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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/31/11

It's 5:30 a.m. and I've skipped the coffee since last night's chili is still rumbling inside and our adopted country-turned-punker-turned-metalhead Hank III has me already at full alert. Ol' Hank has three--count 'em, three--new albums coming out next week on the same day. The first is a one-man doom metal venture known as Attention Deficit Domination, the second is Hank's 3 Bar Ranch, which has Hank supplying death metal, thrash and hardcore lines (again, all instrumentation on his own) with overdubbed cattle calling blazing overtop. The other double album is one half country and weirdness (Ghost to a Ghost) and the second album is zydeco flung into the bowels of Hell (Guttertown).

You can be assured The Metal Minute will be breaking down some of Hank III's over-the-top madness and we're glad to count the grandson of a legend amongst our ranks. Hope Hank III wins his crusade against the Grand Ole Opry to skip the semantics and do the right thing by inducting Hank Williams into its Hall of Fame. On the other hand, it doesn't take a damn hall of fame to remind us that Williams the senior and Hank Snow are the godfathers of country.

Hope everyone is enjoying The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without. Do remember the list is subjective and not intended to serve as an official ranking system. That being said, be on the lookout for more of the 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without in-between aural examinations and the usual chaos here at the site.

Cheers, beers and in Hank III's case, steers...

Megadeth - The System Has Failed
Rainbow - Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Rainbow - Rising
Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'n Roll
Rainbow - Straight Between the Eyes
Rainbow - Live in Germany 1976
Hank III's Attention Deficit Domination - s/t
Hank III's 3 Bar Ranch - Cattle Callin'
Hank III - Ghost to a Ghost/Guttertown
Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind
Sweet - Desolation Boulevard
Anthrax - Worship Music
DC4 - Electric Ministry
Jimi Hendrix - South Saturn Delta
Stereolab - Dots and Loops
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Gary Numan - The Pleasure Principle
Ride - Nowhere
Ani DiFranco - Educated Guess
Ani DiFranco - Knuckle Down
Ani DiFranco - Reprieve

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 79 to 70

79: Thin Lizzy - Johnny the Fox

It's been debated whether Thin Lizzy is a pure heavy metal act. Well, yes and no, but they've been criminally overlooked for their frequently thunderous contributions which deserve a special award of merit for metal in evolution. Jailbreak is an album you can't live without, but Johnny the Fox is more adventurous, equally catchy and just a hair more aggressive, despite the couple syrupy ballads which are still damned fine tunes.

78: Chthonic - Mirror of Retribution

Seediq Bale is a mandatory listen for the sheer experience of feeling like you've been sucked into a black metal vortex. Still, Taiwanese black thrashers Chthonic have proved to be one of the most innovative and extreme bands on the planet right now. Their merge of traditional erhu strings entwined within their reckless speed usually creates tempests of sorrow worth submitting yourself to. Mirror of Retribution, however, showed a brilliant new dimension to Chthonic with dynamic change-ups and exhilirating melody within their portals of chaos. This is also a band not to be missed onstage.

77: Judas Priest - Hell Bent for Leather

A mega chunk of this list should be dominated by the Priest, but for the interim, let's take Hell Bent for Leather as one of their most perfect displays of rowdy tunefulness. "Delivering the Goods," "Evening Star," "Take On All the World," "Running Wild" and the title track...all imprintable classics. Let's not forget the mammoth "Green Manalishi," requested ad infinitum by every serious metalhead at a Priest show.

76: Whiplash - Power and Pain

There are plenty of thrash bands that were more popular than New Jersey's Whiplash, but seldom few speed metal albums hold equal measures of blazing insanity and street cred as Power and Pain does. A raw and chunky album, Power and Pain still impresses in this day with its gusty velocity and gutsy musicality.

75: Warlock - True as Steel

"All We Are" from Triumph and Agony may be considered Warlock's calling card anthem and in some respects, their preceding album Hellbound is a hair better, but for its place in metal history, you can't go wrong with True as Steel. A bit slicker than it needed to be, this one still rocks hard and introduced the metal world to its future queen, Doro Pesch.

74: Mercyful Fate - Don't Break the Oath

One of the most horrific metal albums in history, period. Forget the brackets of black and death metal, which Mercyful Fate easily hedges into. The legacy of King Diamond began with Mercyful Fate in an unforgettable plunge straight to Hell.

73: Saint Vitus - Born Too Late

Doom metal is attributed to Black Sabbath, of course, yet it was Saint Vitus who dared to resurrect the form, and they received no thanks from an early-on metal public split between thrash and death metal sanctions and the hairball partyheads. Vitus found their audience strangely amidst the punkers, who revered Black Sabbath nearly as much as the headbangers. Saint Vitus are now well-heralded, but they might've been born too early, in this case.

72: Pelican - The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw

Though this album betrays a few squawks and flubs, Pelican developed a powerful infrastructure of explorative drone metal and schematic progression. Similar to Isis' modes of tone building, when Pelican hits a climax on this album, the results range from beauteous to cataclysmic.

71: Sweet - Desolation Boulevard

Some considered Sweet a glam band and there are certain parallels, yet the bottom line is Desolation Boulevard is a beast of a hard rock album. It's chocked full of driving animals such as "AC/DC," (one of the first rock songs to roast bisexuality) "No You Don't," "Sweet F.A." and of course, its better-known tunes, "Ballroom Blitz," "Set Me Free" and "Fox On the Run." The latter were covered by the likes of Krokus, Heathen, Ace Frehley and Girlschool.

70: Candlemass - Nightfall

The greatest non-Sabbath doom album of all-time. Not much else needs to be said other than Nightfall is the standard to which all doom bands must answer to.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 89 to 80

89: Manowar - Hail to England

Americans salute their forefathers in loud fashion. Manowar has never had any qualms in proclaiming themselves the heaviest band on Earth. At times, this declaration has played against them, but certainly Manowar is always prepared to back themselves up. This album is the mightiest in their catalog and certainly one of the mightiest metal records existing in the land.

88: Clutch - The Elephant Riders

Josh Homme may get most of the credit for the garage/stoner resurrection, but Fu Manchu and Clutch deserve a hand for being there ahead of the trend. The majority of Clutch's albums are worth getting your ears around, but The Elephant Riders is frequently mind-blowing and will force you to shake your ass if not your cranium.

87: Earth - Hex: Or Printing in the Infernal Method

The Deacon of Drone, Dylan Carlson. 'Nuff said...

86: Quiet Riot - Metal Health

Yeah, you can catch "Cum On Feel the Noize" on FM every damned day for the rest of your life, but Metal Health is a monster example of hard rock perfection. As slick as the black cadillac rumbling midway through the album, Quiet Riot may not have lived up to the potential of this album in later efforts (though Condition Critical has its moments), but they did record one hell of a catchy sumbitch in the beginning.

85: Dokken - Tooth and Nail

This choice is sure to piss off a few heavy than thou folks, yet at least for one album Dokken was louder than bombs. It's a shame the musical visions between the band's constituents took them down a less-bombastic path and inevitably split up the core parties.

84: Testament - The Legacy

One of the most revered thrash acts of all-time, and deservedly so. You could easily include Low, The Gathering and Demonic on this list as some of Testament's fiercest recordings. Still, here is where it all started, and though many fans peg The New Order as their favorite Testament album, The Legacy is a literal typhoon of speed metal.

83: Girlschool - Demolition

Girlschool's debut came shortly on the heels of The Runaways' break-up and it feels largely like one picking up the other's torch with the intent of honoring while pushing the boundaries even further at warp speed. Aggression, fortitude and loudness delivered by a pack of mean-assed mamas who get their dues nowawadays, but not always for the right reasons.

82: Death - Leprosy

Very hard to choose between Human, Scream Bloody Gore, The Sound of Perseverance and Leprosy as the one You Can't Live Without since each album deserves its place in your collection. Chuck Schuldiner left behind a blueprint of creative modes to execute death metal which has been consulted hundreds of times by bands coming up in the modern age. Human may be more progressive, but Leprosy is simply searing at every turn.

81: Satyricon - Nemesis Divina

Emperor may be the finest black metal group of all-time and Mayhem its most notoriest, yet Satyricon's Nemesis Divina proved that black metal, thrash and death metal could co-exist with sophisticated orchestral maneuvers. This album scorches and bleeds on each track, strangely producing emotions of rage and breathless passion. Nemesis Divina is sheer mind rape and you'll beg for more afterwards.

80: Neurosis - Souls at Zero

This is the reason the contrived term "post metal" was generated, though Neurosis is hardly contrived. Recorded in 1991, Neurosis had forsaken their punk origins and tapped into a haunted and claustrophic mode of sound sculpture which has been borrowed and sometimes equaled by Isis, Pelican, Tool, Rosetta and Mouth of the Architect.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Metal Minute's 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without: Numbers 100 to 90

Lists and music journalists seem to go together like weight benches and football players. Lists too, in the latter's case. Hang out at NFL Network during the offseason and their all-time lists are how you pass the time until kickoff weekend in September.

Here at The Metal Minute, we're going to knock out 100 Metal Albums You Can't Live Without. Considering the mass body of material that has been recorded in the heavy metal genre over the span of 30-plus years, this will hardly seem comprehensive enough, even by my standards. You may even bellyache by the time we reach the end of this exercise that your mandatory metal slab didn't make the cut. Try not to take the numbering portion too seriously, since the main objective is to pinpoint 100 crucial albums of the genre, moreso than arranging them by opinionated "better than" sequencing. I'll withstand your darts come the time.

For now, kick back and hopefully you'll enjoy this list. Perhaps you'll find a few missing albums from your collections and feel yourself moved to get acquainted with them properly. This countdown will come in-between our regularly scheduled reviews and events at The Metal Minute, so allow me to whet your appetites with the first ten selections:

100: Saxon - Wheels of Steel

Your study of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal should begin here. One of Saxon's most relentless and fiercest albums in their catalog. If you're not hooked out the get-go by "Motorcycle Man," get bent, you poser.

99: Emperor - Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk

What Celtic Frost and Bathory unearthed in the eighties was brought to new heights by Ihsahn and company. Symphonic fusions amidst the most elaborate and emotional death tolls imaginable. Still the sovereign black metallers of their time and perhaps of all time...

98: Voivod - Dimension Hatross

Cyberpunk was birthed by Voivod's Killing Technology and refined by Nothingface. In-between was this gem, filled with mind-melding proficiency and cold steel abrasion. This might be Piggy's personal masterpiece, while the thrumming intro to "Tribal Convictions" is one of the most beastly metal vibes ever.

97: The Runaways - Queens of Noise

Initially more of a punk and garage band at-heart, I may prefer The Runaways' self-titled debut album, but this one is a historic moment where punk evolved into metal and the performers were all women, the first of their kind. Joan Jett and Lita Ford became household names after the band broke up, but this album is all about stamping swagger that each lady took to future commercial heights. Bow down to The Runaways before Lacuna Coil. They and Girlschool paid everyone else's dues.

96: Helloween - Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. 1

Speed metal meets finesse and artistry. Helloween almost single-handedly sanitized thrash without selling out--at least before Bubbles Go Ape and Chameleon. This album is about power and extravagance. "Halloween" is perhaps the second greatest metal epic behind Iron Maiden's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner."

95: Isis - In the Absence of Truth

Not everyone appreciates Isis, while some lament they went on a more adventurous path following the trailblazing crunk of Oceanic. This album found Isis at the height of their expressionistic creativity and each long track is more of a journey than a drag-out. Emotive, detailed, patient and climactic. Controlled ugliness evolves into pure beauty.

94: Cannibal Corpse - The Wretched Spawn

One of the most extreme acts in the history of metal and also one the most riotous. If there was ever a band worthy of a George A. Romero Award in metal, this is your shoo-in victor. Yeah, Vile, Gore Obsessed and Eaten Back to Life are more hardcore than The Wretched Spawn, but it's the extra attention to layers and precision shredding plus a few random slivers of musicality that makes this one a Can't Live Without.

93: Black Sabbath - Vol. 4

Of those recorded in the Ozzy regime of Black Sabbath, the first few albums are faithfully mentioned on everyone's list (and they may appear on this one too, so stay tuned), yet Vol. 4 is an underrated classic cherished by deep metal aficianados. You're not going to hear many people cite "Snowblind," "Changes" and "St. Vitus' Dance" when asked to call up their favorite Sabbath tune, but you should hear them more often. "Supernaut" rules this sucker and was niftily covered by Al Jourgensen's 1000 Homo DJs.

92: Lizzy Borden - Menace to Society

Tough to pick between this one and Love You to Pieces as Lizzy's greatest album, but why fight it? This one is full of turbo and a slick energy that borderlined a pop metal flair later tapped in full on Visual Lies. Lizzy is a master performer and Menace to Society is one of his legacy albums.

91: Anthrax - Fistful of Metal

While the world has over-debated who best leads Anthrax between Joey Belladonna and John Bush, let's not forget the short run of Neil Turbin who shrieked his guts out as the band was just coming up. This album is faster than Kyle Busch taken at a speed trap. Worthy of your time for that alone.

90: King Diamond - Abigail

The Stephen King of metal at his finest. Them, Conspiracy, House of God, Voodoo and The Spider's Lullabye are no slouches themselves, yet there's no getting around the King isn't--vocally speaking--for all tastes. Nevertheless, King Diamond's pole vaulting pipes do tell his tales of terror with effectiveness and Abigail is his crowning glory. You're cheating yourself out of a frightfully great time if you skip this masterwork of metal.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Album Review: Rainbow - Live in Germany 1976

Rainbow - Live in Germany 1976
2011 Eagle Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

As we've come to learn through the passing of a legend, Ronnie James Dio enraptured his public like seldom few performers have, pick your genre. Since Dio has left us, a score of final days collaborative recordings and live documents have poured into the market and to this point, they've all been welcome. We just can't get enough of Ronnie, and that's appropriate for a man who gave himself to his fans and a man who defines the front position. Were there no such thing as Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio would forevermore be the king of metal. God help us when Halford and Bruce Dickinson pass on, because the realm will be sorely vacant without its proper lieges governing them.

Then again, Dio really is a sovereign lord of heavy metal and though he's not amongst us in a living sense, he continues to wail and whisper into the ears of those who love him. 'Nuff said.

In the case of Rainbow, however, there's more to the story than the enigmatic leadership of Dio on the mike. You're talking about Ritchie Blackmore's playground, an unchained smokehouse of creativity and freeform. Critics and fans alike have debated over the years which band Blackmore leaves his true legacy with, either Deep Purple or Rainbow. While his Purple years remain a blueprint for which all future heavy metal guitarists from Adrian Smith to Lita Ford to Yngwie Malmsteen and generations beyond aspire to, it's to be said Rainbow offered Blackmore's fans better insight into the person, not just the guitarist.

Another thing we've come to learn over the years is that Rainbow really kicked up a storm in Europe circa the mid seventies, well-focused upon Germany. We've already had numerous Rainbow live albums descend upon us over the years and a fair chunk of them originate from gigs belted out in Germany--most recently Live in Munich 1977 from a couple years ago.

Perhaps German rock fans of the day were more reverential of Ritchie's Blackmore's need to preen onstage than others, but it's evident Blackmore and his Rainbow horde summoned an uncanny energy from Germany that propelled some the band's greatest moments.

Live in Germany 1976 is, to this point, the most accurate representation of Rainbow at this halcyon time in its history. We say this because a lot of Rainbow live albums have been edited and pared down for economical reasons. Not so in this case. Here you have a double album featuring only eight songs, stretched to full elasticity by Blackmore, Dio, Cozy Powell, Jimmy Bain and Tony Carey, considered by most as the quintessential Rainbow lineup.

Consider that one of the songs tramped out through 16 minutes of agitated purging is Deep Purple's "Mistreated." You get the long-obvious impression Blackmore was out to prove something beyond his neoclassical and blues-hungry prowess. On the heels of Burn and Stormbringer, Blackmore's last Purple affiliations, there is a decided angst towards his former bandmates (which of course included then-newbies David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes) on Rainbow's rendition of "Mistreated." It comes off as venomous instead of slinky and seductive as the original track conveys and at 16 minutes. You can almost feel Blackmore deliver a thumb bite to his past by lingering on it and lingering on it in a somewhat reserved jam session before ripping "Mistreated" to pieces. What his audience must've beheld that night had to rival Blackmore's tirade at the California Jam in 1974.

And the same might be said of the Rainbow selections on Live in Germany 1976. Blackmore teases the crowd with a snaking thread of Deep Purple in the middle of his rockout section on "Man On the Silver Mountain" but otherwise, he distances himself far away from Deep Purple and even the reality of his gargantuan Rainbow stage, one would assume.

It might be said Ritchie Blackmore found his soul in Rainbow, while others might say he eventually lost his mind once lineups shifted and his Rainbow, Rising and Long Live Rock 'n Roll albums turned into closet classics for future metal freaks. When you're listening to Live in Germany 1976, you can well bet Blackmore tapped into his aura and set it free in the company of Dio, Bain, Carey and Powell. Somewhere, his invisible half was spiraling overtop, summoning otherworldly notes through prolonged solo sections that were probably forgotten by the next gig.

It's not just the fact "Kill the King" is the only song on this collection that clocks in at the tasteful five and a quarter minute mark--ironically a minute longer than the future 4:27 minute studio version appearing in 1978 on Long Live Rock 'n Roll. It might be better said that Live in Germany 1976 could carry the subtitle "Extended Versions" as Rainbow free-floats on elongated solo sections, improv and jam for much of the ride.

The fact three minute Rainbow songs such as "Still I'm Sad" and "Do You Close Your Eyes" check in at the improbable live intervals of 15:00 and 9:45 seems pretty damned wankerish. "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" hits a 7:50 mark, while the already long "Catch the Rainbow" and the immortal "Stargazer" are likewise jerked out towards fifteen minutes and more each.

Veteran listeners of Rainbow aren't going to think anything wrong about these long-haul trips. In fact, they'll likely picture themselves in the arena wherever they caught Rainbow and remember the good times. While many might've been stoned at the shows, it's to their chagrin the songs really were as dragged-out as they faintly remember them.

While more hurry-up-oriented audiences don't necessarily savor the opportunity to hear Ritchie Blackmore grease his frets for minutes on end, there is a historical element to his performances beyond the obvious. Seldom few bands beyond The Black Crowes, Phish and the Dave Matthews Band can jam with any kind of meaning. While Deep Purple, Santana and Canned Heat made jamming an art form, there was something nearly religious about Blackmore's six string incantations in Rainbow that's worth submitting yourself to. It's also fun when the rest of the band gets their cracks at soloing, particularly Cozy Powell, whose piledriven drumming is still astonishing thirty-plus years later.

Endpoint, Live in Germany 1976 is for the Rainbow connoisseur, as well as a devout Dio fan. Any opportunity to hear Ronnie rip into his audile canvas is something to step up to. It's only whether or not you have the fortitude to bear minutes long each of another master working his brushstrokes that determines what kind of listener you are. The thing with Rainbow is that Ritchie Blackmore originally intended it to be disciplined with the loose parameter of changing sections up or fusing new solos at will. This is why we excuse the outrageousness of Live in Germany 1976 and instead look upon it as a textbook study in spontaneous craftsmanship.

Rating: ****

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Realm - "Eleanor Rigby" Live, Milwaukeee, 1992

The studio version of Realm's thrash-eriffic rage on The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" is one of the best covers of all-time. This bootleg live version is a pretty nifty taste of it...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/24/11

What's happenin' readers?

Here on the east coast we had ourselves a few seconds of fun (sarcastically speaking, of course) yesterday with the ripples of a reported 5.9 magnitude earthquake originating in northern Virginia. Amazing how life stops on a dime in the midst of a serious rumble yet most people's immediate reaction is to dash to Facebook via the quickest digital route they can and post their clever ancedotes. Be thankful it wasn't anything largely un-funny like Japan's destructive wakes, ya goofballs. Shout outs to Colorado, who also got a shake-up yesterday. And on the heels of that is Hurricane Irene, so brace yourselves if you live in the lower to mid Atlantic. Mama Nature's on the rag, so hunker down.

A quick hello to my departed aunt on the other side. The burial was a beautiful ceremony and I was honored to read a passage from Revelations at her funeral mass. Take care, Aunt Maxine, I know you've been lurking over my shoulder a few times since crossing over. Hope the view isn't too alarming.

Here at The Metal Minute, we'll be taking a look at the upcoming Rainbow release, Live in Germany 1976, as well as new stuff from the Krum Bums and Wolves in the Throne Room, plus more of the usual insanity luring you back to this site on a regular basis. Bless your restless and wild souls...

The Runaways - The Mercury Albums Anthology
Totimoshi - Avenger
Neurosis - Sovereign EP reissue
Krum Bums - Cut the Noose
Feersum Ennjin - s/t
Thin Lizzy - Johnny the Fox
Kingdom of Sorrow - s/t
Rainbow - Live in Germany 1976
Slade - Slayed?
Quiet Riot - Metal Health
Quiet Riot - Condition Critical
Whiplash - Power and Pain
Piledriver - Metal Inquisition
Piledriver - Stay Ugly
The Boomtown Rats - The Best of The Boomtown Rats
Iggy and the Stooges - Raw Power
The Stooges - s/t
The Stooges - Fun House
The Stooges - The Weirdness

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Album Review: Neurosis - Sovereign EP Reissue

Neurosis - Sovereign EP Reissue
2011 Neurot Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

The thing with Neurosis is they can be exquisite in their brutal soundscapes or downright ravenous. Never has it been said that Neurosis is for everybody, but they are artists, whether or not you have the stomach for what they put on display from both a visual and audile standpoint.

If you've seen Neurosis perform live (much less A Storm of Light, which features their pictorial collaborator Josh Graham), you know the entire experience is to submit your senses to frequently horrific images and sculptures of tone-crushed banality. The multimedia presentation can be shattering in one aspect, frightfully cleansing in another. After all, Neurosis' expressionistic noise art is not so much about evil and darkness, but an outpouring of the human condition. Ironically, Neurosis has been chasing after spirituality, not sadism, through their angry canvasses.

Often that essence is a terrifying reflection captured in lapsed bars of distorted throbbing, tortured wailing and colder than cold coldwave. While Neurosis has often been devastating in a brilliant sense (i.e. Souls at Zero, Enemy of the Sun, The Eye of Every Storm and Through Silver in Blood), there's frequently been points in their career where a little extra work is required by the listener.

2000's Sovereign EP is a case of the latter. Chopped down, at times patient to the point of madness and unnerving from a vocal standpoint, Sovereign isn't so much a crossroads release as it is a bitter pill with moments of sonic extravagance. Given the Sovereign EP appeared in between Neurosis' breakout album Times of Grace from 1999 and 2001's A Sun That Never Sets, it might be argued Neurosis was attempting to sort out the lifer fans from the posers. Suffice it to say, Sovereign is both tough to digest and ultimately satisfying if you appreciate what this band is about.

Originally released as four song EP, this reissue of Sovereign comes with a bonus track, "Misgiven." Before you even reach that point, however, you must stand prepared to sift and disseminate acres of bass heavy vibratum, echoing tribal beats, electro hell and writhing yowls which can grate on the nerves. Still, for all of the numbed-out build-ups on Sovereign, Neurosis can be goddamned concussive in glorious fashion when they reach those booming climaxes.

Even though the title track winds on and on for 15 minutes, once you've crossed the threshold of "Sovereign's" bludgeoning crunch chords, Neurosis leaps past those cascades of depressing distortion and opens up their creative space with titanic thunder. You're occasionally zapped by laser-like electronics which make you feel like you've drifted into Space Ghost before Neurosis stamps back down on their pedals and blows your cranium apart. If you feel you've had enough, don't let your guard down once Neurosis settles "Sovereign" into a creepy sequence of piano-led death alms and hypnotic guitar tendrils before dragging your worn-out carcass to a thankful respite.

Ditto for the deliberately methodic pacing of "An Offering," which rewards greatly with a heaving finale that stands as one of Neurosis' most emotional explosions. Never forget when listening to Neurosis emotion is what guides their every stroke. Their palette is almost never conventional, but when threading the nerve-raking catatonia of "An Offering" and "Sovereign" with the snare and tom-driven instrumental "Flood," which worms in snaky guitar tugs, you begin to fathom the beginning-to-end process of a Neurosis release.

All that being said, if you thought dogs want to yelp bloody murder at high pitches, don't forsake this bit of advice: Take aspirin (and perhaps a pair of earplugs) in advance when sinking into "Misgiven," a lumbering and largely cruel exercise in sequencer shrieking that will put you on the floor in agony. Even John Carpenter and Alan Howarth knew when to turn the knobs back before killing their listeners along with their Halloween victims. While it was stated earlier in this review that Neurosis is more in search of spirituality not sadism in their craft, "Misgiven" is strictly for the art noise geeks. You know, the hipper-than-you scalawags who brag they have the balls to take this at jacked, ear-gouging decibels, much less kicking back to a full hour's track of whipping and female sobbing set to coldwave courtesy of Stallagh. While munching on Doritos for added crunk, of course.

Enter at your own risk.

Rating: ***1/2

Monday, August 22, 2011

Metal Louvre: Whiplash - Ticket to Mayhem

If you're a Gen X headbanger, chances are you were like me and your bedroom was plastered wall-to-wall with cutouts and page tears from Hit Parader, Rip, Metal Hammer, Metal Forces, Circus and all the rock and metal rags of the day. My room was a mix of metal and horror posters, band photos, oozing monsters, gory still shots and of course, yanked-out album advertisements.

One of my favorite record ads was for Whiplash's sophomore album, Ticket to Mayhem. I know I must've stared at the album cover on that ad for minutes on end at a time. Sure, to the CGI-weaned eye, parts of this artwork looks primitive in comparison to today's glossy, mechanized animation.

Still, when you consider the actual accoutrements going into the Ticket to Mayhem cover, this is some damned effective silly-creepy conveyances using dolls, a miniature skeleton, a diorama and shifty lighting to bring out that eye-popping color and the snaky shadows behind ol' Bonesy the ticket taker of death.

Given what we see with the ramshackled rollercoaster and the flushing red, orange, yellow and pink hues, we're to assume these young lovers have unwittingly crossed the threshold into Hell. Or are they really that unwitting? Teenagers believe themselves invulnerable after all.

Blame it on the thrash, not pot, that jarred my mind into strange places back in my old bedroom from the eighties...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Album Review: Totimoshi - Avenger

Totimoshi - Avenger
2011 At a Loss Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Chances are you've probably seen Totimoshi open a gig and you were blown away yet you forgot to follow up learning their name once the rest of the bill played. It happens. If you're that person, make sure you hit Totimoshi's merch table the next time they're playing your town. Better yet, get acquainted with them right here on their fifth album, Avenger and start making your way back through their impressive catalog.

Totimoshi houses one of the most inventive mini casas of sludge artisans you're going to find in today's underground. So much they've lured the likes of Mastodon's Brent Hinds, the Melvins' Dale Crover and Neurosis' Scott Kelly to their grinding, fuzz-bracketed playground that is Avenger.

What has once evolved from an expressionistic Melvins homage (i.e. Monoli and Mysterioso) to a crunky interpretation of Zeppelin (2008's Milagrosa) has now become an investigative plow through '60s psychedelia, '70s trash punk and desert moon hysteria. If you're listening carefully, you'll also grab some smartly-tapped funk out of the mix. As usual, Totimoshi hardly rings predictable on Avenger and the audile experience, while decidedly stepped back from 2006's forceful Ladron and far more abrasive than Milagrosa, leaves a buzzing, hankering hangover inside the listener's ear.

The title track is best described as the tone-heavy serve-up to Avenger which is spiked across the way by "The Fool" and slammed deep into the sand on "Mainline." The latter song is a gritty face-rub of jacked guitar squeals from Antonio Aguilar, chunky bass lines by Meg Castellanos and shifty beat hydraulics from Chris Fugitt, the latest in a slew of drummers for this trio.

The instrumental "Calling All Curs" is just as tasty as its title, beginning with Meg Castellanos' low end heavy panting on the intro and scraped out by Antonio Aguilar, who tugs, flails and slides his fret neck with agitation in many bars, tempered caresses in others. By the time "Calling All Curs" stops on a dime, it's just enough pause to allow one to catch the opening groove of "Rose," a number that summons up a melodic street jive and then changes moods altogether. Picture Frank Zappa meets Curtis Mayfield meets the Vibrators.

Keep that visual in mind on the sonic showdown that is "Opus," an urban-fused teeth rattler that could score the scene of a gang war as much as it could strangely entertain a crackerjack lowbrow western. Aguilar and Fugitt go positively nuts together on "Opus," busting up the customary rhythm section empowerment for a few measures where Meg Castellanos lets them get lost in a quick freefall. The stray is brief as Meg summons them back into the collective with a demanding bass plunge orchestrating the song's punishing though disciplined finish.

Totimoshi has always been a band playing for their own kicks, let those who wish to get on board do so accordingly. Cool that Brent Hinds and Scott Kelly get on board with the stylishly trippy closer "Waning Divide," a structured collaboration bent more towards the Neurosis side than Mastodon. Yet this is Totimoshi's puppy that each guest feels obligated to texture instead of showboat. Subdued for the opening segments, "Waning Divide" sculpts towards a near-opulent draft of slowly-realized power. As if concocted in front of a 'lude traced bonfire at the end of a dashed trail of happy pills (a sweltering vibe lofted over from the bleeding peyote trip of "Snag"), "Waning Divide" carries at times a wanton inebriation that still climbs into a demonstrative display of powermad crush. Hints of Saint Vitus dot "Waning Divide," and that's to everyone's credit for keeping things real instead of going for the knotty novelty.

Avenger is one further notch of excellence in the brilliant careers of Totimoshi, a band that more likely than not kicked their headlining hosts' asses, if not gave them a frightening run for the money. Next time you see them on the bill, make sure you're there early.

Rating: ****1/2

Friday, August 19, 2011


Are you or have you been a tour manager with day-to-day road experience? Do you have a little bit of time to donate in explaining the ins-and-outs of your job?

I am already at work on my next novel and fleshing out my lead character who is no longer in the music business but was once a tour manager in his previous life. Said character is developing as I write, but I need more to draw upon than just the mere observations I've had of tour managers in my time on tour buses or backstage. In some cases, my interview guests have doubled as tour managers and they were generous enough to give me an idea of what road management constitutes, but I want to hear from you if you have the time to offer some color commentary about road life.

If interested, please contact me at the email address here at the site. Credit will of course be given in the novel. I thank you in advance for your interest and insight.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Album Review: All Shall Perish - This is Where it Ends by Devin Walsh

All Shall Perish - This is Where it Ends
2011 Nuclear Blast Records
Devin Walsh

All Shall Perish waits roughly 0.03 seconds before they rip your face off with some intense brutality on their latest record, This is Where it Ends. I really like their approach on the album's opener titled “Divine Illusion” as they waste, as previously stated, only 0.03 seconds to pummel your ear with some killer drum fills and heavy aggressive guitar lines. The intense pace of the entire record is set right out of the get-go. The brief voiceover section in this song offers a nice breather to catch your breath before they go back to an audio assault. I am also a fan of the lead guitar work on this song as it seems to combine elements of real modern technical guitar wizardry as well as an actual melody, which in my book, is always a good thing.

“There is Nothing Left” is the second song from the album and right away I am intrigued by the guitar riffs in this song. The beginning has a real open chord type sounding riff that is a motif throughout the song and offers up a unique approach to this kind of technical metal. As the song continues between this open feel and real tight guitar and drum structures, I find myself waiting and wanting to hear the guitar line again. Technical death metal, or whatever label you want to throw at All Shall Perish, is generally not known for its “catchiness,” but I feel the guitar work on this album has many hooks and solid playing. As the song segues into the guitar solo section, I am once again a big fan of this lead work. In my opinion, many bands of this genre play “how fast can your fingers move” type of solos – which in the right part is good, but I really like how these guys incorporate melody and an almost classic approach to writing their solos.

The next song is “Procession of Ashes” which is lead once again by some great lead guitar work and melodies that keep the song fresh, interesting, and moving. The song moves seamlessly from melodic guitar riffs to real heavy chugging breakdowns. The versatility within each song is shown very well on this particular track with the melodic guitar licks in the background, the heavy breakdowns, and the big thick choruses.

“A Pure Evil” reminds me of a much more brutal death metal piece as the aggression is straightforward with the heavy rhythm guitars. At times, this track reminds me of work by The Black Dahlia Murder. One of my favorite features of this band, as showcased on each track on the album, is their ability to include guitar melodies right along with the intense heavy death brutality. For me, I can easily get bored of a band that has purely fast aggressive guitars and vocals with no real variation, and This is Where it Ends does not fall into that category.

“Embrace the Curse” is similar to “A Pure Evil” in its classic fast and thrashy death metal approach. Like all the other songs, this one too features great rhythm guitar work and aggressive technical drumming. The breakdown lead by a nice bass slide is a good change of pace to the fast guitars. My only complaint with this song, as compared to many of the others, is the lack of guitar melodies. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad song. Maybe that’s what the band was going for – a straight forward fast and aggressive song. Granted, there is a great guitar solo that matches the music very well; I would just personally like some more backing guitar melodies – which is easy for me to say sitting and hiding behind my computer screen.

The next song “Spineless” has a really cool intro with a great guitar lick that leads into another heavy ass song. I really like the guitar layering over the heavy rhythms. They also cut that out and keep it straightforward right when they need to and don’t overwhelm the listener. The song constantly moves in and out of killer rhythms and excellent lead work that adds just the right amount of variation to keep the song moving. This one also has some pretty cool breakdowns, which really remind me of Unearth at times, just with a bit more technicality.

The following song “The Past Will Haunt Us Both” comes across as a good intro track, although it’s in the middle of the album. I say this because the faded intro leads into a good heavy song which would make for a good intro track. However, I am happy they chose “Divine Illusion” as the intro for the obvious reason of it wasting no time getting to the meat of things, and it is also not your typical intro. With that being said, “The Past Will Haunt Us Both” is still a solid song – no matter where they put it on the album. Like some of the other songs on the album, it has some nice open, full-sounding guitar chords ringing out over heavy vocal passages. The light guitar melody over the heavy rhythms adds a cool element that once again keeps things from getting stale.

“Royalty into Exile” gets things going with some heavy staccato guitar riffing that has some elements of a Chimaira type vibe at times. As the song moves along, I really like the guitar rhythm work as well, as it is not simply about big power chords, but they add some unique single string pieces in with the heavy chord rhythms. The song again moves along into some pretty heavy breakdowns that remind me again of Unearth, but by no means is it a ripoff; it just has that vibe.

The album comes to a close with more of the varied guttural deep vocals mixed with mid-range screams that are done really well. The variety of screams is definitely a positive for this band that is showcased on this album. They seem to really know where to use each style. When the song calls for cookies, they summon the Cookie Monster, as in “My Retaliation.”

In a final twist for the listener, the final track, “In This Life of Pain,” starts off with a piano section. Honestly, my first thought was ehhhh. It sort of seemed like a somewhat typical way to end an album. However, I noted the song was over seven minutes long and I thought “....could they really do this for seven minutes?” Of course not! The brief piano introduction leads into another heavy and brutal musical piece that leaves the listener banging their head one last time.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by All Shall Perish's latest record This is Where it Ends. Honestly, I have no idea what their “genre” title is, and I don’t really care. For me, this album comes across as a unique blend of melodic technical death metal. The vocals remain heavy and aggressive throughout which are matched by some really tight drumming and intense guitar work.

My favorite aspect as a whole on the album would certainly be the lead guitar work. I mean this in regards to the solos as well as the backing lead guitars that add unique layers overtop the intense rhythms that really add a nice flare. The lead guitar playing is also well performed and written as I noted earlier. This kind of guitar work is not always what one would expect from such a band. I really like the more melodic approach and focus on “phrasing” in the guitar playing, as opposed to just shredding the hell out of the guitar. In the end, I honestly think this record would appeal to people of many metal genres – from death metal to technical metal to melodic metal, even to hardcore. I guess the best way to put it is, if you are into heavy guitars, screaming vocals, and headbanging, this is worth checking out.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/17/11

Hey there, everybody, it's been a rough week thus I don't have much to blather about. Doesn't help having a little one up my crack first thing in the morn, so we'll cut the chatter and just say thanks as always for your faithful support. More reviews and insanity coming up this week, including some analysis of the new All Shall Perish album by Devin Walsh and some catching up of the backlog from yours truly.


Exodus - Fabulous Disaster
Admiral Browning - Battle Stations
Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time
Chelsea Grin - My Damnation
Candlebox - s/t
Candlebox - Lucy
The Runaways - The Mercury Albums Anthology
The Dictators - Bloodbrothers
The Clash - s/t
The Clash - Give 'em Enough Rope
The Clash - London Calling
The Clash - Super Black Market Clash
The Clash - Sandinista!
The Clash - Combat Rock
Art Blakey - A Night in Tunisia
Art Blakey - Indestructible
Paul Simon - Graceland
The Cure - Bloodflowers

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Commentary On The Runaways Movie

This isn't designed to be an outright critical review of last year's biopic The Runaways other than to comment on the sterling performances by lead actresses Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart as Cherie Currie and Joan Jett respectively. A note of cheers to Michael Shannon as well for his gonzo portrayal of L.A. music mogul Kim Fowley. After catching Fanning in Dear John and now this overdue sit-down with The Runaways, I believe we have a serious talent of longevity on our hands. I'm not exactly a fan of the Twilight series, however, credit where it's due to Stewart. I was particularly blown away by her rowdy, sympathethic and seductive street urchin depiction of Joan Jett.

I do have to note, however, that despite The Runaways coming off as a very solid falling from grace rock story, there was something remiss in just focusing upon the stories of Jett and Currie, even though many argue they were the main figureheads of The Runaways. Lita Ford hadn't yet grown into a rock superstar of her own, however, her role is rather delineated in the film to the point it was slightly criminal the film doesn't even acknowledge Lita's rise to success in the film's end notes.

I didn't recognize Scout Taylor-Compton (i.e. Rob Zombie's Laurie Strode) playing Lita, so major kudos to her when called upon to fill the frame with hot guitar wailing and a ferocious attitude in the recording studio. How accurate is it, though? The very little the real Lita mentioned of her time in The Runaways to me in an interview (and obviously with most of her press save for her participation in a recent Runaways biography), you get the feeling there was indeed tension between the band members and we only have this film and Cherie Currie's biography to determine fact from fiction.

Some critics, though generally favorable to the film, have mentioned how they would've preferred it focus strictly on Joan Jett's life. Well, suffice it to say, The Runaways gives equal measure to both Currie and Jett and it does so with such effectiveness you feel their entwined lives in and out of the band. It's a given a lot of the film is Hollywood embellishment, so the true relations between the real Jett and Currie are theirs and theirs alone. The film taps as close into their coupling as director Floria Sigismondi dares, which is plenty enough. The closing scene of Currie working a regular Jane job (long departed from the band) while Joan Jett has reached her superstar level with "I Love Rock 'n Roll" is cathartic, particularly after Currie awkwardly calls in to a radio show just to say hi to Jett and then smiles girlishly at the triumph of Jett's crossover fame.

Again, good Hollywood material and The Runaways is well carried by an energetic cast, a slamming soundtrack mixed by Runaways songs (such as "Cherry Bomb," "California Paradise," "Queens of Noise," "Hollywood" and "Dead End Justice") with The Stooges, David Bowie, honky tonk blues and other early seventies period cuts. The live sequence showing The Runaways ripping through "Cherry Bombs" at a Japanese performance is red-hot concert choreography.

The film does have a hurried feel for awhile until it has the band assembled and then it quickly becomes a morality tale as Dakota Fanning pours out more than her years at the time in depicting a 15-year-old Cherie Currie who sells herself out due to her tailspun immaturity that has been exploited by Kim Fowley. The opening sequence showing Currie getting pelted with trash by her peers at a talent show in which she replicates David Bowie's alter ego Aladdin Sane and lip synchs "Lady Grinning Soul" is monstrous. If the real-life Currie truly flipped off the student body en route to winning the talent show, then it's a rock moment worthy of the film's regaling treatment. Particularly effective is the scene where Fowley employs a group of young boys to throw trash at The Runaways as a training exercise for what they are to face as an all-female heavy rock act. The dog turd landing on Sandy West's snare is all-indicative.

While it might've been more prudent to have deeper insight into Lita Ford and drummer Sandy West (Jackie Fox refused to be acknowledged by name in the film and thus we have the fictitious bassist Robin, nevermind all of Jackie's true-life replacements), The Runaways does serve up a lessons learned story in which a host of young ladies had the fortitude to take on a man's world and paid the price for it. The Runaways were important for many reasons, yet looking beyond the obvious, Lord could they rip. The Runaways and Queens of Noise albums are essentials for any serious rock fan--might I suggest investing the extra bucks for The Mercury Albums Anthology which gives you both albums plus Waitin' for the Night and Live in Japan. Perhaps a little more roughshod than future disciples Girlschool, The Runaways are nonetheless history unto themselves. It's right they did this film and they did right by the band--to certain latitudes. Too bad they were left to smolder 'til death.

Lured by a man who snakes them as a man would, the implied nuance of The Runaways indicates the music business is alluring to many walks of life. Those who want it the most stand to be served up like cheesecake and ultimately devoured to nothing by sleazy powers engineering social change as a mere guise for their ruthless capitalism.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Album Review: Admiral Browning - Battle Stations

Admiral Browning - Battle Stations
2011 Admiral Browning
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Hell outta Maryland, originating point of the mighty Clutch, comes another low-tuned dropkick upside your head with more than a bit of a prog twist, Admiral Browning. Not so much another Mastodon but fried in the same everyman's greasy skillet, Admiral Browning is the scruffy bear version of classic Rush and King Crimson meets Stinking Lizaveta and Totimoshi.

Sure, the chin rug of Ron McGinnis makes Admiral Browning scruffy on the facade and they certainly kick up the amplifiers and the audile hallucinogenics, but let's not take the cheating path and call these guys a stoner band. There's hardly any steady SoCal grooves like Fu Manchu nor does Admiral Browning wallow in cataclysmic distortion like Weedeater. You might feel like you've gobbled a magic mushroom in spots while consuming Admiral Browning's calculated aesthetics, but they are a band you want your sensors cleared out for.

How this band has only maintained a mostly Delmarva-based cult audience is left attributed to the fact we just have too many damn bands in the world, much less the United States alone. Yet Admiral Browning's Battle Stations is their fourth album in an eight year span. Over the course of concocting the winning ingredients to their sludgy brain stew, Admiral Browning has pared down from a quartet to a trio. Following their previous outing Magic Elixir, Admiral Browning found themselves engulfed in a morass of recorded compositions and it's to their credit they delivered only 37 minutes of focused and refined prog-bonk on Battle Stations.

Admiral Browning may find themselves in the company of doom bands, which is probably a comfortable pairing giving the sonic din and occasional chord drags this band employs. Yet Admiral Browning has a much busier vibe going on inside their instrumentals where journeys and soundscapes are more important to these guys than merely clouting would-be listeners with agro crunch and alms to blackness.

There's viable power ala Caress of Steel and A Farewell to Kings era Rush in the 7-minute opening number "Riff Crisis." Not that Tim Otis, Matt Legrow and Ron McGinnis can match the flailing wizardry of Neil Peart and company, but they don't need to in order to capture the gusty progressive essence of early Rush. Subsequently, there's an exhaustive exhiliration left in the wake of "The Binary Language of Moisture Vaporators" (as well as the crazy title of the song that has this writer strangely thinking of Luke Skywalker's desert farm owned by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru) even at its mostly lumbering pace and wah-screeching hydraulics.

Once "The Binary Language of Moisture Vaporators" latches onto a sequence of detailed time signature swerves, you don't necessarily know if Admiral Browning is dropping anchor or opening sail to unexpected knots ready to haul them elsewhere. You can hear these guys literally exploring every crevice of "Binary" and still they respect their audience enough to keep the wank out of the ride. Always a smart play when you're fair-handed even at 12 minutes.

If you don't feel like you've been throttled through the booming aeronautics of "Dreams of Hammurabi," then you might've left the room to take too long of a whiz during the track's momentum-skidding quietudes which are really designed to give everyone (including Admiral Browning) a brief respite from the bellowing abrasion and encapsulated note-hungriness. The way "Dreams of Hammurabi" comes raging out with a tempest of aggression and a pinpointed slam is enough to make you wipe sweat off your brow, much less the band.

Along the way, Admiral Browning molds "One Lucky Canary" and "Interlude" with acoustics, tabla, bongos, electronic supplements and ear-tingling clean notes, offering portal escape into wherever you imagine before they haul you straight back into their raging waters. Fellow Marylanders Wooly Mammoth can probably match Admiral Browning in the decibel department, but stand prepared to discern and dissect what Admiral Browning spills out, as there are plenty of minute technicalities amidst their abstract sonic overtures.

Admiral Browning may or may not catch on through the rest of the country (though they have been reaching live stage summits as far as Wisconsin and Arizona) and if they don't, it's only because the underground is stuffed abound with sludge-guzzling artisans. Still, what's enviable about Admiral Browning is how much fun they're having with their craft and moreover, how intelligent they are in showing restraint to serve up only their best. The outtakes and leftover music Admiral Browning cut from Battle Stations and their previous albums may be reworked at a later date, but it's their patience and strategic discipline that allows for their own creative development. That says all in a contemporary music industry that hardly permits artist development.

Rating: ****

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

Album Review: Chelsea Grin - My Damnation

Chelsea Grin - My Damnation
2011 Artery Recordings/Razor and Tie
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Utah's Chelsea Grin are a bunch of pissed-off mofos.

Okay, now that I've dumbed down this review with a deliberately lame-o cliche, let's try to sink into Chelsea Grin's brackish cesspool of slow-fast math grind that borders more on seeping. That is, let's sink in graduality without losing ourselves altogether, because Chelsea Grin's second album My Damnation is what it advertises in title. Hold tight as you consume their unholy bombast, or doom yourself to your own private hell.

Over the years, bands such as Between the Buried and Me, The Acacia Strain, Fear Before the March of Flames, Quell, The Chariot and The Red Chord have pioneered and articulated death grind. Fear Factory, Botch and Napalm Death should be surveying the gory static fields they helped decimate. The young guns studying their leftover carnage have dipped into more mathematic schisms to create a nasty and unpleasant vibe. It requires far more patience to sift through than, say, the blunt precision and velocity of Fear Factory's "Zero Signal." Still, you give these caterwauling, breakdown-addled mutineers audience because it's compelling when you hear them apply actual music school theory into a cadence blacker than the armpit of Anubis.

Well in the same league as their peers, Chelsea Grin are no slouches in the brutality department. They greet you with a clout upside the temples and a kick in the balls as their winding decibels reinforce the ensuing body aches. Chelsea Grin, however, is perhaps the ultimate release for today's generation of fiercer headbangers who settle for nothing less than ear-gouging hostility.

After taking a short break to allow vocalist Alex Koehler the necessary time to heal a broken jaw, Chelsea Grin swaps a couple members for new bassist David Flinn and guitarist Jaek Hammond. Departed guitarist Chris Kilbourn, you might know, recently started his own recording imprint, Matchless Records. For good measure, Chelsea Grin thus expands to a sextet with the fortification of a third guitarist, Dan Jones.

It's the subtexts and layering that Chelsea Grin patiently threads into their caustic abrasion that demands your attention, since honestly, there's a very limited appeal to their methodic, face-ripping crunk, assuming you've been deeply following metal all these years. This subgenre of zombie-crawling tech shriek really is on borrowed time and it'll take innovation by the likes of Between the Buried and Me and now Chelsea Grin to keep it relevant as metal continues to search for further extension.

The languishing guitar lead wallowing overtop the steady terror of "Everlasting Sleep" is one hell of a trip, miserable as it may be. Chelsea Grin's sound is naturally just as ugly as their name, but at times they're savvy enough to hijack some light into their belligerent crush. The light creeps in increments, such as the dreamy acoustic instrumental "Kharon," which really stirs the pot in between the ratchety cacophony of "Behind a Veil of Lies" and the title track or the breathy, neoclassical lines barely containing the booming distortion of "Calling in Silence."

Be assured, Chelsea Grin shirks all pleasantries aside on "Calling in Silence" with butt ugly antagonism, yet they wisely return to melodic spurts on the speedier sections. Even as the song goes midtempo again, it's the swirling guitar notes that make you hold your breath as the composition skids to a bare halt. Flogging pukes from Alex Koehler spill over your head like accusations before Chelsea Grin shifts signatures at least four more times in the same damn song. Adventurous songwriting, nearly as bold as Between the Buried and Me, "Calling in Silence" is one of My Damnation's most affluent tunes.

For starpower attraction, My Damnation was mixed by hardcore/deathcore/crunk producer legend Zeuss, while Phil Bozeman of Whitechapel lends some extra yowling on "All Hail the Fallen King."

The nearly effervescent high-note guitar fills on "Last Breath" would be a stunner to some bands playing in this abusive style of shock metal, but in this case, they help Chelsea Grin legitimize their form as pure expressionism. Sure, that expression is based upon an Edvard Munchian principle of writhing outrage, but the fact they bother to show some accountability as musicians is why My Damnation is a standout album for a particular thread of metal that needs this kind of effort to stay interesting.

Rating: ****

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On A Side Note...

I have to say I was pretty affected the other night at the Candlebox gig, particularly by the middle band on the bill, Cinder Road. They're Baltimore favorites, but may or may not ever achieve the breakout success they're pushing for. What resonated stronger than any song they performed in their well-polished set was the love of their lead guitarist for his son. As the guitarist looks well like a younger Dave Mustaine before Mustaine's Metallica-era strawberry blond locks fell past his shoulders, picture, if you will, a four-year-old pint sized version next to this guy.

These big and small hairballs tramping through Towson, Maryland's Recher Theatre was a sight that brought smiles from everyone. Even greater, however, that Dad brought his little man onstage during Cinder Road's set with his own guitar. The child strummed and strummed while his smiling daddy peeled off a solo and struck rock god poses next to his progeny. At one point, the boy gently pushed his father away, which made us all laugh, but at the end of the set, you just had to give a proper horns up to this lighting of the torch moment between man and boy.

I may not always have a smile for my son. Let's face it, parenting is hard and it often sucks. Children are too young to recognize sacrifice though sometimes they recognize effort and love. It's half the reason they act out as they do, to get more of that effort and love, even if the end result at the time may present redirection and brief flashes of anger.

My son is adopted and he's a very special kid. He knows it and he milks it, but he is a damned fine young man and I'm proud to be his father. I may get annoyed if he wakes up too early and hauls me out of bed, or worse, he's there when I get up early to beat my family's rise to the day when I need peace and quiet to get my work done. If he smarts off, oh boy...

Being head of household is strenuous enough. Putting together the pieces of a shambled life is plenty of responsibility itself. Trying to be a father and husband while pursuing my professional goals and aspirations, well, now, there's the rub, as they say. It's not a gimme way of being and I do laugh when people think all I have to do in my life is write reviews and interview bands. As if.

The random slack-off here at the site is indication of my juggling act that finds me in many places doing many things. A lot of it has to do with the welfare of my family. They come first, no matter how badly I want to tell my readers which albums they should be listening to and ones they might want to step aside from. Trying to come up with the winning formula for my novel and side projects to win an audience is what compels me to stay up late and get up early and it's all more imperative with a child in the house. Like the classic GBH song goes, it's a race against time for me.

Still, for my occasional crankiness at it all, I do love that kid and when I'm not about to fall on my face, I do enjoy showing him things, teaching, watching Superfriends before bed and letting him tackle me outside as I teach him football. I took my family out to Washington, DC this past weekend since the Smithsonian museums are free and let me tell you, nothing made me prouder than watching that kid go bananas, pointing here and there like a junior explorer thirsting for knowledge. The following day he was asked if he wanted to be a doctor, an astronaut, a superhero or whatever and he answered very emphatically, "No! I want to be Daddy!" That gets you, believe me.

I thought of that while watching the Cinder Road set. I thought how proud that father must be to have a little doppelganger of himself onstage and how well the kid took to the moment. Scared that child was, but he wanted to do his not-so-old man proud up there and it was incredible to behold. My son did likewise last Christmas in a holiday recital thrown by his former day care. He looked me right in the eyes with a heroic swell and did his job up there. Pretty amazing stuff. Since my kid wants to beat on my drums, you bet I'll encourage that.

The point is, no matter how busy life gets, no matter how badly you want your own needs and wants to be fulfilled, love your kids if you have them. I have to remind myself of it each day when all I want to do is write and edit all night and morning and the boy comes scurrying out to the sound of my pecking keys. It's not always easy, but you have to love 'em.

We now return you to our regular programming...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/10/11

Evenin' into mornin' readers...

Just getting in from the Candlebox show and a big shout-out of thanks to my homegirl Jen for taking me on her plus one to one hell of a rad show. I think the other particulars were just as memorable as Candlebox's performance--which included a smashing rip on Iron Maiden's "The Trooper." I have to laugh at the 15-year-old kid who'd snuck out of his house (per him, anyway) to attend the show. This was his first live experience and it made me smile to hear him talk about his ears bleeding, all the while hitting on a lady closer to my age. She and her husband became our show buddies, though I do wish we'd had the chance to exchange formalities after the concert.

Then there was the obnoxious giggling pixie who ticked off the entire venue. She sounded like she'd escaped the original Evil Dead with her unnerving cackles that were even heard overtop the opening group. The middle band, Cinder Road, made an impression on me when the lead guitarist brought out his four-year-old son (a complete hairball like his old man), who strummed away on a guitar during the band's set. A delightful side attraction, that father-and-son moment is probably the most horns-up worthy moment I've seen this year.

Let's hope England gets a grip on this freaking rioting, huh? Protesting is one thing. Demanding rights is another. Trying to employ "Anarchy in the UK" is just irresponsible and in the end, serves nobody. I have many friends and some family over in Great Britain and my thoughts go out to them amidst this insanity.

Getting back to business here at The Metal Minute, we'll be working on previous agenda clearance along with a look at the new Admiral Browning and Landmine Marathon releases. Keep it hard, everyone...

Anthrax - Persistence of Time
Anthrax - Worship Music
Anthrax - Fistful of Metal
Anthrax - Sound of White Noise
Anthrax - We've Come For You All
Anthrax - Alive 2
Grifter - s/t
The Cult - Love
The Cult - Sonic Temple
Admiral Browning - Battle Stations
Yes - Tormato
Clutch - Elephant Riders
Clutch - Jam Room
Weezer - Make Believe
Depeche Mode - Violator
Depeche Mode - Songs of Faith and Devotion
Depeche Mode - Exciter
Depeche Mode - Sounds of the Universe
Candlebox - Happy Pills
Arctic Monkeys - Favourite Worst Nightmare
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
The Cure - Seventeen Seconds
The Cure - Head On the Door
The Cure - Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me
The Cure - Disintegration
The Cure - Wild Mood Swings
The Cure - 4:13 Dream
Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Metal Louvre: Overkill - !!!Fuck You!!! EP

What's so expressionistic about an album cover showing just a middle finger? A-duh...

It's not so much a work of pure art you witness on Overkill's !!!Fuck You!!! EP. It's what that extendible splashed across the panel represents, particularly from a heavy metal standpoint. Soak it up a second. A primitive, juvenile, uncouth hand gesture, sure. Grossly uncivilized, but it's perhaps the most recognized form of human disapproval notwithstanding a fearsome facial scowl. Half the time we think the middle finger is hilarious. Often it provokes fights to the death.

Still, metal in itself is all about the words "fuck you." Fuck you to the mainstream. Fuck you to the straights. Fuck you to the government. Fuck you to the parents--and this, coming from a guy who is now a parent himself, ouch.

All of it, exactly as cult punkers The Stiffs originally intended. Punk was even more about "fuck you" than metal, but in the hands of speed demons Overkill, there was no way this song would be overlooked any longer. The classic lineup of Bobby Gustafson, Rat Skates, Blitz and DD Verni were bred and fed on a combination of thrash, UK hardcore, New York punk and NWOBHM. You couldn't pick a better set of inheritors and ambassadors to execute such a ripping cover of this Stiffs gem.

While a fellow punk act such as Discharge or the Dead Kennedys might've been logical choices to cover "Fuck You," even more the greater a metal band took up the cause. !!!Fuck You!!! came during the crossover phase of the original metal and hardcore movements and in their own small way, Overkill helped ally the genres together as much as DRI, SOD, Motorhead and Suicidal Tendencies did--even if Motorhead was just a bombastic rock 'n roll band embraced by both sanctions. Is there no band on the planet better representative of the words "fuck you" than Motorhead?

Even better if you owned the original out-of-print copy of this EP on vinyl, so your folks could find a glowering middle finger antagonizing them from your record collection. It spoke of you as a teenager whether you chose to slip the !!!Fuck You!!! EP deep in the bowels of your album stack where it resided as a prized secret or whether you defiantly left it on top for your parents and their guests to trip across in your bedroom. Remember, !!!Fuck You!!! was marketed as "The Record THEY Tried to Ban!" and eventually Megaforce/Atlantic was forced into issuing copies with blackened covers, the middle finger reversed into the packaging.

We don't care what you say, right?

Friday, August 05, 2011

Album Review: Anthrax - Worship Music

Anthrax - Worship Music
2011 Megaforce Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

The particulars behind Anthrax's latest album Worship Music are controversial, to say the least. Yet when all the smoke has dissipated and four-fifths of the core lineup are once again in arms, the end result resonates in spectacular fashion. Worship Music is a freakin' metal party and we're fortunate to attend it in unison as fans who've prayed for this moment.

Before moving forward, let's give John Bush a rousing applause. Sound of White Noise and We've Come For You All are two masterful records in Anthrax's recorded arsenal and a generous portions of those albums' successes is the confident, manly swagger of John Bush. Scores of Anthrax fans have spent more than a decade debating which of Anthrax's most-beloved vocalists, Joey Belladonna and John Bush, are the most worthy. Bush did a tremendous job for Anthrax, but it's all moot at this point.

Joey B. is back in the saddle, even when it looked like the retro 'thrax reunion a few years ago would pan out to merely that, a novel get-together for kicks. More than a few heads twirled quizzically when neither Bush or Belladonna were announced as Anthrax's lead singer when beginning the recording process for Worship Music. The quasi-legend of in-and-out vocalist Dan Nelson will probably continue to haunt Anthrax, but not for much longer once the metal public soaks up the final cut of Worship Music with Joey Belladonna doing what he was meant to do.

When I spin this album (and it's been in the double digits already), I drift in thought to 2003 and 2004, when I spent some private time interviewing Joey Belladonna. Joey was in the midst of keeping together some sort of career, which even found him smacking the drum kit while peeling off his trademark male-valkyrie pipes at a memorable solo gig. Joey had mentioned back then how much it would mean to him to lay down one more album with Anthrax. Neither of us saw much future in it back then, honestly.

I think of these candid conversations with Joey when I hear him rip out "Fight 'em Til You Can't," "In the End," "Crawl," "I'm Alive" and "The Devil You Know" on Worship Music. As a longtime fan of Anthrax, I spent an entire high school career jabbing back at "the normal kids" that this was a righteously badass band that had nothing to do with cattle disease. My teenage years were filled with Neil Turbin and Joey Belladonna wailing in my ears. I probably scribbled Anthrax's logo on my textbooks more than most others back in the day, Iron Maiden notwithstanding. It took me some time to get used to John Bush fronting this band and not Armored Saint, yet for all of his polish and command, it was always Belladonna for me. All that being said, Worship Music ends up being Joey's catharsis--and how.

Yet it's not just the exhilirating mike performance Belladonna puts in for Anthrax. His vocals are even more refined than his first tour of duty in the band and it's nearly mind-blowing how youthful and exuberant Joey sounds on this album. He's seized the moment and if you didn't believe in him before, believe it now, suckers. It helps a great deal the rest of Anthrax steps up to the plate with Joey and in the end, this becomes the most passionate album of their career since Persistence of Time.

Not to flush away the merits of Sound of White Noise and We've Come For You All, but there is a resurrection effect to Worship Music which finds the songwriting to be mindful of both Belladonna's and Bush's previous eras. It's sometimes fast, occasionally brutal, unbelievably mathematic, always melodic. This is an album for all Anthrax fans.

Rob Caggiano has been more than trusty in his duties since joining Anthrax, yet his solos on Worship Music are just stellar, as is the titanic riffing between him and Scott Ian. Charlie Benante is so in the pocket, yet you can tell he's feeling a little giddier this time than usual. His uptempo beatdown on "The Giant" is a telltale sign Benante is one happy camper. Frank Bello is a maniac onstage and Lord, does he bring that low-end energy to this album. You might have to go back and focus on just him since the rest of the band is so strikingly on.

"Earth On Hell" is the pure thrasher of this album, yet for all the variations of speed and mid-range velocity on Worship Music, it's how detailed Anthrax is that speaks above the speed selectors. "Judas Priest" carries a mighty crush set upon its deliberate NWOBHM stomping tempo, along with some delicate solo spots set throughout this tributary mini-epic. Anthrax threw out a cheeky little outtro featuring a nod to Priest's "Love Bites" on "Strap It On" from We've Come For You Fall. This time, they honor Halford and company in mega fashion as the latter band bids its farewell to the metal world.

Though "Fight 'em Til You Can't" is reported to be the first single from Worship Music, there's no sane reason "Crawl" shouldn't storm the airwaves. Reflective of AOR without being AOR, "Crawl" is a muscular though introspective power pump that could've been sung by either Bush or Belladonna. In fact, Joey's first few notes haunt of Bush until the amps kick on and then it's fully his tune to carry. His emotional repeats of "I'll follow, I'll follow..." overtop the backing vocals on the chorus will affect you. FM radio is afraid to play this tune, even though it would sit snugly next to Theory of a Deadman and Avenged Sevenfold. Not to diss those bands, but "Crawl" would kick their tails in succession. Go on, radio programmers, I triple dog dare you...

Even "The Constant" carries a similar grind on its verses until jacking up the rat-a-tats on the bridges and breakdowns so miniscule yet so striking they serve as a manual on how to do them tastefully. When Anthrax does a breakdown on this album, they annihilate you. Proof positive with "Earth On Hell." Proof positive on "The Constant," a headbanging jam with planted acoustic lines and a lead singer who proves how much he wants this. While we're talking about single candidates from this album (as well as ones with hefty breakdown sections), "The Devil You Know" is another gimme. Play it enough times, you might think it ought to regularly follow "Caught In a Mosh" in Anthrax's future live sets. "I'm Alive," another one for its massive strut and headstrong choruses. Listen to Joey spit into the mike while knocking this tune out of the park. That's some fang, people.

Thankfully, Joey Belladonna's bandmates want this as much as he does, and it's why Worship Music becomes an album to beat in 2011. We're still waiting for Mastodon and Opeth to check in with their new albums, but Worship Music is an undeniable triumph that reveals more and more with successive listen. You might hear quite a few heavier albums than this, but judge Worship Music upon its substance, its layering and its determination to win you over.

As one of the Big Four bands set to tear up their home turf in New York, Anthrax stands up to their peers with an album to rival Megadeth's Endgame, Slayer's World Painted Blood and Metallica's Death Magnetic. Goddamn, these are good times...

Rating: ****1/2

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Album Review: Grifter - s/t

Grifter - s/t
2011 Ripple Music
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

I'm automatically going to hand a band that pounds Guinness a gimme point. Guinness drinkers (at least in the United States) run a gauntlet of shriveled-up faces and irksome groans and moans from tamed-down lager lovers--you know who you are, fukkos. Guinness, not for everyone.

Grifter hails from Plymouth in the UK. Obviously not the punk outfit of the same name, nor Grifters, which had their run in the early nineties, this Grifter is more about skillet rawk in the vein of Clutch, Scissorfight and the drop-kicked Southern boogie metal vibe that's been more than fashionable in the American underground these days. Let's add Ripple Music's own Stone Axe, while we're being topical here. Better yet, this Grifter loves Guinness. In other words, these dudes are no pussies.

As Bad Company and Foghat learned ages ago, there's heaps of power to be cultivated by studying American delta blues and the manuals of Skynard and Allman. Two of the mightiest UK heavy rock acts who could (and do, if you gauge the average classic rock listener) pass off as American, Bad Company and Foghat are anamolies. In their own fashion, Grifter could likewise pass off as an American piss rock band. Their low-key, though booming cadence carries the subliminal wafts of diesel, garbage, used condoms and spilled booze--in this case, Guinness. All of that is being complimentary.

Consider songs such as "Asshole Parade," "Strip Club," "Piss and Gas," "Bucktooth Woman" and "Good Day For Bad News." It's not just the titles of these grimy cuts; it's the attitude backing them up. You really do flop into this album thinking another Neil Fallon side project (i.e. The Company Band) has cropped up. Guitarist/vocalist Ollie Stygall nails Fallon's sweltering pipes to a tee all over this album. If "Young Blood, Old Veins" isn't a quantified Clutch outtake, then there's seldom few songs deserving of the honor.

The longer Grifter grinds on, the more you feel there's a Jam Room 2 Clutch never bothered to release. However, instead of trying to match Tim Sult and Dan Maines by the decibel, Grifter opts for a driftier slide and keeps it all on the low end. Stripped down, absolutely, and it's why "Bucktooth Woman" shakes a rowdy tail feather as much as you're forced to laugh at Grifter's huckleberry muse.

"Preacher and the Devil" carries a well-familiar note spiral you've heard from Sabbath to Deep Purple to ZZ Top to Jane's Addiction, but Grifter ends up throwing in a bit of their own jam into the mix with a yowling though easyriding solo from Stygall and a bare bones bass line that carries into the last chugging verse and chorus. Also, have fun with the bottleneck swerves and "aroooo" choruses on the album's swampy closer, "Gone Blues."

"Alabama Hotpocket, "Bean," "Welcome Guest" and "Asshole Parade" are all crock pot ditties that are more than welcome in today's edition of the fuzz rawk cookbook. Cool to see some of the servers hail from parts outside of Baton Rouge, Savannah and Charleston. A point to Grifter for the Guinness. Three more for delivering a chunky through settled slab of amp restraint that nevertheless rocks hard.

Like Guinness, not for everyone. We don't want those people around, anyway.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 8/3/11

Sheesh, did that week blow by...

Wazzup, gang? Been extra busy sorting out messes and hanging on as always, so we'll try and pick up production in the upcoming week.

Let me just say I'm privileged to have an advance copy of the new Anthrax album Worship Music, and yes, we'll dig into it in an official capacity here at The Metal Minute in due time. Sorry to Dan Nelson for the things that transpired because if the songs on Worship Music were the same as when he recorded them, wow, you can't fault the man if he's a little upset. Now with Joey Belladonna on this thing? Good God, people, get ready, because the mojo is back and with a freakin' force. Top-to-bottom, this is the best Anthrax album since Persistence of Time, not to slight John Bush's efforts whatsoever. The man was great for this band, but the songwriting has tripled on Worship Music and every cat put forth an extra effort. I can only think of Mastodon and Opeth as pliable contenders to beat this sucker out at year's end. There could likely be many more albums vying for Album of the Year, but seriously? Believe in Worship Music. More to come on that in the near future.

And like Lightning McQueen, I'm out, ka-chow! Thanks as always for your support of this site.

Anthrax - Worship Music
Bitch - Be My Slave/Damnation Alley reissue
Zombie Shaker Box - Encrypted
Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life and Death
L.A. Guns - s/t
Tesla - Time's Makin' Changes: The Best of Tesla
Opeth - Blackwater Park
Opeth - Ghost Reveries
Testament - Souls of Black
Scum - Gospels for the Sick
Judas Priest - Painkiller
PJ Harvey - Rid of Me
PJ Harvey - Is This Desire?
PJ Harvey - To Bring You My Love
PJ Harvey - Uh Huh Her
PJ Harvey - Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea
Generation X - s/t
Generation X - Valley of the Dolls
Six Feet Under soundtrack
Ivy - Apartment Life
Ivy - In the Clear
Material Issue - International Pop Overthrow
The Temptations - Anthology
Curtis Mayfield - The Very Best of Curtis Mayfield
The Jackson 5 - The Ultimate Collection
Tony Toni Tone - House of Music
Raphael Saadiq - Stone Rollin'
Tommy Boy Essentials: Hip Hop Vol. 1

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Album Review: Zombie Shaker Box - Encrypted

Zombie Shaker Box - Encrypted
2010 Zombie Shaker Box
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

As this album was released more than a year ago, this is more or less a public awareness exercise. Vegas-based Zombie Shaker Box is the brainchild of Kirk Hulshoff, co-founder along with Lizzy Borden bassist Marten Andersson of Legacy. Winners of various west-coast rock awards in 2009 and 2010, Zombie Shaker Box could be, in titular theory, the more straightforward version of Wednesday 13. Not quite, though.

Honestly, the only real schlock behind Zombie Shaker Box is its name. The ten songs comprising Encrypted are more in tune with a rump thumping jam feel and a more-than-occasional Alice in Chains-meets-L.A. Guns brooding session versus a festive horror-metal roast.

Encrypted was conceived and fronted by Hulshoff with a cotillion of guest performers, amongst them three artists who would go on to comprise Zombie Shaker Box's performing roster: bassist Cory Kay, guitarist Chris Blakely (though credited to Jami Lin in the album's liner notes) and drummer Tomonori Sugiyama. For the album's purposes, this is more or less Hulshoff's show as principal writer--with numerous musical contributions from outside sources such as Chris Poindexter, Ron Broad and Rod Heiden, amongst others.

Most folks coming to Zombie Shaker Box have cited a parallel between Kirk Hulshoff and the late Layne Staley. True dat. There's also shades of Axl Rose and Sully Erna, though Hulshoff avoids gratuitously veering towards either side. Hulshoff's vocal concoction has a decided throwback cadence not quite in the gunslinging higher octaves such as Jeff Keith of Tesla. Yet you're going to weirdly think of Tesla and the better downhome rockin' bands of the late eighties along with Alice in Chains, which seems to be where Hulshoff feels most comfortable in this project.

While "Welcome to My Rave" and "Blow n Smoke" come crashing out with a picked-up pogo verve to them, much of Encrypted then slips into cross-section of moody ambivalence merged with a deliberate beer-over-the-knee kickback slump. "In Loving Memory," "Cry," "Tigerlilly" and "Hideaway" are hardly happy pills, but they all have a subtle slide, much as the listener might want Hulshoff to pick the pace back up, given the energetic start of the album.

Don't expect it, because Encrypted only amps up again on "Industry Witch" and "Gates of Hell," (both as blatant a nod to Alice in Chains as any on this album) and only at a mid-tempo jack, at that. The final track "Ashen" is flung somewhere between Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction, a dusty, calypso drift lofted by the forlorn guitars of Chris Poindexter and the haunted bongo swirls of Rod Heiden. In its own way, "Ashen" sends Encrypted off on a breezy note of class.

While a band name such as Zombie Shaker Box invites something far different and more chum-oriented than what Encrypted delivers, there's a certain appreciability for what Kirk Hulshoff is trying to accomplish here. Staley acolyte he may be in this venture, there is a comfy-sounding shuffle and drag to most of these tunes. In that respect, perhaps Zombie Shaker Box isn't such a misleading moniker after all.

Rating: ***1/2