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

Monday, July 26, 2010

CD Review: Danzig - Deth Red Sabaoth

Danzig - Deth Red Sabaoth
2010 Evilive
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

It's been awhile since Glenn Danzig's let the air breathe in his solo work. While he's created some dense, heavy and sometimes brutal albums (Circle of Snakes being perhaps his fiercest), the drafty, fun permeation circulating through his earlier ventures--i.e. the Misfits and especially Samhain--has only ventilated in Glenn's solo records at random. Danzig III: How the Gods Kill might be the only truly lofty album Glenn's recorded post-Samhain, even if Danzig IV was well-entertaining in its lost highway dirty black summer transience.

Glenn's ninth solo album Deth Red Sabaoth is a stark and stripped reminder why we were all drawn to this cat in the first place. Deliberately naked and barren in production, Glenn's torn-down values on Deth Red Sabaoth leaves for a dichotomy of sweet and nasty riffs courtesy of Prong and Ministry journeyman Tommy Victor--rolling through his second stint behind Danzig.

Its blatant clunkiness drifts backwards almost unapologetically to a criss-cross-crash of Glenn's career courtesy of November Coming Fire, Legacy of Brutality, Black Aria and Danzig III. There's nothing pretty about the opening chugs and fret jerks of the opening number "Hammer of the Gods," but its massive marching tempo is the coolest strut Glenn's sauntered out in quite a bit. Tommy Victor leads a teetering sashay of electric swagger on "The Revengeful" and he serves up a flashpoint scorcher of a solo while Danzig caterwauls in his inimitable Morrison-esque fashion. Yes, Glenn's Lizard King drawl has always been his shtick, yet Danzig sounds more relaxed peeling off his own answer-and-call braying than he has the past few albums.

Something about calling his shots in assembling Deth Red Sabaoth gets passed down to the verve of the album itself. Without his standing in the industry, some might call Deth Red Sabaoth sloppy and amateurish. Yet the grimy tone is all part of the scheme and it works beautifully on the slinky, gnashy "Rebel Spirits," where even the choppy double bass rolls assume a rhythm unto their own while serving the downward drive of the song overall. Listen to Tommy Victor practically jizz all over his solo on this ripper.

The slide 'n shamble drive of "Black Candy" (fed in heavy clomps by Danzig himself on the drums) is near camp, yet Victor downpicks, draws back his distortion and regurgitates it all with piercing high note yelps. Right afterwards, Victor strums out a delicate intro for "On a Wicked Night" before turning his guitar into a buzzsaw. Interesting enough on this number, Danzig's vocals are captured in such isolation they sound like he's imprisoned in an antechamber, wailing to get out.

"Deth Red Moon" is a quick howdy back to the first Danzig solo album with a melody tweak borrowed from "Mother" before salivating an at-home messy set of choruses hoisted from the Legacy of Brutality years. Paired together, it's cooler than you think. Ditto for the hellacool "Ju Ju Bone," which captures the flavors of Danzig III and Initium within a subtle rock construct ala The Kinks and Aerosmith.

Not quite having his Black Aria couplet purged out of his system, Glenn Danzig issues the cryptic piano and chant swoon, "Pyre of Souls: Incanticle" and its thunderous sequel "Pyre of Souls: Seasons of Pain." The latter reminds Glenn's listeners he still has a savory set of chops he can spool with comfort when called upon, while the former is the bombastic climax of the "Pyre" pair, as well as Deth Red Sabaoth itself. Tommy Victor's distortion bombs on "Season of Pain" make his Prong work look like he was merely goofing around on Saturday afternoons, criminey. Forget snapping your fingers; worry about the audile orgasms gushing from your ears after savoring this display of fret intensity.

Glenn lays down most of the bass tracks himself on Deth Red Sabaoth (though Steve Zing retains his road dog rights) and he brings in Johnny Kelly for his first recording session under the Danzig moniker--though Kelly officially hooked up with the band between 2002 and 2003. On Circle of Snakes, Tommy Victor dominated the album to such extremes Glenn's vocals fell into a tone-drenched abyss. This time, Danzig and Victor open all the spaces in the studio and fill them with boom--but not so much where one or the other's presence gets lost in translation.

Deth Red Sabaoth is like reading Faust, Sandman and Hellblazer comics to a fuzzy rip by someone whose cultish music has historically given them soundtrack. With Glenn's own splatterpunk comic line, Verotik moistening up the underground, Deth Red Sabaoth is reflective of a guy who's rubbed elbows with The Crypt Keeper as much as he has The Crimson Ghost and Beelzebub.

There's nothing sexy about this record, not even in a dark, sensual manner which has attracted Goths, vamps and chicken-ripping freaks to Glenn in the past. Deth Red Sabaoth is Glenn Danzig getting down and getting real. More, please.

Rating: ****

Thursday, July 22, 2010

CD Review: 36 Crazyfists - Collisions and Castaways

36 Crazyfists - Collisions and Castaways
2010 Ferret Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

If there's any band comfortable in their skins, Alaskan metalcorists 36 Crazyfists wear their yelp, stamp and swoon pride with absolute defiance. Forget the fashionable upswing towards death, black and power metal modes, 36 Crazyfists know who they are, even as they begin to stretch their parameters. Good move for future survival.

Without saying they've wanted a piece of Killswitch Engage, All That Remains and Shadows Fall's pie, 36 Crazyfists (like The Autumn Offering and Twelve Tribes) has hung in their, er, shadows, building a rock solid fan base of their own. It amassed on the rally cry of 2008's breakout The Tide and Its Takers, while longtime followers still cite 2006's Rest Inside the Flames as 36 Crazyfist's shining hour.

Pared down in the bass position as of their latest album Collisions and Castaways, guitarist Steve Holt found himself working double-time covering two slots. His frantic energy is felt all over the new album, one which starts as a prototype of the band's previous work, but it shifts gears as of the third song, "Mercy and Grace" in what becomes a genuinely adventurous effort.

"In the Midnights" and "Whitewater" kick Collisions and Castaways off with standard metalcore fare ala verse-chorus-verse-breakdown schemes amped by heavy tempos and happy-go-lucky cleans by Brock Lindow. Merged with his familiar banshee railing, Lindow extends his vocals further than ever. Emo at times, but Lindow's coming into a stout verve even as his group begins to seek new ways to express themselves. Frankly, 36 Crazyfists appear to settle for the sure thing on the opening two numbers, but kudos to the guys for going the extra mile the remainder of the ride.

Power metal and classic rock grooves are one of the pleasant surprises amidst the thrashing madcap of "Death Rides the Light," while they borrow a greasy skillet from Every Time I Die's southern fried kitchen on the slick 'n snotty "Trenches." Steve Holt lays down a palatable bass shuck on the choruses of "Trenches" while lighting the subsequent track "Reviver" with gnarly riffage for Brock Lindow to pitch his listeners some rowdy woo.

Holt spices Collisions and Castaways up with acoustic intros ("In the Midnights" and "Waterhaul II") and aquatic wah on "Caving in Spirals," to which Lindow responds with a Peter Murphy-like wallow in spots. Along with the steadfast mosh gallops provided by Thomas Noonan, 36 Crazyfists speed through their own gauntlet on "The Deserter." There's a certain grace felt by the shambling pace of "Waterhaul II," which booms and punches with severity following sequences of instrumental inertia. All the easier to headbang on those loud sections in accordance.

While 36 Crazyfists still caves their compact spaces with breakdowns (which are finally starting to became passe), Collisions and Castaways is one of their most entertaining and ambitious recordings yet. Rolling the bones on a serene 1:47 instrumental interlude, "Long Roads to Late Nights," the pallette 36 Crazyfists employs to create a more artistic listening experience grants them a free pass for the few cliches poking through the album.

Yes, there is such a thing as being true to yourselves while reaching for a new identity.

Rating: ***1/2

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ray Interviewed for All Pens Blazing Vol. II by Neil Daniels

Yours truly appears in the second volume of the All Pens Blazing series by British author Neil Daniels.

I am naturally flattered to be included with past and present peers of the medium. Particularly nice to see many of my colleagues showcased in this series.

Copies can be ordered from Neil Daniels at his site as well as and

With a foreward written by the legendary Mick Wall, the masthead of guests appearing in All Pens Blazing Vol. II is as follows:

Phil Alexander/Ken Anthony/Phil Ashcroft/Scott Alisoglu/Steve Beebee/Keith Bergman/Nathan T. Birk/Shari Black Velvet/Chad Bowar/Jake Brown/Alan Burridge/Dave Cockett/Jeff Collins/Jon Collins/ Mark Day/Rich Deakin/Bernard Doe/Harry Doherty/Robyn Doreian/Arnaud Durieux/Mark Eglinton/Rob Evans/Hugh Gilmour/Rob Godwin/Steve Hammonds/Kelv Hellrazer/Nickie Hobbs/Jon Hotten/Martin Hudson/Chris Ingham/Billy James/Stephen "Krusher" Joule/Alison Joy/David Konow/Mitch Lafon/Chris Lambert/Pippa Lang/William Luff/Malc Macmillan/Brian Manly/Gerri Miller/Michael Moynihan/Dean Pedley/David Perri/Neil Perry/Paul Rees/Bryan Reesman/Jason Ritchie/Chris Rogers/Scott Rowley/Darren Sadler/Amy Sciarretto/Dave Shack/Harry Shapiro/Dale Sherman/Aaron Small/Sid Smith/Ryan Sparks/Janne Stark/Kevin Stewart-Panko/Phil Sutcliffe/Dave Thompson/Paul Travers/Jaan Uhelszki/Ray Van Horn, Jr./Doug Van Pelt/Mick Wall/Ian Winwood/Joshua Wood

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Albums You Can't Live Without: Zombi - Surface to Air

Fitting that a synth-driven prog duo yielding an affinity for Romero and Carpenter movies would hail from Pittsburgh, Land of the Dead--or the original Zombieland if you like. Also with a love of early Rush, Tangerine Dream, the Goblins, Air, Vangelis, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Kraftwerk and King Crimson, the electro verve Zombi emits is freaking addictive.

Okay, so maybe Zombi isn't pure metal, but poll this duo's fan base and you'll find an equal share of headbangers amongst the horror and prog chain gangs. Never again will metalheads bitch about synths now that Zombi has legitimized the instrument like no other to the genre, Tony Carey notwithstanding.

It does help if your idea of fun is watching a throwback marathon of Carpenter's three Halloween films, Escape from New York, Phantasm, Blade Runner, Tenebrae and the original Dawn of the Dead more than you would a weekend's fill of football.

Steeltown has watched its bragging rights to six Lombardis and a recent Stanley Cup vanish on the shoulders of thug antics in the Steelers' case and an improbable playoff choke by the Penguins.

Still, there's Zombi and if you've never sat down with this brilliant tag team of synth rock revivalists, you have a homework assignment. You don't necessarily have to know horror films from top-to-bottom in order to appreciate Zombi's impeccable talents, but you do get what they're about if you're one of those film nerds already humming the upcoming score splice to Friday the 13th, The Fog or even The Howling before the scene arrives.

Of their three studio albums, Cosmos, Surface to Air and Spirit Animal, the middle release is perhaps the most vivid of Zombi's instrumental albums, if Spirit Animal is their most detailed and rock-oriented.

Surface to Air is Zombi at their most ethereal, drenched heavily with Korg synths, rich bass tones and would-be Neil Peart drum rolls and cymbal dances. The majority of the ride is sunk into a John Carpenter and Alan Howarth vehicle. Say what you will about the film Halloween III: Season of the Witch; any synth rock purist or creepy soundtrack junkie will raise a toast to the movie's magnificent score. Therein gives you a rationale behind Surface to Air's reason for being.

Not that the entire album is a fleshed-out homage to Carpenter, but Surface to Air is the best eighties horror score via old-time Rush that never was. For only two men, Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra, the spaces Zombi fills on Surface to Air are tremendous even with a decided minimalist approach. Spirit Animal would find Moore and Paterra filling in massive gaps, yet for Surface of Air's purposes, the stripped focus upon a primary stark texture takes the project well past its inherent shamble party for the undead.

"Challenger Deep" and "Digitalis" carry that Carpenter-Goblins-Rush vibe (more so on the oxygen-compressed "Digitalis") with a mid-tempo slink allowing A.E. Paterra to run rampant across his toms even a level kick. Steve Moore lays down grinding bass cadence to keep the songs' loftiness from gusting to nearly nowhere. Instead, they hold the breeze for the 9-minute odyssey of "Legacy," which shifts from a Dario Argento score into an extensive prog jam.

As the title track might be the most evident of Rush's influence despite a crafty shift in tone which makes you think the song has spliced into a new one, the gutsy 18:34 "Night Rhythms" is Zombi's masterpiece.

Opening with a sensuous synth weave ala Vangelis, "Night Rhythms" becomes an audile journey as it unexpectedly drops into a cataclysm on the spill of a prolonged deep synth note. Building up tension like a showdown between the living and the non, Steve Moore sets his sequencers for a repetitive line of five shuffling notes--soothing in a strange way, disarming in another. While "Night Rhythms" explores this specific arrangement by tweaking it, amping it with coldwave and subsequently blossoming efferversence from it, Moore and Paterra pick up the pace then explode with breathtaking layers in the finale. Eighteen-plus minutes of magnificence with nary a waste.

Ben Roethlisberger may have embarassed Pittsburgh, but the city Romero fictitiously mauled into the grave has new bragging rights. Zombi is instrumental prog we could all grow addicted to. Steve Moore and A.E. Paterra never wank or embarass themselves. They have purpose and drive to their compositions and all the better you feel like strapping on the ghoul paint while listening. Someone with a shrewd booking capacity needs to hook these two up in a parking lot performance at the Monroeville Mall--site of Romero's piece de resistance zombie romp.

In Steeltown, the dead shall walk the earth...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ray's Interview With Bill Aucoin Posted at Dee Snider's House of Hair Online

My 2003 interview with late Bill Aucoin is now running at Dee Snider's House of Hair Online.

From my introduction:

In 2003 I was working on a personal project related to the music industry when I was graciously steered towards former Kiss, Billy Idol and Billy Squier manager Bill Aucoin. As a young fan of Kiss in the seventies, the recurring name of Bill Aucoin rang to my eyes on the album credits as an orchestrator of the magic in league with Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace. Little did I know back then Bill was THE orchestrator. Having the opportunity to speak with Bill was a milestone in my journalism career. His gentle candor reminded me of Mr. True Believer himself, Stan Lee, yet in the case of Bill Aucoin, no truer believer existed in his time ushering the hottest band in the world to the masses.

Upon receiving the news of Bill Aucoin’s recent passing, I was initially mortified. During the same interview sessions for this 2003 venture, I’d spoken with Quiet Riot vocalist Kevin Dubrow and Enuff Z’nuff drummer Ricky Parent, both of whom have likewise passed on. This interview with Mr. Aucoin was conducted at the height of a business day. Bill was multitasking with a headset on as we spoke and I was in awe he conveyed such a detailed and poignant interview. Given recent anecdotes by those close to him, we can assume Bill Aucoin’s principles in the music industry are unparalleled. Proof positive given in the interview you’re about to read, presented for the first time as a House of Hair Online exclusive.

I’d like to thank both Lisa Walker and Carol Kaye for their roles in making this fabulous event in my writing life happen.

House of Hair with Dee Snider

Monday, July 12, 2010

On With the Show...

Buzz Osborne, Melvins (c) 2010 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute

Alright, so call me a schizo if you like, I'm a big boy and I can take it.

It's been more than a month since I announced an indefinite hiatus here and I'm sure my loyals probably feel a little jerked around. The fact of the matter is I'm very touched so many people have reached out in my absence with encouragement, praise and of course, requests to come back and do coverage. In a month's time, my followers roster has spiked and the hit counts are still on-par as ever despite the inactivity. It's all heartwarming, honestly.

As I've finished my current novel and continue to shop it around, I am of course starting another novel which will have an even broader focus. The location shooting I've done for the next project alone has me giddy beyond words, no pun intended. Writing the first few paragraphs of the tenatively-titled "Reunion" feels like comeuppance.

I've joined up with AOL's as a freelancer and continue my affiliations at House of Hair Online and Hails & Horns magazine as well as coverage for a local newspaper. I still work in a full-time capacity in a different industry and my little one continues to grow and I mean grow.

That being said, there's a place in my heart and mindspace to continue on with The Metal Minute, albeit in a limited capacity. I've always tried to keep a level of professionalism here at the Minute which includes a steady flux of posting. I cannot promise the same pace will resume. Likewise, I can only attend to so many bands, though I'm simply flattered to constantly receive correspondence looking for coverage. I'll serve the industry here as much as my crazy schedule will allow, but in response to so much kindness, let The Metal Minute tick once again.

Keep your dreams flying, boys and girls, they'll happen eventually if you need it more than you want it. I need it more than I need air.