Monday, March 30, 2009

Pagan Knights at the Highline Ballroom

In college, I had some ambitions of pursuing a career in ethnomusicology - roughly the point where music and anthropology meet - and I have a bit of soft spot for anyone who can drag ethnomusicology into interesting situations. Like, say, a heavy metal concert.

See, I went into last night's show believing that Tyr wrote all of their music. Shaken by frontman Heri Joensen's intro to "Sinklars Vísa," which he described as being about "a group of Scots getting their asses kicked in Norway in a war around 1610 or so," this belief was shattered by the number of non-English lyriced songs that Joensen introduced as Faroese traditional music. Clearly Joensen, who does most of the band's arranging, enjoys his research; Tyr does as much recasting of the music of the past into modern idioms as they do writing new material, and - in tribute to the intellectualism of their art - is equally effective at both efforts. Seriously: folk songs you can mosh to? It doesn't get much better.

Really, though I shouldn't be surprised: using traditional music as a basis for pagan metal seems like a pretty logical extension for a genre that already pulls pretty much of all of its subject matter from the past, right?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Scott Hamilton Does Not Like Metallica

Three thoughts I had while reading Scott Hamilton's string of complaints about Metallica playing SXSW:
  1. Is SXSW really that small anymore? If it's blown up enough in the past few years that Metallica wants to make it a part of its traveling circus, chances are that it's gotten a bit bigger than a breakout place for indie bands.
  2. Anyone who thought that most of the people who were showing up to see Metallica were going to hang around to see the other bands needs a reality check. I suspect that the crossover level between "hometown country rebel" fans and Metallica fans is pretty low to begin with, and those would have been half full even without Metallica playing down the street.
  3. Aren't you an indie rock label head? Aren't you supposed to hate popularity in all of its forms?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Getting Psyched for Tyr

The Pagan Knights show - Tyr, Suidakra, and Alestorm - is this Sunday night. I was enthused about the idea of seeing Tyr again when I bought the ticket, but since then I've discovered a few things:
  • I like Suidakra's most recent album enough that I'd probably go see them on their own anyway.

  • Tyr is the pagan metal version of Soundgarden: every time I hear something new, it takes me a few listens to get it...and then I slowly grow to love it. It took me 30 minutes into their set last year to grasp where they were going, Eric the Red was a closed book that I only kept trying to reopen because I wanted to translate the magic of the live performance to the recordings, and Land seemed a difficult disappointment until once again something clicked. Now I wake up with "Eric the Red" stuck in my head.

  • Now that I've heard Alestorm, I see how Pagan Knights is trying to be a better, more efficient Paganfest II. Alestorm and their pirate metal takes the place of Swashbuckle and Blackguard, Suidakra has the kind of pop energy to fill the Eluveitie/Korpiklaani portion of the bill, and Tyr's more intellectual focus is a stand in for Moonsorrow and Primordial.
Three more reasons to get psyched for Sunday. I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

New Heaven and Hell single is kinda meh....

I am super excited about the new Heaven and Hell record coming out soon, The Devil You Know. I love all three Dio era Sabbath albums including the often maligned Dehumanizer. Shit, I even like the new tracks on that best of which came out in 2007.

So I was psyched to see the new single called "Bible Black is streaming here.

Take a listen for yourself. It sounds like typical Sabbath. Probably a little *too* typical. It is not super catchy and doesn't get me amped up for the album. Honestly, with the clean guitar intro and slow paced plodding riff it could be any of those secondary cuts on a Dio solo record. You know the ones I am talking about. Tracks like "The End of the World" or "Better in the Dark." It makes me nervous that this is considered the single. I am getting visions of the weaker end of Dio's recent work and a lot of uninspired Iommi/Butler workouts that all sound like retreads of Heaven and Hell. These guys have been playing amazing live shows for the last two years and there hasn't been a proper Sabbath album since 95 so I am still hoping for the best. But this single just isn't doing it.......What do you think?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Initial Thoughts on Crack the Skye

Seth alerted me this morning that Crack the Skye had made its way on to the Internets. He also gave me the heads up that - despite their protestations to the contrary - the album has more of a commercial feel. With that in mind, I turned on the first track, "Oblivion," and while I enjoyed it, I have to ask: when did Mastodon become Stone Temple Pilots?

The Top Five Dream Theater Albums

What would your top five Dream Theater albums be? I wonder about this question occasionally because a.) I am a huge music nerd and b.) I care enough about the band to mentally rank the albums, feel slightly guilty about leaving something out, and then go back and rank them again. I've never committed to an ordering before now, but About Heavy Metal writer Dan Marsicano drew a line in the sand (see what I did there?) with his list (Octavarium makes the cut but Systematic Chaos does not? Really?) and now I feel I have to respond with a list of my own:
  1. Images and Words. Maybe it's because I heard it first, loaned to me by a guy who lived on my floor my freshman year of college who thought I'd like the sound. Maybe it's just because it's got an incredible amount of staying power nearly 20 years later. Maybe it's just "Learning to Live," which remains one of the best songs the band has written. Whatever the case, in the subjective world of best of the best, where every margin is razor thin, Images and Words gets my vote for the top.
  2. Scenes From a Memory. My senior year of college, I spent the year writing an analysis of Scenes From a Memory and got to know it very, very well. That it not only held up to those hours of abuse but persevered as a regular member of my listening rotation ensures its place in the top five.
  3. Systematic Chaos. When I put together my best-of list for the decade later this year, Systematic Chaos will likely be included. I've enjoyed the Ruddess years immensely, but I think this album stands head and shoulders above everything else Dream Theater has done in the past decade.
  4. Awake. Born out of the kind of creative tension that Dream Theater hasn't really experienced since - which, given its effects on the band, isn't necessarily a bad thing -this is the album that's found them at a mix of heaviness and melody that they haven't really reached since. There are a number of highlights to enjoy, but the king of them all has to be the standard-setting "Erotomania," with its section of triumphant guitar chords - a section that one guitar tab transcriber out there referred to as The Chord Progression of the Gods - that has been been my ring tone for the past three years. Still, the inclusion of "Space Dye Vest," a great song that doesn't fit with the rest of the album, gives Awake a flaw that knocks it down a few notches.
  5. Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance. This was a tough one, because I don't think the second disc of this album holds up as well as the first one, and I love A Change of Seasons, but don't think the rest of that EP is strong enough to merit inclusion in the top five. In the end I choose Six Degrees... because I love all of the tracks on the first disc, love how they're all tied together with the between-track transitions, and have some powerful personal associations with the album: it was the first Dream Theater album that came out after I got into the band, I saw them for the first time on that tour, I had a powerful dream once about an apocalyptic event that involved "Blind Faith" know, standard stuff.
Your turn: give me your lists (and thoughts on mine) in the comments.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pulling Out of Paganfest II

Well, that settles that: "ELUVEITIE Pulls Out Of 'Paganfest America: Part II' Tour." I was already on the fence about going, and out of the remaining lineup, I know nothing about Swashbuckle, would love to see Moonsorrow, and - after a thorough review - have no interest in Korpiklaani, Blackguard, or Primordial, creating a negative balance of interest. Hopefully Moonsorrow will come around on another tour and I can enjoy their wonderful atmospheres in person. It's starting to sound like the Tyr/Suidakra/Alestorm show at the end of this month will be the true successor to the original Paganfest.

By the way: what kind of bullshit reasoning is "[The tour organizers] decided that it would be wiser to wait for the band to return in the fall since they've already played during Paganfest America 2008's touring cycle." It's been a year, guys. If you're worried about oversaturation, I think you're ok. If you're going to tour them anyway (whatever that means), as you say in the next sentence, why make us wait until the fall?

American Soldier Goes From Weakness to Weakness

Thank the Internet gods for leaked albums: they let me find out that much sooner when an album is a watered down disappointment.

Remember what I didn't like about "If I Were King," the single Queensryche put out on a few weeks ago? Unfortunately, American Soldier is full of that kind of tripe: tragic stories that make you feel for the collective archetype of suffering soldier, represented by lyrics that do nothing to dig beyond the surface of the psychological underpinnings of that archetype and music as bland as a month's worth of k-rations. Believe or not, things occasionally get worse: "Home Again," which tackles the anxiety of separation between the soldier and his family, falls flat on its face by relying on a duet between Geoff Tate and a boy to support its attempts at emotional depth. The boy's voice is unmelodious, the lyrics syrupy, the moment drowned in a flood of reverb that sounds like a cheap attempt to add lustre to a lump of coal.

There's one exception to this uninspired mess: with lyrics that don't sound like the result of a pop psychology nightmare and music that does a little more than chug along, "At 30 Thousand Ft" is the kind of song Queensryche could write when they weren't just talking about artistic statements, but making them. However, hearing that one bright spot angers me even more: "At 30 Thousand Ft" shows the band still has the talent to write good music, but couldn't be bothered to do so for more than one track. They could have taken a topic with thousands of years of philosophical, medical, and social exploration and distilled it down to a thinkpiece in the mold of their classic albums. Instead, they scratched at the surface, took the handful of loose soil that came up in their hands, and cast it out for all of us to hear with pride on their faces, leaving untold treasures behind.

Monday, March 16, 2009

BBB Field Trip!

The BBB team has scored third row center seats for this summer's Nine Inch Nails/Jane's Addiction tour!

That's it.

Nothing profound, just gloating.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Black Clouds and Silver Linings...Thus Far

More details emerging on the new Dream Theater disc on Friday, as the band released the cover art and track listing to the public. Remember how Mike Portnoy tossed out some hints about how Black Clouds and Silver Linings (or, as my brain keeps translating it, Black Holes and Revelations) would sound like a good portion of Dream Theater's old catalog? It looks to me like they took that aesthetic to the cover art, too: the surreal grouping of objects makes me think of the designs Larry Fremantle did for Images and Words and Awake.

The song titles are intriguing, too: I'm guessing "A Rite of Passage" or "The Shattered Fortress" is the next 12 Step song and "The Count of Tuscany" screams "instrumental" to me. "A Nightmare to Remember" could be another edition the fantasy kick John Petrucci brought (with great effect, I thought) to Systematic Chaosm, while "Wither" seemed like it could be an Awake throwback at first glance until I saw Jordan Ruddess's comment about how they're bringing in a full choir sound and going gothic with the music - now I'm thinking it'll be something out of left field from what the band has done before.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Casual Fridays: When Motley Crue were awesome

I admit I saw Motley Crue over the summer. I also admit I was psyched. They beat that out of me though. What a shit show.

I wanted it to look something like this awesome show from Des Moines in 1987

Or if you are going to watch them suck, at least have it be because they haven't fully written Shout at the Devil yet! From the US Festival, pro shot. Also, I have to say they are suffering from Dimmu Borgir syndrome here. In the daylight corpse paint and spikes just look stupid.

Fenriz takes the Rorschach test

My friend Larry passed along this blog where the author gets famous people to take the Rorschach test.

May I present the one taken by FENRIZ

My favorite bit: alien skeleton (1 sec). the bit that made me think of a skeleton then looked like a uterus after like 4 seconds.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Norway, pioneers of Socialist Metal!

Oh Norway, previously Nazi occupied country, apple of my eye.

With your beautiful fjords and state sponsored Metal. Yes, Norway is using Government money to bring Opeth, who are Swedish, over to tour. Not just the big cities, but the smaller towns where promoters couldn't afford to bring a band like Opeth.

The circular nature of this is awesome. Norwegian Black Metal bands burn up State churches, cause national havoc and wind up in the Norwegian prison system. Then the Government spends more of its tax dollars to bring in a band from Sweden heavily influenced by those same Norwegian Black Metal bands to small areas in Norway to create a new generation of church burners.

Money quote from the article (picture Tom Daschle saying the same thing): "Opeth has been on our radar for a long time, and with the success of the 'Watershed' album, ongoing touring and a dedicated fanbase, we regard this as a jackpot, but also the result of focused work."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The best twitter ever - FAITH NO MORE edition

So like my friend Elise I am following Billy Gould's twitter feed.

The only twitter that matters: By the way, US shows are not out of the question

Maybe I just have ATP on my brain after the last post, but FUCKING DO IT! Patton is so hooked up with the ATP folks, play ATP NY! ASPLODE MY BRAIN!


Just because I am now so happy I may cry again, for the second time today (first was seeeing JESUS LIZARD IS PLAYING ATP NY!!!!! FFUUUUUUUUUUCK YEAH!) here is some more live footage of the might FNM playing one of my all time faves, The Gentle art of Making Enemies.

ATP NY has given me a huge erection!



I went last year. OM was awesome, as were many non-BBB approved bands such as Mercury Rev, Bob Mould, Silver Mt. Zion and Built To Spill.

Flaming Lips as this year's curators is hot, but JESUS FUCKING LIZARD! FUCK! PROFANITY! NASTINESS! YES YES YES YES YES YES!

I am totally stoked I will get some Melvins that weekend (and maybe the chance to paddle boat with Buzz and Dale Crover) but I have seen that band a dozen times. It is not as exciting as THE MOTHER FUCKING JESUS LIZARD HOLY FUCK CRAP YEAH!

If you are a bit too Metal to know the Lizard watch the below video.

Blockbuster from 1991!

More On Why We Love Trent Reznor...

...and as a side note, why Twitter is awesome: Trent's tweet on the new Cornell record:
You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell's record? Jesus.
Amen, brother. Amen.

Dio is the fucking man

So below is the cover for the new Heaven and Hell record, The Devil You Know.

And holy shit. It RULES. Why am I calling Dio the man? Look at that cover. Look at every other Dio cover. Look at the other Black Sabbath covers. Once again, DIO RULES.

If that is what hell is going to be like, sign me up!!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Count Rides Again...To Rural Norway

Varg Vikernes on his impending release:
And I look forward the day [sic] that I could work on my farm, create music, write books and be with the wife and kids around the clock — and live a normal life.
You know: the normal life of a Norwegian farmer who happens to write really loud, angry music about the glories of Viking nationalism or Nazis or Satan or whatever the hell Varg is writing about these days. No doubt he'll spend his days chopping up the soil in the hilly home of his future farm, and his nights screeching musical versions of his manifesto into a microphone. But hey, as long as he's not killing people, whatever floats his boat.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Pentagram at Webster Hall

Truly a rich vein of commentary material at Friday night's show:

By appearance alone, first opener The Devil's Blood would seem to make a good companion to the metalgaze bands that have made metal acceptable to music elitist society again: a crop of hipsters, a mix of guitar types; even a guy with a Flying-V type axe and corpse paint who seemed to be filling the band's evil quotient. However, as those previously unfamiliar with the band's material quickly discovered, The Devil's Blood aren't metalgaze; they are - to reclaim a term of ancient and disused lineage - hard rock. Well, sort of. Hard rock if hipsters played hard rock, which might be even more of an ironic contradiction than hipsters playing metal. Hard rock gaze, I guess.

Their music was incredibly unimpressive, with guitar interludes that had all the length of an Allman Brothers' live performance with none of the inspiration. Their singer...well, she was impressive, but not because she was good: her voice and its Klaus Meine-like pitch added to the band's hard rock glaze, while her complete and utter lack of stage presence sucked that much more energy out of the room. While singing, she would stand stock-still in front of her microphone stand, her face frozen in a mask whose rigid, unmoving lines seemed crafted by botox. During the interludes between lyrics, she would stare off into the roof of the room, her pose making her seem more statue than human.

All of that made the night weird enough, but then Pentagram upped the ante with vocalist Bobby Liebling, whose appearance and behavior was such an amalgam of oddity that I've taken to describing him in absurb collections of characteristics: imagine an old man built like Dio, with long hair that bushes out towards his shoulders like it's been zapped into place. He sports a pornstar mustache, wide staring eyes (and quite possibly a strong urge to fly), and an angular face. His rail-thin body and impossibly pale skin are clothed in tight pants of some dark color and a paisley shirt that must have last seen the light of day in 1983. He is having the time of his life: thrusting his hips like Elvis, jerking around like Captain Jack Sparrow, sounding like an American version of Ozzy Osbourne when he talks. He is a sex zombie singer, a member of the walking dead entertainers, a scary looking mofo who's only gotten creepier with age, a guy who is absolutely fascinating to watch as he meanders - with a voice that sounds the same as it did on recordings from 30 years ago no less - through the tremendous wall of noise his band puts up.

So, in sum: weird show. Pentagram is a fun band to see, but man...I'm going to remember that set for all of the odd reasons.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Those Wacky Pagans

A bit of mid-afternoon sophomoric humor (i.e., I feel like making a dick joke): Blabbermouth posted this entry a few days ago. The mention of a "Dong festival" is funny enough, but since "skyclad" means "celebrating a rite in the buff," I have to guess this post is just a code phrase for some sort of crazy German folk metal orgy.

The NINJA Tour and Tom Morello's Missing Credit

In a case of fun coincidence, I was listening to Audioslave's first album this morning and wondering whether or not last year's Rage Against the Machine reunion tour had produced any new material, and now I see that Tom Morello's new band has joined the NIN/Jane's Addiction tour as an opener.

Speaking of Audioslave, though: notice what band isn't listed in Morello's credits? Makes you wonder if the omission was accidental, or if Morello has written off that entire period of his life as a big mistake that only helped move Chris Cornell one step further down the road to legacy destruction.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Fell on Black Days (a long weekend of Black Metal in NYC)

Interesting few days in Manhattan. On Friday 2/27 Satyricon and Cradle of Filth came to the Nokia in Times Square and on Monday 3/2, 1349 (prematurely) headlined BB King's. Here are my thoughts on those two shows.

I have always had an admiration for Cradle of Filth, but a reasonably low tolerance for their records. Dani Filth's shrieking gets on my nerves after a while. Sometimes a very short while. But I have always loved Damnation and a Day, and I am really into the new one, so I figured this would be a great excuse to scratch Cradle off the list and finally see them live.

However, this was not Cradle of Filth's evening. It was Satyricon's. Before their set I was marginally familiar with their records and certainly a fan of Frost's drumming. But Iwas made a complete convert. Satyr, with his slicked back hair and nice suit is rocking some sort of Nazi chic. Considering how grateful he was to be in NYC I am going to assume he is not an anti-semite and concentrate on the tunes.

Simply put they were amazing. The entire band moved with a ton of confidence and won over the whole crowd. The last time I saw an opening act so completely own the headliner was back when Children of Bodom on the Hate Crew Deathroll tour opened for Iced Earth at BB King's. The time before that was seeing In Flames open for Iced Earth, but the story of Iced Earth being completely upstaged by their openers is another post for another time....

In addition to the cool confidence of the whole band Satyr came off amazingly humble and thanking New York for being so supportive, despite having not played here all that much. By the end of the set when he asked if people would return if they headlined later in the year the venue exploded. You would do well to catch them when they come into town. They are not the most passionate live band, but with the exception of seeing Emperor, it was one of the most effective examples of seeing Black Metal live.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Cradle of Filth. Although they had a pretty fun stage set up complete with a crucified skeleton rocking the devil horns, they sounded very phoned in. The sound mix was also muddy and distorted, unlike the pristine mix of their opener. After four songs we split, having heard a couple of tunes from the new record (but not my current favorite The Death of Love which curiously wasn't on the set list) and some classics like Dusk and Her Embrace it was time to leave. Forty minutes of that band was plenty. That picture to the left? Matt snapped it. That is a woman dressed up as the Joan of Arc walking towards the Nokia bathrooms. I wish we got a snap of her from the front. She was a sight to behold.

1349 was a bit more curious. Dovetailing into Eric's review I agree that they do a much better job on record than they do live. Interestingly their drummer on the albums is Frost, Satyricon's drummer. But he does not tour with them, and it does hurt their performance. Their touring drummer is very obviously in a different league and it affects their intensity. Also they were not ready to headline such a large room. BB King's holds about 1,000 people or so, and I would say there were barely 100 in that room. When the venue is so sparse anything you think is evil, is actually hilarious. I was pretty hammered and way up front so it was kind of fun. Also in that picture on the right you will see at the bottom a gray haired man holding a camera. I recognized him from Tom Warrior's blog. You can see a picture here. I imagine he was filming the show for Mr. Warrior who mixed the new 1349 record has performed with them in the past. If everything I have said is correct and Tom Warrior finds this blog, I apologize for screaming "U SUR PER" so much by the camcorder. I was a little hammered.

The last thing to note is that at the end of the show the singer of 1349 was shaking hands with people in the front. I got my slap. When he got to Matt there was some sort of wardrobe malfunction and well, the picture of Matt's hand right after is below. Matt does want everyone to know that it is not just his own blood from the singer's spikes, but he wound up with corpse paint on his hand as well.

1349 at B.B. King's

You know what's great? When an unknown opening band defies expectations, manages not to suck, and makes some new fans in the process. To be sure, Annunaki sounds like something you'd order in a sushi restaurant (although the name's actual meaning is pretty cool) and their song introductions were laugh-out-loud cheese ("this song is about being locked in a dark basement, being torn limb from limb...this one's called TOOOORTUUUUURE"), but they still put on a fun show, playing whatever genre-melding combo of metal that tickles your fancy best: the band calls themselves "blackened thrash;" Seth and I settled on "blackened technical death." Either way, the sound was massive for a one guitar outfit, the guitarist and bassist both had expensive instruments they knew how to play, and most of the riffs had the sweet combination of variety and tasty flavor.

Last time I saw 1349, I was encamped in a chair at the back of the Nokia, fighting off the ill-effects of a meat coma, and I was not impressed: in their recordings, 1349 had all of the brutality of a brick wall appearing suddenly in the midst of highway traffic, but live that brutality seemed to disintegrate to mosquito-level annoyance. This time around, the space (and the crowd) was much smaller, I was up and wandering around, and it was very easy to get caught up in the moment for the kind of stress-relieving scream-and-bang fest I needed to enjoy myself. Sure, the between song synth breaks were as cheesy as Annunaki's song intros, but I had as much evil fun as my ears - and my neck - could want for a night.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Thoughts on Portnoy's Teaser

Somewhere, someone has probably already taken the left channel/right channel clips from Mike Portnoy's teaser promo from the next Dream Theater album and slapped them together into one file, but if you haven't heard the teaser at all, you can get it here. However, I'm more interested in what Portnoy had to say about how the album as a whole will sound:
"Imagine a Dream Theater album with 'A Change Of Seasons', 'Octavarium', 'Learning To Live', 'Pull Me Under' and 'The Glass Prison'... all on one album... COULD YOU HANDLE IT?? Excited? I sure am!!!!"
"Glass Prison" is pretty obvious, because they've still got some steps left in Portnoy's 12 step suite, but it looks like after making a really heavy album with Systematic Chaos, Dream Theater is swinging their musical pendulum back to the progressive side of things. Portnoy's list is also half older material, too; maybe we're about to hear something that's more melody-focused than the material the band has produced in this decade?