least The Beatles covered Williams' rip-snorting "Slow Down" with almost the same snaggletoothed passion in their early Liverpool club days, while Williams took on Huey Smith's "Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu" (covered by many artists including Aersomith, who probably get the beneficiary award in that matter). Larry Williams also did a take on Little Richard's "Heeby-Jeebies," so read into that as you will. Also consider Williams was the recipient of Richard's rhythm section when recording "Short Fat Fannie," so if there was any bona fide rivalry between the two, at least one greatly assisted the other, if even from a distance.

Bad Boy largely bops and grooves through Larry Williams' short career from 1957-59 and it's a three-chord nirvana with a gifted voice occasionally dripping lasciviously and yelping wildly along on songs like "Oh Baby," "Little School Girl," "Hocus Pocus," "Zing Zing" "The Dummy" and "You Bug Me, Baby." Williams also rips the hell out of Lloyd Price's "Lawdy Miss Clawdy," a song I would've mistakenly attributed to Fats Domino as a rookie kid, largely due to the hammering piano rhythm and the sashaying Southern strut that has a bit of audile okra to it.

Though Williams overpowers the slow dance grooves of "Just Because" and "High School Dance" the songs click because they (moreso "Just Because") force you to grind just a little closer to your steady instead of observing the three inches or more rule in an adult-squashed sock hop, which might as well be considered reflective through Larry Williams' dreadful "Ting-a-Ling," a song that could've been an ad for Lucky Strikes with the disarming Lawrence Welkian vocal section turning a bad track into an utterly stupid one. The same effect as Pat Boone squandering Little Richard for Lettermen America, the same ones who ordered public burnings of Elvis records and EC Comics.

Let us not forget to spotlight the whimsical though gimmicky "Short Fat Fanny" and Larry Williams' nutty ode to his rock 'n roll peers; the song effectively name-drops Williams' associates by tying well-known songs of the day such as "Blueberry Hill," "Blue Suede Shoes," "Tutti Fruitti," "Hound Dog," "Jim Dandy" and "Hello, Mary Lou" into a seamless lyrical thread. Nonsensical, but pure joy nevertheless.

That being said, Bad Boy is still an ankle-provoking time capsule of a rocker who was dropped from his label due to drug possession before he had the opportunity to show us even more of what he had. Then again, if "Ting-a-Ling" was an indicator, fate probably did the brother a favor before he further tainted his stout reputation for wildcat rock 'n roll. At least nowadays I can tell Larry Williams from Little Richard, though I accidentally blurted Beach Boys on "Dead Man's Curve" a few months ago before quickly amending myself to Jan and Dean. As my stepfather would admonish, just pitiful...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

CD Review: Plan 9 - Manmade Monster

Plan 9 - Manmade Monster
2008 Nickel and Dime Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I've always said Elvis Presley and the Misfits are the most covered and imitated musicians in rock history, the Pink Floyd, Kiss and Led Zep tribute legions notwithstanding. Ever since Metallica amped up "Last Caress" and "Green Hell" on The $5.98 EP in the late eighties, one might consider the redux gesture an official comeuppance of the Misfits from could've-been-obscure ghoul punk act to seminal underground legends. While Glenn Danzig to this day has little to say about the distortion-crazed horror rock he had a firm hand in establishing (minus a handful of Misfits reunion gigs of late), the popularity of the Misfits today far supersedes their gutter appeal in the eighties.

Everything from lounge renditions of "I Walked With a Martian" to a score of drape-faced revisionists (Japan's Balzac being one of the absolute best of the lot) has kept the Misfits' legacy of brutality in full swing. It isn't enough that the Crimson Ghost (originally a skull-masked avenger in a classic serial film of the same name) has jumped from the chests of Generation X to today's kids, kids from all walks of musical life be they metal, punk, horror rock, Goth or psychobilly. No, the upswing of the Misfits' resounding return (held onto with sweaty mits by survivors Jerry Only and Doyle) is felt by young 'uns today who scream "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" with a full set of lungs, just as much as their elders (some who are their real mommies and daddies) did long before them. If there's any problem with this, it's the identity possession factor in which some of the younger crowd forget who built the fan base to begin with, expressing their misguided disapproval with sneers upon a graying and receding Gen X that wears their old, faded Pushead-drawn Misfits shirts in unyielding devotion.

What that leads us to is Oakland's Plan 9, formerly a straight-up Misfits tribute band that has written their own set of whoa-ohhhh-brewed tunes (with Jerry Only extending camaraderie by appearing on their previous 8 Hits From Hell disc) and the comforting thing about these guys is that they have enough rock smarts to make a solid batch of originals and a small handful of covers for their full-length debut Manmade Monster.

Referring in name obviously to the Misfits' old label as well as the turkey cult horror film Plan 9 From Outer Space (from which the alma maters were conceived, along with other fifties, sixties and seventies witching hour flicks), Plan 9 wisely avoids the squelch and squeals of Earth A.D., which most bands do likewise (although Plan 9's "Day of the Dead" retains the thrash-happy spirit of Earth A.D. with an underlying mod keyboard compensating wonderfully for the Misfits' hollow static), and instead turns to Walk Among Us and Legacy of Brutality for inspiration along with scat cat psychobilly--minus the latter's rhythmic slap bass, of course.

That doesn't mean Plan 9 are slouches within their rhythm section. Going by the cheeseball names Scary Only (bass) and Dr. Von Wolfenstein (guitar), these guys along with drummer Mad Mike are pick-up punk artists with a firm grasp of their instruments, even fusing some metal riffs now and then ("Revenant's Rise," "She Never Sleeps" and their cover of "Samhain," for example). Vocalist Aaron Fuller pulls just enough of a drawling Danzig facsimile to drive home Plan 9's point, which isn't much of one save to say they're addicted to the Misfits and psychobilly (as one begot the other with the help of Reverend Horton Heat and The Stray Cats) and that Fuller's gang have more to offer than just borrowing the looks and (already borrowed) mascot of their heroes.

"Archangel" tunefully revisits the Legacy of Brutality era Misfits and Plan 9 coughs up a bouncing and stout cover in turn, while "13 Shades of Black" whips up a dust cloud with more allegiance to Koffin Kats and Demented Are Go than the Misfits, even with Fuller's Danzig twanging. "Blood" could've been hijacked from a handful of Misfits cuts, but Plan 9 riffs away to their own delight while wailing almost casually about a hungry sycophant. You can't say these dudes don't have their hearts in the right place.

While Plan 9 respectfully goes through the numbers on their cover of "Teenagers From Mars/We Bite," the majority of their own material features plenty of pep and fang to make Manmade Monster a modern day happy pill bred from a much beloved punk group and the drive-in mania which originally spawned them.

Rating: ****

Friday, August 29, 2008

CD Review: Hand to Hand - Breaking the Surface EP

Hand to Hand - Breaking the Surface EP
2008 Lifeforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Orlando's Hand to Hand calls to mind in name the underappreciated nineties hardcore group Face to Face, yet the longer you analyze the generation gap between both bands, the less you feel inclined to disseminate them. Sure, Face to Face was perhaps fiercer, but there was a raw honesty and underlying melodicism in Face to Face that can also be found in their juniors, a rare saving grace when you consider the brick wall modern punk and hardcore has found itself staring blankly into, coughing out a fabricated rage with little empathy.

Although vocalist Robert Kellom is the lone wolf prowling from the incarnation of Hand to Hand that recorded the 2005 full-length A Perfect Way to Say Goodbye, the 2008 version means business even in a hypothetical testing ground EP. Sure, we can lump Breaking the Surface into the screamo/emocore category if absolutely necessary, but there is a pleasant degree of focus and edginess beneath the pop-laden grooves and choruses on "Shark Week" and "Paint This Town Black" that swerves the updated Hand to Hand away from their shaggy and drapey stereotypes, even as they would have no problem settling in nicely on a set between Misery Signals, Emery and Thursday.

Despite the random propensity to wail and screech like their socks are frustratingly too loose and jamming the bottoms of their sneakers as is the case with many of their contemporaries, Hand to Hand can jack up a fast-tempoed cut like "Bullets For Teeth" and still maintain an unwavering stream of harmony that makes the speedy and interchanging song ring as the EP's driving anthem. Just the urgent drumming and note-swirling intro to "Dufresne, Party of Six" is a savvy set-up to a song that settles into a pop rock tune, given lift by occasional breakaway velocity.

If you're of the age Hand to Hand largely plays to, Breaking the Surface is going to be a quick-shot crowd pleaser full of youthful ambition and spirited tunefulness. Even for everyone else, this is a punchy, non-committal restart of a neo-punk revival group that is smarter than your average five pack of emodroops. Spin it a few times and let it charm you...

Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/27/08

Hails, friends, best wishes for prosperity to everyone in tight times. Always the struggle, but hopefully the end means are worth the fight...

This past Friday I had the opportunity to interview Lemmy of Motorhead for Unrestrained, and the biggest note I want to point out is Motorhead's tour manager Adam, who was sheer class in getting this done. Considering the interview was a longshot, Adam took my call, was quite friendly and despite the fact the 'head was going onstage at my designated time, he rearranged the evening's schedule and got me in, even giving me a courtesy call ten minutes in advance. I'm sure most of you fellow press peeps have come across overly busy or nonchalant TM's who end up blowing you off. This guy was aces, pun intended. And Lemmy? Like talking with street royalty.

This Friday it's Jon Schaffer of Iced Earth on tap for Unrestrained and a few other goodies down the pike. So naturally I'm finding ways to fit my personal obligations with the baby in our lives and it sure isn't easy, considering you work around his schedule, not your own, plus maintain a day job...yeah, sleep comes at a premium even with him sleeping through now and seldom waking us up, but the prize is definitely worth it. Especially worth it when you take an eight month old out to a spiritual retreat for the afternoon and he babbles a solid 20 minutes thereafter like he was thoroughly impressed and trying to let you know all about it.

That being said, the week's spins were largely centered around Motorhead and Iced Earth, with some more Lush and other alternative goodies like Kitchens of Distinction. Would've liked to have covered more of my Motorhead library, which is considerable, but hey, all's well when you get the man himself on your ear...

Did anyone watch the closing ceremonies to the Beijing Olympics? Holy hell, Jimmy Page, Jackie Chan and all...

Ready, set, dish 'em!

Iced Earth - The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2
Iced Earth - Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1
Motorhead - Motorizer
Motorhead - Overkill
Motorhead - Another Perfect Day
Motorhead - Iron Fist
Motorhead - 1916
Motorhead - Orgasmatron
Motorhead - On Parole
Motorhead - Overnight Sensation
Lush - Spooky
Lush - Split
Lush - Lovelife
Uh Huh Her - Common Reaction
Ivy - In the Clear
Kitchens of Distinction - Strange Free World
John Legend - Get Lifted
Angtoria - God Has a Plan For Us All
Revolting Cocks - Sexo Olympico

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

CD Review: Iced Earth - The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2

Iced Earth - The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2
2008 SPV/Steamhammer
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Let me prelude this review with a little love for Tim "Ripper" Owens. I interviewed the guy three times during his short tenure in Iced Earth and also as he started his current band Beyond Fear. Certainly Ripper did the honorable thing by leaving his gig with Judas Priest when asked to step down, but The Ripper in Iced Earth at the time of The Glorious Burden was a bit of a shy gun, which is funny coming from my mouth considering I had lost my questions at go-time the first chance we had to speak and I was forced to shoot from the hip in a botched effort on my part. The second Ripper chat was on Iced Earth's bus at a highly memorable gig with the then-unheard-of Trivium opening for them. The Ripper was more relaxed, so was I; it was completely chill. Ripper also had a mini posse of supporters yelling for him in the venue parking lot, which led one to believe this gig was his, despite the honorable way Matt Barlow had long held the fort for Jon Schaffer and Iced Earth. The way Ripper commanded his space onstage for Iced Earth was very impressive and The Glorious Burden was a terrific power metal album with the near-classic epic "Gettysburg" tailored specifically to Ripper's dynamic ranges as he characterized both sides of the Civil War valiantly. Yeah, he sounded like Rob Halford and Dio, but surely any power singer worth their salt is going to have those two masters in their repertoire, if not some Glenn Hughes, to boot.

The last time around with The Ripper, I was on my way to New York City for the weekend and we'd scheduled an interview before my wife and I were supposed to catch Sweeney Todd on Broadway. It being St. Patty's weekend, we got stuck in the Lincoln Tunnel for almost two hours and I had to shitcan the interview, though later in the wee hours of the morning we hooked up with Ripper's Beyond Fear guitarist John Comprix as well two of my dearest friends in the industry, Dave and Liz. We rescheduled Ripper over the phone and what I could tell the most was that Ripper had come miles (as had I, thankfully) in terms of his comfort level and willingness to open up. While we didn't talk much about Iced Earth in that third chat, I had no reason to believe--especially since Ripper fielded the next Iced Earth EP and full-length--that anything was remiss with his position.

It's interesting how quickly attitudes shift, not only in the private space within a band, but also amongst the fanship that keeps a band afloat. After Jon Schaffer began his swirling sci-fi parable about mankind's follies and fallacies on last year's Framing Armageddon: Something Wicked Part 1, merely the first installment of a two album extension of Iced Earth's 1998 album Something Wicked This Way Comes, Schaffer and The Ripper inexplicably parted ways. Enter back into the fold Matt Barlow, who had been working in law enforcement during his departure from the band.

The chat boards lit up with people torching the Ripper and thus singing their praises of Barlow's return. In some ways, it was traitorous on behalf of the fans as it was downright bizarre that Ripper and Schaffer should part company in the middle of an ambitious project such as Iced Earth's Something Wicked epic. This instability is sad, considering Ripper blew his lungs to smithereens on The Glorious Burden and then Framing Armageddon. The argument could be made, however, that Tim Owens worked too hard to please not only Schaffer, but Iced Earth's entire fan contingency. After all, many consider Iced Earth to be the United States' answer to Iron Maiden, if not simply existing on its own accord as one of the best domestic power metal units in the country. No pressure on the mic holder, of course...

Look at these turn of events any way you wish, but the return of Matt Barlow was overwhelmingly received on a positive note and the voice of such Iced Earth standards as The Dark Saga, Burnt Offerings and Something Wicked This Way Comes is staked on The Crucible of Man: Something Wicked Part 2 like a veritible reclamation.

Matt Barlow has the tendency in his equally tenacious array of vocal pitches to come off like Paul Stanley, and somehow that's oddly comforting on The Crucible of Man, the second stanza of Jon Schaffer's fantastical morality play. Whereas Tim Owens was so exuberant in his delivery he could summon the metal gods out of their chambers to wonder what the commotion was all about, Matt Barlow has a smoother, finessed polish. Sure, Barlow can strike a falsetto here and there, but never is he over-the-top or blunt about his business. Barlow assimilates himself into Jon Schaffer's galloping tempos and mega strumming throughout The Crucible of Man on songs like "Bless the Wicked Child," "Crown of the Fallen," "Something Wicked (Part 3)" and "Sacrificial Kingdoms."

The settled candor Barlow brings back to Iced Earth allows Schaffer to play to his own his pace, which might've been the answer as to the division between he and Ripper, the fact that Ripper's presence was so overt, while Barlow nestles into this album, which keeps Schaffer in a comfort zone to write strongly, since The Crucible of Man decidedly ends up being the better half of the Something Wicked venture. Barlow is poetic in his tempered sways, his extensive note holds and his rocker's edge that makes The Crucible of Man sound like the heaviest and most intricate Kiss album they never recorded. Maybe this is inherently what Gene wished for with The Elder...

Schaffer, in response, writes gallant tunes to extend his narrative into the repercussion territories suggested on Framing Armageddon. As Schaffer's prophesized celesial apocalypse threatens to sentence a human race so consumed with itself it's obtuse to looming annihilation, The Crucible of Man responds accordingly to Schaffer's inflictive whims. Filled with orchestral and choral supplementation as on his previous installment, the difference maker once again is Matt Barlow, who expertly dramatizes The Crucible of Man without sending it into screeching tailspins. Considering Schaffer has a propensity to write double-timed power marches, Barlow raises his voice excitedly, but with restraint. Not to harp on his likeness to Paul Stanley, but it is truly remarkable to hear a song like the stamping and climactic "Divide or Devour" be given the Stanley touch before the song moves furiously and elegantly with Barlow mixing his octaves from hard rock to modified gravel.

That being said, The Crucible of Man is reflective of all of Iced Earth's previous work. The difference maker is Tim "Ripper" Owens' remarkable wind tunnel versus Matt Barlow's refined piper's calls. In some ways, Barlow possesses more soul on The Crucible of Man, particularly on the frequently soothing "Come What May" or "A Gift Or a Curse." It doesn't mean, however, Barlow isn't obliged to get dirty on the crunchy agro metal of "I Walk Alone" or to flex his varying vocal modes on "Crucify the King."

With Schaffer penning and performing the majority of his Something Wicked excursion, it's hard not to turn the light away from his sophisticated writing and muscular execution and focus upon the grossly apposite leads on both albums. The difference between Ripper and Barlow is even more startling when playing both of these albums in succession. Time will tell if the forced use of two different singers will mark Schaffer's personal best work as the stuff of legend instead of infamy...

Rating: ****

Monday, August 25, 2008

Metallica Death Magnetic widget

Here's a link to a widget promoting the new Metallica album Death Magnetic, hitting the world on September 12th. Find news, behind-the-scenes videos, ringtones and iTunes access by clicking here:

Metallica widget

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Lush - Spooky

Lush - Spooky
1992 Reprise Records

Gads, do I miss this band and woe is the day I didn't call out sick when a free ticket to see Lush came my way one night then Jane's Addiction the next. Talk about things you kick yourself later for...

London's Lush was one of those psych alt bands of the nineties like Cocteau Twins, Kitchens of Distinction, Ride, Blue Aeroplanes and My Bloody Valentine and while Lush's hypnotic form of sonic expression could only be bested by the Cocteau Twins, the British fuzz trippers found brief notoriety for themselves, largely due to a spaced-out rhythm section that defined audile effervesence, at least on their first two official records, Gala and the translucent Spooky.

Time would prove Lush to be the most commercially-ambitious of the entire lot given the eventual defragmentation of their bread and butter sound walls fortified on Gala and Spooky, the former being a collection of their Scar, Mad Love and Sweetness and Light EPs. Spooky is a bridge album in Lush's way-too-brief career, yet it's one of their greatest accomplishments. Of course, that depends on your propensity for the more streamlined punk and alt rock grooves Lush would seek out on Split and Lovelife. Strangely enough, you find Lush fans frequently subdivided bewtween the Gala camp and the Split and Lovelife camp, while Spooky is the bastard stepchild plying for attention between the two.

I suppose the writing was on the wall with the positively yummy "For Love" on Spooky that indicated Lush's desire to be a commercial powerhouse outside of visionary distortion tweakers. Of course, I find myself frequently backing up "For Love" because it's one hell of an adorable tune, even as the aerodynamic "Superblast!" appeals to the escapist in me, as does the surreal, tappy tone splashes of "Untogether," which is modified pop in itself.

The term "shoegazing" crops up frequently around Lush by most journalists, and I have to admit a dumb fondness for it, because if you take a floaty pop song like "Tiny Smiles" from Spooky, the shoegazing could well likely be from an inverted, freefall position. In fact, much of Lush's material from Gala and Spooky are like tubular aeronautics with their dreamy mix of harnessed distortion and clean, twinkling plucks shot back in granular feedback so that Lush could sound more aquatic than others of their kind. Add to the aural nirvana the collective sigh of Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson's breathy sirens, and Lush possessed the capacity to sweep and swoon beyond the majority of their peers. Credit where it's due; the stark vibrancy alone of "Sweetness and Light," "De-Luxe" and "Scarlet" from the Gala collection are all landmark tracks of the alternative rock explosion.

Sure, "shoegazing" might apply more to the mopish and diaffected reverb of The Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and Bauhaus, but it's frighteningly easy to fall into the splendor of Lush and feel nothing but the tremendous vacuum they suck you into. Shoegazing might be considered the initial contact, but the desire to loosen the strings and kick the dratted things off your feet in order to give yourself the illusion you're floating in the same weightless realm that Spooky establishes upon greeting with the anticipatory hello "Stray" is the bigger emotion staked here. In such a footloose surrender, Lush hoists you by the shoulders with the ambitious mini epic "Nothing Natural," and you're instantly spellbound, as Miki Berenyi flirts her lyrics "don't you know you're beautiful" into your ear while her shotgun partner Emma Anderson provides gasping high-end vocal fills. You'll feel as beautiful as Berenyi wants to impart (she's no slouch herself, assuredly, as I'll admit she was one of my many fleeting musician crushes over the years) with each lofty bar of the song.

Produced by none other than Cocteau Twins' Robin Guthrie, who took his share of flack as much as praise for Spooky, by all means is his influence felt as he is perhaps the only one of Lush's producers to recognize their potential for wrapping Sonic Youth's quick-wristed string bullying into snug, composite rock songs with their heads stuck firmly in the clouds. "Take," "Monochrome," "Ocean" and especially the pumping throb of "Laura" exemplify Lush's sometimes powerful propensity to remove you from your head space.

While many Lush fans swear by the band's next two outings Split and Lovelife, the transition from psychedelic starlets to international jet setters is worth pointing out, in particular the way Lush fuses some mod into their punkish Lovelife album. Granted, the first two songs, "Ladykillers" and "Heavenly Nobodies" rock seriously hard, even if they're inherently aspirant to be The Pixies or The Breeders. Of course, this metamorphosis into a stripped-down alt band that bore hints of the sonic grandeur of Gala and Spooky paid off for Lush, particularly from the attitude-laced "Ladykillers." Sadly, drummer Chris Acland took his life shortly after Lovelife struck the well in 1996 and the band never recovered.

While Split is an interesting listen that yields some of Lush's best writing, for my tastes, Gala and especially Spooky are my fuzz du jour. Save for playing these albums on the road, I do believe I've listened to Lush mostly barefooted as I am this very second, shoes be damned...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Promo Backlog CD Review: Angtoria - God Has a Plan For Us All

Angtoria - God Has a Plan For Us All
2006/07 Listenable Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I recall getting routine updates from The Netherlands' Angtoria for the better span of 2006 as they were recording God Has a Plan For Us All and I'm sure the behind-the-scenes story of its conception is enough to fill a two-page article, given the presumed blood, sweat and frustration going into this elaborate symphonic/prog metal outing.

By now the whole symphonic metal thing has started to wear just a bit thin despite the mass appeal of Nightwish, Lacuna Coil, Epica, Within Temptation, Kamelot, Dol Ammad and Leaves Eyes, but honestly, only a handful of the entire lot are worth the salt of the subgenre's earth and if you're keeping tabs, the trend is starting to slip into the hands more aggressive black and death metallers who exchange the style's normally daydreamish soundscapes set to a rockout pace for more brutal though no less melodic measures.

Part of the general lackluster feel of symphonic metal these days is the fact that most of the bands cheat by using synthetic orchestral maneuvers in the Goth, not to mention the customary female leads seldom stretch beyond their contemporaries, and despite the uplifting falsettos and high altos, as a whole, it's all getting to be old hat. While Angtoria obviously managed to get through the rigors of assembling God Has a Plan For Us All, a lot of prog and symphonic metal has come stampeding behind them like a crash into Valhalla, which leaves question as to where this group fits into the fenced herd.

Granted, Angtoria's Tommy and Chris Rehn likewise command their grand symphony merely at their fingertips, but let's give them a little credit; God Has a Plan For Us All has plenty of heavy metal starch and a dynamic lead in Sarah Jezebel Deva to give them your ear. Despite the artificiality of their implemented brass and string sections, Angtoria's execution is smart-as-a-whip and streamlined within the overt drives and frequently wonderful melodies of their songs.

Songs such as "I'm Calling," "Diety of Disgust" and the title track are rich in texture and motion, flowing with close to the same fluidity as having an in-house orchestra at their beckon call. Certainly the expense to produce the real thing isn't quite so feasible in a music society where the threat of traditional point-of-sale CD extinction heightens by the day, thus when a protracted facsimile is handled tastefully and ornately as Angtoria does, then it's far more excusable.

Of course, expect lots of keyboard flashery (sometimes sounding like the music to the eighties version of Knight Rider) and Yngwie Malmsteen Bach-like fret kills throughout God Has a Plan For Us All, but in modification. The Rehns are more interested in creating a tier-by-tier composite of sound with each song, which in turn molds an unfolding Goth rock epic that throws its chest-born soul against the echoing pop-mindedness streaming beneath the entire project.

As God Has a Plan For Us All grows less hostile after the mood-swingy "Six Feet Under Is Not Deep Enough" and more scaled into quixotic and self-inquisitive music explorations (bringing guest vocalists Aaron Stainthorpe and Martin Haggstrom in for note-tipping duets), the album shoots for a grand finale in the final quarter of the album beginning with the split personality of "Original Sin (The Devil's Waiting In the Wing)," which largely comes off like an anxious Danny Elfman score to an unborn Tim Burton film. The album then seems to gain further momentum with upbeat stampers like "Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned" and the wistful closing ballad "That's What the Wise Lady Said."

In all, there's an obvious passion in what Angtoria does and God Has a Plan For Us All sounds like it was an obsession to complete. It is a meticulous and strident album with teeming confidence and intelligent counterproposals to an apparently doomed subsection of the genre. If they all possessed Angtoria's ingenuity and bravado...

Rating: ****

Friday, August 22, 2008

CD Review: Norma Jean - The Anti-Mother

Norma Jean - The Anti-Mother
2008 Solid State
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

When talking about Norma Jean, I can never resist telling the story of when I did a round robin of interviews at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC with Unearth, Atreyu and Norma Jean. One of the most memorable days in my music journalism pursuits, I recall Travis Miguel of Atreyu being congenial and laid back on a mostly quiet tour bus, while the Unearth bus was much rowdier in comparison. My chat with former Unearth drummer Mike Justian was more like a rap session about drummers and old school underground heroes of hardcore such as Nuclear Assault, Bad Brains and the Cro Mags. I also recall us sitting in on an in-progress interview with Trevor Phipps, who patiently fielded yeoman questions from a young pair of doe-eyed rooks. The other guys of Unearth jokingly threatened to steal my Beatles shirt off of my back and they obliged me with a beer during my stay. There's a reason Unearth is so danged popular.

Let's then have a look at the openers of this crushing bill of a few years back, Norma Jean. Contrast to their bus-comfy hosts, Norma Jean were still rooks themselves, pushing along in a gray tin can and ratchety hitch rig, and I mean pushing. Wedging ourselves into a private corner of the club during equipment set-up, guitarist Scottie Henry took the point of our chat and I could see the brother was shagged and downright ill. Ditto for the rest of the band, who all looked like they'd just escaped Saruman's tower and forgot to grab the ring on their way out. Henry informed me the band was all sharing a nasty fever due to an unforgiving winter and a consequential icy van. Mentioning that Norma Jean only had so much money as new kids on the touring circuit, they were sharing a box of cold medicine, but you could tell it must've been some cheap store brand that did nothing to help their cause. Still, Henry gave me a game interview, and soon vocalist Cory Brandon and guitarist Chris Day joined in. We were at it for almost half an hour (even chatting about a mutual fondness for Cracker Barrel) and eventually I had to just let them go so the poor guys could get ready for the show, though I had no idea how they could muster up the necessary oomph, looking as dead on their feet as the Norma Jean crew did.

They say you only get so much room to make an impression these days, and if anyone in this metal revival scene has made an impression not only on myself, but metal fans at-large, it's Norma Jean. That night I watched one of the most gallant performances I've ever seen as Norma Jean dug deep inside themselves and put on an electric set that both Unearth and Atreyu had to not only reach but surpass. Running amuck on the stage with almost equal fury and attention-stealing chaos as Dilinger Escape Plan, the Norma Jean guys set the pace and showed the most heart I've seen of anyone in the modern age. Perhaps it's because I knew they were so sick that I was wowed as much as I was, and surely, there's a thousand bands with the same ethic and soul as to push themselves beyond their tolerance, but you could tell that night how bad Norma Jean wanted it.

At the time, Norma Jean was touring in support of their blistering screechfest O God, the Aftermath. Somewhere after vocalist Josh Scogin left Norma Jean to form The Chariot, the band evolved from their debut album Bless the Martyr and Kiss the Child all the way to an about-face in theory with their astonishing Redeemer album of 2006. Maybe the change of guard on the mike from Scogin to Brandan had a delayed adverse effect or maybe it was the punishment they'd inflicted upon themselves trying to build their reps, because the Norma Jean that recorded Redeemer was a far different entity.

In 2008 Norma Jean finds themselves in the spot they busted their asses so hard to achieve, in the headliner's spot on the road, and now with their latest album The Anti-Mother, we can altogether forget the era of O God, the Aftermath, one that found Norma Jean crowded with similar time-signature-crazy units like Fear Before the March of Flames, Quell and The Number Twelve Looks Like You, along with the jacked-up form's innovators, Dillinger Escape Plan. While Dillinger and distant cousins (songwriting-wise) Every Time I Die have opted out of their wacky 'core schisms and evolved into vibrant overlords of expressionistic metal, Norma Jean takes cue on The Anti-Mother, albeit to less subtle measures.

In some ways, The Anti-Mother is Norma Jean's darkest album. There's something inherently brutal and ugly to the overall bluntness extorted from the band, even when they squeeze out a bipolar melodic opening like the one greeting "Discipline Your Daughters." The ploy is not far off in theory to Quicksand or Helmet as the song grows more intense with each bar, yet never failing to maintain the basic plea eeked from Cory Brandon's whelps.

Bringing up Helmet, none other than Page Hamilton joins the Norma Jean guys with vocal and guitar contributions on the step-heavy "Opposite of Left and Wrong" and assuredly his guitar brushes are felt all over the track in sonic sweeps that makes the song one of The Anti-Mother's best. Almost by attrition Norma Jean assumes a monster mentality to their album by Hamilton's cameo, as well as the Deftones' Chino Moreno on what will likely be The Anti-Mother's signature track "Robots 3 Humans 0." As with Hamilton, Norma Jean postures themselves to Moreno's guidance, in the process coughing up the album's most tuneful cut. The pace of "Robots 3 Humans 0" is basic compared to the overt disorder and confusion of Norma Jean's earlier work, which means these guys sense their growing popularity in the scene and the time is now or never to make a statement. Without a doubt, the smartly-written "Robots 3 Humans 0" achieves that for these guys. We should also note that Moreno has had quite the effect upon Cory Brandan and even the whole band, if "Surrender Your Sons..." isn't an obvious indicator.

Songs like "Self Employed Chemist" and "Murphy Was An Optimist" are other examples of Norma Jean's extension beyond the manic technicality of O God, the Aftermath, the way these songs seek avenues of groove within their boisterous infrastructures. If anything, Norma Jean is gradually becoming more and more accessible with each album, though they do mean to gouge your ears out on "Vipers, Snakes and Actors," "Death of the Anti-Mother" and the long-distance closing track "And There Will Be a Swarm of Hornets."

Perhaps the inherent clamor to knock themselves silly is starting to work itself out of Norma Jean's blood, but if anybody's paid their dues, it's these guys. If they want to settle down into more focused rock drives beneath their brusque aggression, hardly anyone's going to stop them, especially if they knew how far Norma Jean has come in getting to this point...

Rating: ****

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One From the Vault: Motorhead - "Burner" video

One to get yer blood pumpin'

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/20/08

Moving right along (to the tune of The Muppets' song, footloose and fancy free...) into another mid-week, and filled with the customary dread and anxiety known as human survival. Staying optimistic, however, with a possible side gig with a local paper coming up and a potential big interview on Friday, depending on time lock down.

Otherwise, massive consumption of music this past week, perhaps the biggest list o' discs I've posted here, and yeah, there's some meticulation beneath the rabid devouring of tunes, but that all unfolds in their proper places. A good bit of alternative rock mixed in with the metal and assorted goodies and oddballs. Amazing I was able to consume so much music considering I've been carpooling with a co-worker and of course there's the spud, but I've had a couple of breaks from him and needless to say, it was music cram session!

Having had my interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof of Metal Church last week, the most spun album consequently is the debut self-titled Church album, which is amazing anything got a second spin in the gorgefest of music I went after. An overdue moment of silence for Isaac Hayes, that baaaaaaad mutha... Hope you, JB and Curtis Mayfield are putting down some serious funk in the afterlife...

So anyway, have a go with this list and you know what to do from there...

Metal Church - s/t
Metal Church - This Present Wasteland
The Cure - Disintegration
Peter Murphy - Deep
Lush - Split
Lush - Spooky
Little Richard - Greatest Gold Hits
RTX - Got Live RTX
David Galas - The Cataclysm
Catastrophic - Pathology of Murder
Angtoria - God Has a Plan For Us All
Grayceon - s/t
Starofash - The Thread
Sourvein - Emerald Vulture
Catfight! - In Stereo
Tyr - Land
The Sundays - Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
Asva - What You Don't Know is Frontier
Queens of the Stone Age - R
Sugar Ray - Floored
Sugar Ray - 14:59
Uh Huh Her - Common Reaction
Norma Jean - The Anti-Mother
Girlschool - The Collection
Esprit du Clan - Chapter III: Corpus Delecti

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

CD Review: RTX - Got Live RTX

RTX - Got Live RTX
2008 Drag City Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Jennifer Herrema might be considered a street Renaissance savante given her underground dwellings in rock, art, modeling, writing and production. You might remember Herrema as one-half of Royal Trux, which Herrema started with Neil Hagerty at the age of 16. Throughout the years, Herrema has kept up a beneath-the-radar though highly productive career, releasing over 20 albums, generating numerous articles for music mags (including inties with Keith Richards and John Lee Hooker), had her gutter-influenced art sponsored in various galleries including a traveling show ("Kitty Ex") in Japan. Her tougher-than-you facade found Herrema in front of the camera for a handful of advertisements including Calvin Klein, as well as the indie film Southlander. For you fans of greasy hard rock, she's played with Artimus Pyle of Artimus Pyledriver amongst many others. Add to the pot co-ownership roles of Drag City Records and Domino Records, and one might say the lady's done it all.

In her band RTX, Herrema takes a meaty, low-slung approach in which the seventies through the mid-eighties spin in continuum. Coming off somewhere between Betsy Bitch and Wendy O. Williams, Jennifer Herrema is less about shock value than those comparables, but with a raw production value and let-the-band-do-as-it-will approach, Herrema simply has to be in her band and on her newest album Got Live RTX, odes of vintage J Geils Band, Emotional Rescue Stones, Hanoi Rocks, Krokus and Peter Frampton (yes, Frampton) accent the hard-driving snarl that rocks the album like a lost seventies trash classic.

In my recent interview with Alice Cooper for Hails & Horns magazine, Uncle Alice made a terrific point about bands being overproduced and how he was nowadays favoring bands with far less production in exchange for more compensatory attitude. RTX is hardly a bunch of wailing scags littering the album with distortion feed galore; however, distortion certainly plays a heavy hand in things ("Virginia Creeper" being a prime example) and in turn, Got Live RTX rings and rawks with every clang and clatter from the proverbial kitchen sink. Filled with Frampton-esque tubular "talk box" huffing and guitar jerking at every turn on cuts like "Mr. Wall," "Are You a Boy Or Are You a Girl," "How'd You Do It?" and the persnikkity "You Should Shut Up," Jennifer Herrema has a rhythm section filled with as much gas as they do understated proficiency.

Put into the hands of an eighties-LA-spit-shine-capitalist-minded producer, Got Live RTX would likely blow up in its face despite its sharp capabilities. A more metallic-driven song like "Hash" on the face appears tailor-made to put Herrema and her crew on a bill between Smashed Gladys and L.A. Guns, however, the stripped production ambience retains the tune's integrity. Ditto for "Birthday Song," which could easily prance and horn-toss in the Troubadour on stiletto heels on its best day, but its shambling nature saves it from turning overtly wankerish.

There's a reason Jennifer Herrema has been doing her thing for so long. Her vocal delivery is smoke-choked and often as if her only care is getting through the take without having to call up a redo. That's no insult, assuredly. Beneath the asphalt chalk dwells cloaked professionalism, and that's the giddy subtlety to Got Live RTX, the fact that Herrema and company can be so Metal Mania beneath the chains.

Rating: ****

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: The Cure - Disintegration

This is a new section to The Metal Minute where you will find, as the name implies, albums of varying genres cropping up for quick reflection through free writing. I am a firm believer that you should keep an open mind and investigate other music genres with which to grow as a pure listener and to keep a fresh perspective and excitement for your central passion. If there's a goal of this feature, it would be to hopefully stimulate you into seeking out other forms of musical expression. The wisest lesson I learned in my college years was to broaden my music horizons lest I lose my column that was heavily slanted towards metal and punk. Like visiting new countries, you might say...

The Cure - Disintegration
1989 Elektra/Asylum Records

In high school I was too "metal" to give The Cure the proper time of day, this considering someone tried to introduce them to me in 1986 by pushing Head On the Door and Japanese Whispers into my mits.

The problem with teenagers is that they're frequently more stuck in their ways than old folks, and yours truly spun those tapes but defiantly threw on W.A.S.P. and Savatage immediately thereafter, dismissing The Cure in the bane of my self-righteous heavy metal existence.

Fortunately in college, right as heavy metal in North America was dying down, I began to check out new forms of music at the bequeath of my newspaper advisor, as well as from the lack of an audience. Eventually I came back to The Cure once I'd made friends with a guy whose friendship I miss terribly. Disintegration was like the Master of Puppets for my indoctrination into alternative rock. Like many people not quite as acclimated with The Cure like myself at the time, Disintegration blew me away instantly, not just because of the rocking good "Fascination Street," but because it was the most wondrous tapestry of layered sound and syncopation I'd then heard outside of Celtic Frost or Voivod.

Despite my hatred of synthesizers during the eighties (which invited my scorn with the lone exceptions of Black Sabbath's "5150" and Van Halen's "I'll Wait"), both The Cure and Depeche Mode managed to break me of keyboard animosity, and I actually embraced them within the first song of Disintegration, "Plainsong," a tune that was anything but. The opening wind chimes captured me instantly, but then Roger O'Donnell's floating keys lifted me to a new plane of listening. Those were dreamy enough, but the tender guitar plucks of Robert Smith and Porl Thompson had me transfixed and endeared instantly.

Surely I'd erred in my teens by ignoring The Cure, and as I began to realize what genius exists throughout Disintegration, be it the sweet antipop of "Lovesong" or the sweetly deliberate lollygag of "Pictures of You," I began to develop an instant attraction for these guys and alternative music at-large. By the time "Homesick" arrived on the album, I was so deeply entranced in this sensual album that I began to adore how "Homesick" is written to add a new instrumental layer with each bar until all played congruously together in one of the most textured songs I've ever heard in my listening life.

I could probably take each song from Disintegration and bring forth a memory, be it kissing a girl to "Lullaby" or driving on the way home from a canoing trip with a college buddy with both of us trying to philosophize the meaning of "Last Dance," uttering "I'm so glad you came, I'm so glad you remembered to see how we're ending our last dance together..." I recall breaking up with another girl and playing "Prayers For Rain" and "The Same Deep Water As You" along with "A Night Like This" from Head On the Door, which ironically became my favorite Cure album in due time as The Cure likewise ironically managed to become one of my all-time favorite groups.

Listening to "Fascination Street" now, it's almost metal and it's a lotta punk, but one thing that can be especially said about it, "Fascination Street" is the rockout distraction to the altering moods and subtle eroticism lurking beneath the rest of the album. Just as layered with Simon Gallup leading the way with a monstrous bass line, "Fascination Street" is articulation beyond most rock songs, and it gave me an entirely new level of respect for The Cure, that they could tread so close to the rock mainstream ("Just Like Heaven" notwithstanding) with that one and "Lovesong," even as The Cure never dared get that close again.

In some ways, their future (and grossly overlooked) album Wild Mood Swings is Disintegration's linear foster child. Both albums take the listeners into varying modes of musical expression, albeit Disintegration is a hallmark of composition and execution that The Cure has yet to fully replicate. Perhaps Robert Smith is content to leave it be as the masterpiece it is, since he also hasn't attempted to recreate Seventeen Seconds, Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me or Head On the Door, though some might say that Bloodflowers is reflective of The Cure's darkest hour, Pornography.

Listening to Disintegration today, there is something far more settled about it almost twenty years after-the-fact, whereas it was mind-altering and beautiful upon contact in 1989. I can only hope that those who have never listened to this album will give it a shot and discover its wonderment.

Promo Backlog CD Review: Catastrophic - Pathology of Murder

In the following couple weeks, be on the lookout for reviews of albums that have had the misfortune of finding their way into my insufferable backlog, rescued and presented for your edification. This one was released in January of this year...

Catastrophic - Pathology of Murder
2008 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Jeeeeesus wept, how much thrash and grind abuse can you withstand in one sitting? Though it's been seven years since Trevor Peres and his post-Obituary wrecking crew Catastrophic has been in action, the time is more than made up on the offshoot's ball-breaking second album of punk, hardcore, death and grind, Pathology of Murder.

Nobody had the shredding capabilities of Catastrophic in mind when bands like DRI, Suicidal Tendencies and Broken Bones turned pure thrash during the crossover phase of the late eighties. Once the fastest album in the land, SOD's Speak English Or Die is but one of many engineers to what Catastrophic has achieved by relegating Speak English Or Die into the slow lane. Not to flirt with committing metal blasphemy, even the trailblazing Death might've had trouble keeping up with Catastrophic.

The image of skin tearing on pavement at 100 mph is what you can conjure in your mind to describe the tenacious brutality and teeth-gnashing, punkified, fuck-it-all rhythm smashing that Catastrophic wields in wicked increments. Seriously, outside of Cannibal Corpse, you're not going to find such baldfaced intensity set upon dynamic punk and death metal courses. The heat-seeking speed of Pathology of Murder almost makes Catastrophic's 2001 debut The Cleansing an afterthought, sad to say. If the hardcore and grind algorithms on Pathology of Murder aren't enough to melt your grey matter to ooze, the guitars of Peres and Brian Hobbie will easily finish the job. Their clawing riffs extract piss and vinegar that dribbles down their legs and the discomfort only agitates them more as Pathology of Murder jettisons away from the majority of its competition with outrageous velocity.

Former Pyrexia vocalist Keith Devito manages to turn his growls into a streetwise bellowing session on this album. Whether Catastrophic wants to go the full monty at double-timed speed or they want to fuse various punk pulses to bring things down to bare mid-tempo, it doesn't matter; Devito is on-point at all times. Together, Catastrophic proficiently hammers your brains out with ferocity and they nearly break your wrists in the process of pulling and flinging you from their cliff-dropped aggression.

As much of Catastrophic is the by-product of Obituary thanks to Trevor Peres, it's also born of Napalm Death, Agnostic Front and pre-crossover DRI. The way songs like "Apathy's Warm Embrace," "Problem, Reaction, Solution" and "Healthy Dose of Hate" brutalize and entertain in the same breath, if you're not headbanging to this neck-loosening scorcher of an album, nobody can help your wanker ass. It just may be more than you can handle...

Rating: ****1/2

Saturday, August 16, 2008

DVD Review: Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal

Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal
2008 A Sexy Intellectual Production
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Let's set the time on our wayback machines to 1976. The United States was celebrating its bicentennial to the tune of Abba (in their original heyday before being revitalized on Broadway and celluloid) and the New York Yankees were in the headlines much as they ever were. We're talking the age of Superfly, Shaft and Jaws. Scooby Doo, Fat Albert and The Superfriends. God help us, disco was on its way, but at least Star Wars would only be a year coming, while four kabuki-clad cartoon characters in the world of the living were breathing fire up our asses and talking dirty in ears, whether we were old enough to understand them or not.

All hip and drip in America while across the pond, the mother land was unknowingly playing host to two music movements that would forever alter modern rock. While both the United States and the UK shared credit for punk rock, each boasting territorial rights via The Ramones and The Sex Pistols, Britain was acting as unconscious subterfuge for the next generation of rock. Already having relentlessly dominated the world with the British Invasion, as well as The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath as if it were the days of the Crusades, the next evolutionary step was taking formation on the shores and in the working class towns of England. Names such as Thin Lizzy, Def Leppard, Diamond Head, Praying Mantis, Avenger, Tank, Samson, Blitzkrieg, Angel Witch, Tygers of Pan Tang and Son of a Bitch--which would go on to be better-known as Saxon--constituted a new league of hard rockers riding the existing metallic vibes of Judas Priest, Zeppelin, Sabbath, Queen and the prog rock sanction such as Yes, Nektar and Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Constituted in the English press as "The New Wave of British Heavy Metal," the principals involved, which also included the illustrious Iron Maiden, forever changed the face of aggressive music. Though the general outlay of The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is scribed as existing between 1978 and 1981, the germination effect had already taken place inside pubs and makeshift rock techques that would one day bring us heavy metal classics such as Def Leppard's High and Dry and Pyromania, Saxon's Wheels of Steel and Crusader, Girlschool's Demolition and Tygers of Pan Tang's Wild Cat. It would also lead to the generation of a successive steamroll of metal classics from Iron Maiden, spanning from their 1980 self-titled debut to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and beyond.

Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is the overdue story outlining this critical period of rock history. While this documentary is not officially sanctioned by Maiden or any of their representatives, what you get on this DVD is authentication from a couple of early year Maiden players including guitarist Dennis Stratton and formative years vocalist Paul DiAnno.

While Iron Maiden is the central focus of this near three hour documentary, it is more of a detailed overview of The New Wave of British Heavy Metal. It smartly points out the punk correlations in the opening twenty minutes, as well as the progressive and mainstram rock climate dominated by Yes, Boston, Led Zeppelin and Kansas that would inspire Steve Harris to form Iron Maiden. At this point, Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal effectively creates the environment which allows guests such as Girlschool, Praying Mantis, Tygers of Pan Tang's Rob Weir, Diamond Head's Brian Tatler and the flamboyantly masked Samson drummer Thundersticks to provide insight as back up to the primary lectures administered by magazine and book writers Jerry Ewing, Geoff Barton, Malcom Dome and Joel McIver.

Although Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal is a long ride, the expertise given and the supplemental photos, live footage and timeline narratives raises this project far above your standard unauthorized biography. In effect, the pace is kept upbeat and it's fun to listen to old stories from the documentary's guest list. Particularly intelligent is Jerry Ewing's relegation of what was happening music-wise at the time of Iron Maiden's official grouping in 1976, going so far as to point out that American funk had hit a Renaissance era at the same time Iron Maiden was swirling its particles together. On the face, the correlation between funk and heavy metal to most people is like peanut butter and ketchup, but wisely cueing up stock footage of Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," one can get a quick glance at the thrumming bass lines and the note-happy melodies that would have subtle influence on metal, if not the more overt assistance from Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. Of course, the habitual mentioning of Bon Scott-era AC/DC is credible as a primer to the pounding tempos that would characterize heavy metal.

It might've been neat to point out that Twisted Sister, an American rock band, was forced to come to Britain to release their album Under the Blade (officially 1982-released, though they'd been in the country a lot earlier) on the British punk and rock label Secret Records in the midst of this metal explosion. On the flipside, however, Iron Maiden and The New Wave of British Heavy Metal accurately wraps its point by showing the influence the NWOBHM had upon North American metal, in particular thrash and death metal. For our purposes in 2008, we can see the timeline from Led Zeppelin II to Judas Priest's Stained Class to Iron Maiden's Number of the Beast as the groundwork for Metallica's Master of Puppets, then Pentagram's Day of Reckoning, then Slayer's Reign in Blood, then Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power, then Korn's Life is Peachy, then Slipknot's self-titled debut and now delivered into the hands of revivalists such as the British metalcore band Bullet For My Valentine. Also worth noting is getting to hear pieces of Def Leppard's three-song demo album, proof that capitalist commercialism can undermine anyone with the best intentions.

As hipster Hollywood movie posters tend to queef in light of promoting hopeless sequels, every story has a beginning. At least in this case, the beginning is worth knowing, since we're still living the sequel in real-time.

Rating: ****

Friday, August 15, 2008

CD Review: Whitechapel - This Is Exile

Whitechapel - This Is Exile
2008 Metal Blade Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Picture, if you will, a time when the advocacy of baritone-choked growls with little deviation, save to spike a chunky pitch to a terrorized screech was all brand new. Can you imagine it? Probably not, since in today's metal, this is sadly status quo. If Chuck Schuldiner were still alive today, it'd be interesting to get his thoughts on the state of death metal in the 2000s since it bears a lot of the principles from the eighties scene of which it was born, yet it's developed its own set of mandates that threaten to stagnate it wholeheartedly.

Would Chuck approve of the repetitious grinding blast beats, the overpowering vocal crushes that assume and dominate much of the character of death metal today, with interminable breakdown sequences accounting for a hefty percentage of its own? Both of these alone tend to reduce the articulation generally excreted beneath the tonal terror, and you have to wonder if it's worth the price. Put up Death's Scream Bloody Gore, Possessed's The Eyes of Horror, Dark Angel's Darkness Descends and Celtic Frost's To Mega-Therion up against today's death metal sanction. Can you hear the difference?

Maybe you had to have been there originally, and granted, a lot of eighties thrash and death metal albums soon began to slip into familiar thrash modes, but at least the era was inventive. As death metal today has broadened its horizons in its own right so much that you can put female siren voices to counter the agro puke fests, or you can tweak it with jazz, funk, folk, banjo or whatever suits your fancy to make it stand out from the pack, what it all boils down to, soup-to-nuts, is pure hostility and aggression.

If anything, Whitechapel has those. Now on their fourth album This Is Exile, Whitechapel's ratchety cacophony is belligerent as hell. Cheers and beers, yes, but what does it really do that nobody else is doing these days? Outside of melody sublets that offset the prototype bellow and barrage modus operandi ("Exalt," for example, finger-paints various textures and note sprinklings to make it worth your time), this album is what it is. Much heavier than metalcore and doing its damnedest to marry Cannibal Corpse and Soilent Green with 'core ball busting rhythms and some underlying Gothic swoons ("Somatically Incorrect" being a prime illustration), it's mostly going through the same brokedown archetypes as Whitechapel's numerous peers and competitors.

This Is Exile is ferocious, no doubt about it. For your anger fix, Whitechapel will give you all you can handle and they bring you to the teetering edge of your wherewithal, but if you've been listening to this stuff for a long time, they're also going to push you to your tolerance level. Their cool instrumental bearing the humorous title "Death Becomes Him" is This Is Exile's best moment, sounding closer to the days of old Celtic Frost, and the tribute is thankful and refreshing.

If Whitechapel weren't such proficient musicians (enjoy the blissful chaos presiding on "Daemon (The Procreated)"), then it would be easy to knock This Is Exile off as carbon copy just for its tedious predictibility. As it is, for the death metal league of today, this is simply joy in repetition.

Rating: ***

Thursday, August 14, 2008

CD Review: Catfight! - In Stereo

Catfight! - In Stereo
2008 Brainstem Publishing
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If you're an Underground Garage junkie as this writer is, you'll agree that American garage rock is hipper these days than a balanced federal budget. While the latter isn't liable to occur in our lifetime, at least the sound of three-chord yumminess and repetitious rock slides is quite the rage in a borrow-everything modern rock state.

Give Josh Homme a fair chunk of the credit for garage rock's return, but we should rightly well dip back to Redd Kross, in particular their vibrant Neurotica album from 1987 if we want to put things into proper alignment. While we're at it, we can add Husker Du, Mudhoney, Violent Femmes, Supergrass, The Pixies and The Breeders as a handful of transitional punk acts that helped pave the way for Fu Manchu and Queens of the Stone Age, as well as the scores of garageheads now cattle-driving the scene.

Of course, the new-wave-heisted success of The Killers and The Bravery has likewise rekindled the spark of a highly retro sound, at heart built in the British Invasion of the sixties. That being said, consider all of the aforementioned when coming to Catfight! and their five song EP In Stereo.

Featuring the duo of Bobby Rotten and Christine, Catfight! might be considered a far less sonic Raveonettes and certainly a more pop-driven entity. Coming off like Queens of the Stone Age on the abbreviated opening cut "Get It On" and even the opening licks of "Alone Today" (so much we get to hear the "Yeah yeah yeah!" delivered the same way as Queens of the Stone Age's "Quick and to the Pointless" from R though less one "yeah!" in Catfight's! case) before the song bobs back and forth gleefully like a backseat thumper.

Fusing a dash of mod into their new wavy "Ready Steady Go," Catfight! keeps a steady throb that eases into the louder wankfest of "Candy Cane," where Bobby Rotten wails like Billy Corgan without a concern for anything but a sugar fix. Using a main guitar lick that rides reminiscent of the melody of "Susie Q" from Creedence Clearwater Revival on Catfight's! "Sheila," the end note of In Stereo leaves it open for another quick spin and then another and then another...

In Stereo is an EP that grows on repeated play and given the fact it's over before it starts, it's easy to get acclimated to Catfight! especially with their perversely contagious garage tunes.

Rating: ***1/2

The Pirates Charles - "Raise the Whiskey High" live studio performance

Up the rum with a hearty "Harrrrrlllllle!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/13/08

Howdy doo, faithful readers...

Another week blitzes on through and more of the same insanity, with a bonehead maneuver on the part of yours truly, which just adds to the reason why this lad ought to get more sleep at night. Heavy sigh...

This week has been a Metal Church kinda week as I get ready to do an interview with Kurdt Vanderhoof for Metal Maniacs mag. Easily their latest album This Present Wasteland gets top dog honors on the spin factor, though I did give the new Norma Jean a couple plays as well and trying to gain my impressions of it. Great band with a lot of heart.

Not feeling too blabby this week, but I do want to give a shout out to Bob Vinyl. Get better, my friend. With that, let's have 'em, folks...

Metal Church - This Present Wasteland
Metal Church - Metal Church
Metal Church - The Dark
Metal Church - Weight of the World
Norma Jean - The Anti-Mother
Ascension of the Watchers - Numinosum
Cocteau Twins - Heaven Or Las Vegas
Zebrahead - Phoenix
Blackmore's Night - Secret Voyage
Nation Beyond - The Aftermath Odyssey
RTX - JJ Got Live RATX

Monday, August 11, 2008

Introducing Sister Sin

From Gothenburg, Sweden comes trad metal revivalists Sister Sin. Following their 2007 release Smash the Silence, Sister Sin is set to release their Victory Records (officially under the Victory Metal imprint) debut Switchblade Serenades on October 14th.

The sound is reminiscent of straight-up eighties metal with shades of early Motley Crue, Saxon, Armored Saint and Girlschool. Led by vocalist Liv, the Swedish quartet possesses a homespun take on vintage metal and hard rock. "Breaking New Ground" ironically stakes its position with the primary riff from the Crue's "Keep Your Eye On the Money," while "Make My Day" sounds like a head-on collision between Dr. Feelgood era Crue with Motorhead, of all things. Hell, while they're at it, Sister Sin pays tribute to the 'head in title with "On Parole," which actually takes on a Shout at the Devil-era drive with a Girlschool twist.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

CD Review: Ascension of the Watchers - Numinosum

Ascension of the Watchers - Numinosum
2008 13th Planet/Megaforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One of the biggest reasons Fear Factory stood out from the rest of the blast beat-driven metal acts (also taking into consideration that Fear Factory's Raymond Herrera was one of the innovators of the ankle-happy style) is because it possessed a soul beneath the pounding aggression. Fear Factory, on their classic albums Obsolete and Demanufacture could rip and tear with the fiercest of them, but beneath the blunt terror zone of their machinae-gone-mad format was a vocalist who can also be given a fair share of credit for innovation, the fact that Burton C. Bell possessed an ability to present clean soaring vocals to counter his throat-choked woofs. As not too many metal vocalists were capable of such dynamics during the mid-nineties, Bell's mood-shifting duality was one of Fear Factory's highest assets, even as their multitude of would-be successors have made it cliche.

Where Bell made the transformation from the strict agro bellowing on Fear Factory's raging Fear is the Mindkiller album is perhaps now best explained in his newest project Ascension of the Watchers. Featuring absolutely no screaming in this endeavor, Bell engineers a set of hypnotic trance rock songs that randomly bear airy techniques from alternative greats of the eighties and nineties such as Lush, Cocteau Twins, Killing Joke, Psychedelic Furs, Love and Rockets and The Cure. In turn, most of the songs on Ascension of the Watchers' Numinosum are meditative ohms which Bell utilizes for a personal therapy session.

Numinosum is largely Bell's search for spirituality and enlightenment in a non-metal conjecture. A complete about-face from the cold steel nihilism of Fear Factory or even the pounding hellholes of Geezer Butler's solo band G-Z-R, which Bell once fronted, Numinosum is cerebral and introspective, bearing almost no parallels to Burton C. Bell's metallic past. Story has it that Bell exiled himself from Los Angeles to seek out answers and a state of peace in rural Pennsylvania with fellow Fear Factory mate John Bechdel (who has also done stints with Ministry, Prong, Killing Joke and False Icons) and the end result was a five-track recording Iconoclast, which tested both participants' musical boundaries.

On Numinosum, Bell and Bechdel are joined by Edu Mussi from Echoes of Shadows and Still Life Decay and the end result is a long succession of pensive electro and acoustic soundscapes that some may consider new age, even with a Prodigy-like digital beat guiding melancholic 12 string and synth notes on the atmospheric "Evading." If Numinosum is new age at all, it's in the fact that Bell and his cohorts attempt to lead their listeners into a spacious sound room of serenity on "Canon For My Beloved," "Moonshine" and "Like Falling Snow."

Ascension of the Watchers dwells close to pop on the effervescent "On the River" as they plant themselves and their audience on a curb for the acoustic interlude of "Violet Morning." Along the way they bravely take on Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence" and strip an already low-key song down to a slow and naked tempo with which to build guitar and bass layers on top, making the song very much their own.

With guest artists Ben Bell as well as Al Jourgensen and the late Paul Raver from Ministry, Numinosum is the medicated antithesis to the raucous engine of chaos that is Fear Factory. While Burton C. Bell is still in transit of converting his metal-kissed pipes into a more sedentary venture, by and large he washes himself in the basks of Numinosum and sweetly conveys a set of romantic and ecclesiastical ideals for his efforts.

Rating: ****

Saturday, August 09, 2008

CD Review: Zebrahead - Phoenix

Zebrahead - Phoenix
2008 Icon Mes
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Pop punk in today's revive everything scene is oxymoron lexicon if you adhere to the old school punk and hardcore code of antipop. Much of what's constituted as pop punk in modern times goes hand-in-hand with emo (having nothing in common with its originators, Rites of Spring and Dag Nasty) and has thus become a stagnant cash cow for the Hot Topic generation. Still, one has to consider that the early stages of punk rock as delivered by The Jam, The Buzzcocks, Talking Heads, Blondie and especially the Ramones were all pop at heart. Frequently you'll hear historians lament the fact the Ramones criminally fell through the cracks of seventies and eighties FM radio since their core base was well-founded through Motown, Phil Spector and fifties rock 'n roll, all pop in their own rights.

While you're not going to find a lot of pop punk and emo records here at The Metal Minute, you certainly will if something resonates of a high quality beyond the prototype Thursday and Silverstein clones. Orange County vets Zebrahead have been at their game of mashing punk, rap, ska, oi, scatters of metal, surf and of course pop for a decade now, and while the departure of rap-scat guitarist Justin Mauriello caused major distress in the Zebrahead camp (not to mention their loyal devotees), his replacement Matty Lewis filled the gap respectably on 2006's Broadcast to the World.

As of 2008, Lewis and his Zebrahead compadres are so in the zone on their new album Phoenix, everyone else in the pop punk ranks ought to be on the edge of vomiting with envy. Though Phoenix is hardly in the same class as the Beatles' Sgt. Peppers or the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, Zebrahead in their own right have executed their genre's hallmark to beat.

For 16 songs, Phoenix pulls the trigger and stops only to reload along the way, checking out with the same energy burst on the closing cut "Sorry, But Your Friends Are Hot" as it begins with the initial speedy ticks of "HMP." Along the way, Zebrahead sets bar after bar with tunes reflecting contemporaries such as Taking Back Sunday, Green Day, 311, Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Reel Big Fish, early Sugar Ray and even U2, the latter on the peppy and effervescent post-adolscent march, "The Juggernauts." For good measure, Zebrahead even modifies English Beat's rank and skank of "Mirror In the Bathroom" on the verses of "Hell Yeah!"

Say what you will about Blink 182, those guys were masters of the hook, yet on Phoenix, Zebrahead can even take the Blink Boys to school with shrewedly written and fast-paced songs such as "Morse Code Is For Suckers," "HMP," "Just the Tip," "Ignite," "Death By Disco," "Mental Health" and "Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right."

The operative word for Phoenix is relentless as this album shucks and jives with airtight execution, fireball energy and ambitious string work from Lewis, Ben Osmundson and Greg Bergdorf, who sparkle inventively on every single song like metalheads and ska slingers hijacked into a pop punk unit and blaring their protest all the while secretly embracing it. They mesh beyond description on "Sorry But Your Friends Are Hot," "HMP" not to mention "All For None and None For All," "Brixton," and "Hell Yeah!" Lewis and Bergdorf's guitars are on the dime and frequently beautiful, always up to the monster pace Phoenix demands of them. By the time "Ignite" takes off on its gleeful ska spree, you have to admire their tenacity to keep this album pumping, and they nearly refuse to lay off even from there. When Zebrahead actually gives their audience a breath on the laidback ska step of "Mike Dexter Is An Asshole," rapper Ali Tabatabaee picks up the pace using his customary blazing delivery, with perhaps only the Fu Schnickens as his superior.

Zebrahead treads closely to being sacharrine lollies all over the place on Phoenix, but damn if they don't rescue themselves from turning prefab, even when "The Junkie and the Halo" amps up from its primary skippy and frolicky tempo. Whether or not you're tired of rap metal and rap punk, songs like "Brixton" or "Hit the Ground" still work like a charm because of their smart extraction and loud, punchy rhythms.

While not everyone is going to be converted to pop punk with Phoenix, by all means should you give this thing a try, because it boasts soaring melodies galore along with declarative endurance. Not just for the kiddies who don't want interloping adults listening in, Phoenix is dangerously addictive no matter your age bracket and it might possibly take the improbable position as the Sgt. Peppers of its ilk. Okay, so maybe that's being overzealous, but at the very least, Phoenix is the feelgood rock album of the summer...

Rating: ****1/2

Friday, August 08, 2008

CD Review: From Dark - The Answer to Infection

From Dark - The Answer to Infection
2007 From Dark
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

From Dark hails from Phoenix and for a band that initially released their debut album allegedly through their own means, this is a band with serious backing, solid recording equipment and graphics design (much less a clothing line endorsement), plus, most importantly, substantial musicianship which equates into a largely stand-up contemporary metal record with a few revelatory graces and finishes to elevate this band above many of their scraping and clamoring peers.

At first, The Answer to Infection comes out with a standard metalcore yelpfest with the title track, which nearly gives the illusion that From Dark is sadly a one-trick pony. However, immediately thereafter, they dispel such preconceptions and prove there's some substance beneath the agro abuse of their step-heavy rhythm section and the manic wails of vocalist Dustin Bolin, using for example the incorporation of a chamber fugue violin melody (courtesy of guitarist Nelson Land) at the end of the otherwise Filter-esque "Blowtorch and a Pair of Pliers."

While Land also issues Bolin an alter ego clean vocal foil, which presents a bit of a stereotype for this particular genus, they nonetheless work agreeably together on the claustrophobic yet tuneful "The Damned" and the melancholic "A Final Farewell," both well-written songs with a risky stride towards the mainstream. In fact, much of The Answer to Infection has the ingredients for eventual transition to a format hard rock station--if not satellite radio--using songs like "Haunting Eyes" or "Civilization Lost" as a gauge. Perhaps Bolin's raspy bellowing is too over-the-top for FM, but at least From Dark has some heart underneath their rage, which gives their songs a necessary conscience.

Despite the fact From Dark operates in a manner not unlike much of what you've heard before, and while there's but a meager handful of spotty timing squibs or out-of-key notes, The Answer to Infection is a largely-professional debut that implies something commercially viable in their future. Fortunately, From Dark writes their songs outside the box despite a fleeting capacity to adhere to the modern code of the rhythm-disrupting breakdown.

Still, the varying dynamics of "Departed" that whip the song from a monster stomp to a more imploring sense of desperation with drifty syncopation in the song's final third is pretty impressive, as is the gritty and melodic closer, "A Walk Through Madness," co-written by (and presumedly dueted with) Jenna Slate. Gothic at its core, the soaring despondency of "A Walk Through Madness" in which all three voices chime in shows some thoughtfulness into what From Dark is doing, which thankfully makes The Answer to Infection an aptly-named antidote to a wildly-coursing metalcore virus germinating the genre.

Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Take 5 With Dave Mann of Mouth of the Architect

Photo 2007/08 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

From Hell, Ohio (so they claim), Mouth of the Architect has come up slowly through the underground in the dubbed "post-metal" leagues, combining sonic boom with escapist psychedelia and frequently translucent undercurrents, all set upon the course of recurring ostinato patterns. Having worked their way into the same esteem as their contemporaries Isis, Pelican, Neurosis, Balboa, Rosetta and others, these trippy road dogs have finessed their sound so much their third album Quietly can be considered their most artistic achievement to-date. Pensive and hostile in a shower of echoing vibrato on songs like "Hate and Heartache" and the title track, Quietly's baldfaced duality creates both a crushing and quixotic listening experience, which will undoubtedly translate passionately live.

I had the opportunity to catch Mouth of the Architect last year on the road as openers for Unsane and 400 Blows on the same night I was later offered to cover Heaven and Hell with Megadeth and Machine Head. Sticking to my convictions with the original invitation, I can honestly say I made the right choice. What I saw from Mouth of the Architect that night was enough to hook me beyond my existing impression with their first two albums Time and Withering and The Ties That Bind. Quietly only confirms what I've suspected about Mouth of the Architect, the fact they've astutely mastered this expressive form of metal to such measures they cannot be ignored any longer. Drummer Dave Mann took five with The Metal Minute to discuss the near-misnomer album that is Quietly.

The Metal Minute: I last saw you guys opening for Unsane in Baltimore last summer, not long after Isis had been through with their one-off at The Ottobar, and of course you guys were just as amazing. The thing you both have in common in a live setting is the propensity to submerge yourselves so much into your performances it’s easy for your audience to fall in with you. Describe your perspectives of playing this style of atmospheric metal in a live capacity.

Dave Mann: We really just kind of run on instinct. We all love playing this kind of music because, like you said, it sort of draws you into it. It’s a great feeling to look out and see a room full of people just as mesmerized as you are.

MM: Through your three albums, there’s a dedication to ostinato repeat cycles that allows your band to sculpt meticulously like your peers Isis, Neurosis, Pelican, Red Sparowes and Rosetta. I would say that your newest album Quietly is more subtle with the ostinato loops versus The Ties That Blind, which were more overt in nature. What do you feel using ostinato patterns allow for Mouth of the Architect’s music writing?

DM: Well, repeating patterns and long drones and such have a profound effect on the psyche. Tribal music, religious ceremony, meditation, prayer--all these have an ability to send you somewhere else mentally. Musically, this method allows us to create a space for us to work in that brings out emotion that you can’t elicit with a verse/chorus kind of format.

MM: Agreed, and this is personally one of my favorite styles of metal going right now, though many critics use the blech term “post rock” or “post metal.” If anything, there’s forward-moving though here-and-now progression in this specific form, which allows for more detail and layering than some other styles. How do you feel about this?

DM: I love the fact that there’s a lot of bands like this popping up. We’re all big fans of prog rock, and music that sits just outside of the norm, so no matter what direction this band takes we’ll always play music that we would like to hear. Next year that could be entirely different...

MM: You guys recorded Quietly in Seattle, and judging by the band’s MySpace blog, it was anything but quiet! Put us there in Seattle with the band and how the experience might or might not have contributed to the overall vibe of the album.

DM: Five best friends drive cross country to record the culmination of our winter’s efforts. A big city full of good friends made the experience unforgettable. Although the mood of the album is very dark, we couldn’t have been livelier while recording it. Morale was high--so were we--and I think the album sounds just as it should; like it was recorded by a bunch of crazy bastards!

MM: (laughs) In the four years since Time and Withering was released, Mouth of the Architect has streamlined its sound from the blunt force and aggression underlying that molding effect of the four long tracks on Time, while Quietly is a mixed bag of soothing tranquility and changed-up boisterousness, using the title track for example. Of course, Quietly has scaled back the running time of the songs as well, so give us an idea of how you feel Mouth of the Architect has matured musically between the three albums.

DM: A lot of our earlier writing style was very linear. There were no hooks, I guess you could say. This, for the most part, worked out for us, but we wanted this album to be a bit more memorable. We had all matured as musicians, and felt like it was time to write a good album rather that a bunch of riffs strung together. Every album has had a different lineup somewhat, so that also contributed to the evolution of the band, and the writing process.

Copyright 2008 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/6/08

Hidey ho, neighbors. In a flash, in a dash, got no cash, someone gimme a splash...of anything to keep my ass moving, it's freakin' Wednesday already, wowzers...

So it's mainly the usual stuff to report with the main highlight being my interview with Alice Cooper for Hails & Horns magazine this past Sunday. The man is a riot on top of it a real nice guy. Beware the Twizzler people...

Naturally the week was filled with a lot of Alice, but there was plenty of other poking around music-wise, as I got the little spud acclimated with some Floyd and yesterday we tripped over a song he really loves, as I tested it a few times on repeat plays and he cooed, hollered and got busy in the car seat to Snow Patrol's thumping and airy "Chocolate" from their Final Straw album. Too cute... Last Saturday I got the spud in the basement to watch the old Alan Freed movie Rock Rock Rock and he just loved getting down to some 50's rock 'n roll as well as some Count Basie on the DVD extras featuring a jazz and rock 'n roll revue. Seriously, the kid has no choice with me around; last night I introduced him to the bongos...he's a natural!

Anywho, I spun the new Metal Church album this morning; much better than the last go round. Plus, I've been jamming to the new Zebrahead album as well, so let's consider that this week's top pick, eh? You know the drill, friends...

Zebrahead - Phoenix
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Snow Patrol - Final Straw
Metal Church - This Present Wasteland
The Pixies - Bossanova
Alice Cooper - Along Came a Spider
Alice Cooper - Raise Your Fist and Yell
Alice Cooper - Constrictor
Alice Cooper - Welcome to My Nightmare
Alice Cooper - Dragontown
Alice Cooper - Greatest Hits
Alice Cooper - The Eyes of Alice Cooper
Motorhead - Motorized
Nachtmystium - Assassins: Black Meddle Pt. 1
Equilibrium - Sagas
Blessed By a Broken Heart - Pedal to the Metal
Carnifex - The Diseased and the Poisoned