Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Album Review: Goatwhore - Carving Out the Eyes of God

The first time I put on "Apocalyptic Havoc," the first track of Goatwhore's latest release, I felt something magical: that sonic kick in the head, sought by many, achieved by few, that denotes a truly heavy piece of music. The production on that track is a relentless pummeling of thrashy riffage that sits like a fat band choking the sonic spectrum, carrying rhythm section and Slayer-vintage guitar solos in its wake, while the dry crust of singer L. Ben Falgoust II's voice floats on the top like a dessicated leaf on a sea of blood. Even better, the effect is no one time wonder: junkie-like, I've returned to get additional fixes on a daily basis and continue to reap the reward of a Goatwhore-induced rush.

With a couple of breaks - the midtempo "Provoking the Ritual of Death" and the much slower, doom-laden "To Mourn and Forever Wander Through Forgotten Doorways" - the beating continues on through the album's remaining nine tracks, varying just enough to keep the ear interested without violating the basic layout of a slab of hard-hitting evil music. With such a consistently enjoyable result, I'm pegging Carving Out the Eyes of God as a likely inclusion on my year's best-of list.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Album Review: Dream Theater - Black Holes and Silver Linings

According to iTunes, I've now listened to Black Clouds and Silver Linings eight times, so I finally have enough perspective to give the album a fair review. I'm completely serious: I love the band, but there's something so manisfestly undisgestable about every album Dream Theater has put out this decade that it takes some serious listening time to form a consistent opinion. With Black Clouds..., for example, I blasted the band's Queen covers after my first listen, but after a few more listens I had a change of heart. Clearly, either I found more to like as time went on, or I'm just a fanboy with a large capacity for second chances. Either way, my thoughts on each of Black Clouds and Silver Linings' six tracks:
  1. A Nightmare to Remember: Petrucci's tale of the painful aftermath of a car crash channels a lot of the feel of the songs from the first disc of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulance. There's the now-standard interplay of solos between Petrucci and Ruddess and an awkward use of sound effects to underscore the moment of the crash, but there are two memorable moments: the hospital scene where Petrucci rocks a very King Crimson arpeggio line and the bridge in the next scene where the tension explodes into some lovely soaring melodies and the vocal harmonies that the band has (unfortunately) generally eschewed in their more recent material.

  2. A Rite of Passage: A catchy song with super-transparent lyrics (a common theme for this album). My feelings on this one haven't really changed since I first heard it in early May, except now I've heard a good 20 times and I'm a little sick of it.

  3. Wither: One of those dark ballads that the band occasionally enjoys writing, with lyrics by Petrucci instead of usual suspects Myung or LaBrie. Based on the artwork in the album and the wording, it seems to be about struggling with writer's block. There's a nice constrast between the size of the chorus and the subdued, subterannean feel of the verses, but if you don't like Dream Theater ballads, you aren't going to like "Wither," either.

  4. Shattered Fortress: The end of Mike Portnoy's Twelve-Step Suite, where Portnoy attempted to translate the Alcoholics Anonymous recovery program into music. The suite as a whole is full of the references that Dream Theater loves to use in their music, but as with "Forgiveness," the 12-step track from Systematic Chaos, "Shattered Fortress" is not a particularly inspired piece of song writing, stitching together harmonic lines from the previous tracks with an extended Portnoy voice over and - as has become the case far too often in Dream Theater's music - a reliance on the difference between Portnoy's barks and LaBrie's melodies to establish vocal contrast. I should note that even though I'm not a big fan of this track, it took me a good fifteen minutes to write this blurb and even now, I'm coming up with justifications: the song as a whole isn't that strong, but it has some nice component pieces (the riffs from the earlier tracks are among my favorites), the Portnoy barks might be there for consistency, as they're less prevalent on this album than they have been in the past, etc.

  5. The Best of Times: Portnoy's other contribution to the album is a straightforward tribute to his late father that has about as much lyrical ambiguity as a child's picture book. Musically, it's a nice enough track - a combination of "I Walk Beside You" and "Octavarium" with a great coda solo by Petrucci - but by writing such naked lyrics, Portnoy seems to have missed the point of good song writing: ambiguity allows for individual interpretation, which, in the spirit of all good prog, allows the user to find their own way of relating to the song. "The Best of Times" could have been an anthem to anyone who grieves, as Petrucci did so effectively with "Another Day," but instead it's a cenotaph to one man's feelings that leaves me feeling cold.

  6. The Count of Tuscany: By far the album's best track with a delicious mix of ingredients: Start with an introduction that mixes Rush, King Crimson, Dream Theater vintage 1992 and 1999 while building to a driving forte. Mix in lyrics that reprise Petrucci's brushes with the fantastic from Systematic Chaos, telling a story that could be cribbed from an Edgar Allan Poe notebook. Throw in one of those classic heavy Dream Theater verse riffs, a multipart solo section that transitions sections of the plot, and the kind of anthem-like ending that brings "Learning to Live" in mind and you have a great song that becomes this album's saving grace.

Friday, June 26, 2009

My Proud Moment for the Day...

...is that I can now identify metalcore within five seconds of hearing a song. How I made this momentous discovery: I kept seeing items about August Runs Red on the metal news sites I frequent, so I decided to check out their MySpace page. The first track in their player loads and suddenly, as if delivered by lightning bolt, a formula for August Runs Red's all too formulaic sound seared itself on the surface of my mind:

Gothenburg Sound + Hardcore Vocals + Breakdowns = Metalcore

The shock was so much that I had to turn off the music immediately and apply Tombs' low-fi sludge as a cleanser, but for that kind of enlightenment, the knowledge gained was well-worth the pain.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Revelations of the Black Flame: Not a Good At-Work Album

I am fortunate enough to have a job where I can throw on a pair of headphones and listen while I work, so the majority of my music listening - and concequently, my music evaluating - takes place during the working hours. While this arrangement generally works to my advantage, there are a few things I just can't listen to, because I'm not in the right mindset. Monotheist, for example, is a great album that I can't listen to at work because I start comparing my cube to a dark pit of despair where I labor ceaselessly on a treadmill for a pitiful reward and the knowledge that my death is a few hours closer. The result is a testament to Celtic Frost's abilities, no doubt, but not a great way to go through the work day.

Having just put Revelations of the Black Flame through a second listen, I have come to the conclusion that 1349's follow up to Hellfire deserves to be put on the same pedestal of respect: I just can't get into the album's murky soundscapes when I'm writing emails and updating spreadsheets. Instead, it seems that I'd be best served by saving Revelations... for a trek through a swamp - or a walk in the next heavy NYC rainstorm - letting the evil seep into me in a habitat closer to its creators' mindsets.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Absu at BB King's

Eric: tell me about sunday
Seth: not that much fun
Seth: it was ok
Seth: turcotte and i got hammered first
Seth: get to bb's
Seth: sothis were astonishingly awful
Seth: LA Black Metal
Seth: all the members were wearing corpse paint
Seth: they had WAAAAAY too much gear
Seth: outboard rack gear, full 8x12 stacks
Seth: the singer had a custom mic stand made out of chains
Seth: they were almost like a hair metal band
Seth: from the 90s right before nirvana scorched the earth
Seth: late to the party, bringing nothing to the table, looking like idiots
Seth: and the drummer played V drums
Seth: disgusting
Seth: Rumpelstiltskin grinder were fun
Seth: but set a tone for the evening
Seth: completely uncharismatic live bands
Seth: the bassist sings and looks like a bit of a punk kid
Seth: and they had virtually no stage presence
Seth: which took a lot away from the show
Seth: but they sounded great
Seth: then there was absu..........
Seth: somehow it never hit me that Texas meant DALLAS
Seth: they all looked like they were auditioning to be in a TV movie about the life of Pantera
Eric: hahahaha
Seth: very meat and potatoes guys
Seth: except for the drummer
Seth: who had short hair and earrings
Seth: looked like he would be a solid auto mechanic when they are off tour
Seth: but his face was painted silver and he had a headset mic
Seth: he was not the lead singer but he was the only person to address the audience
Seth: and he did so in this really weird voice
Seth: which was so equally goofy and pretentious, especially since they were in front of about 100-150 people
Seth: at most
Seth: after the first song he says "are you ready for 78 more minutes of mystical occult metal?"
Seth: i think we were supposed to scream back "absu-lutely"
Seth: we left after about 40-45 minutes
Eric: damn
Eric: that sucks
Seth: a few songs after Amy which is of course pronounced ahhhh-mee
Eric: ah, of course
Seth: three of them sang, the bassist, one guitarist and the drummer
Seth: but none of them had any presence
Seth: or were worth watching for any period of time
Seth: there was just nothing to look at
Seth: which just exposed how awful the bb king sound system is
Seth: and made the night a bit of a bummer

Monday, June 22, 2009

Putting Appealing to the Hardcore Into Practice

Thea Gilmore's music isn't typical BBB subject matter but she's recently written a blog post about a subject near and dear to my heart: changing how artists make a living through practical application. What makes her decision even more interesting is that, unlike the Trent Reznors and Radioheads of the world, Thea has a much smaller following and by choosing this path, she's blazing a trail for the thousands of independent musicians with small, rabid fanbases who make up this new world music business order that's supposedly just over the horizon. Her plan:

For £52 a year (about $85 at current exchange rates), you get:
  • A new, original and unreleased track download delivered to your inbox every month, amount[ing] to a full, exclusive album every 12 months which will not be available anywhere else.
  • A lyric sheet, handwritten and signed by [her] to a song of your choice.
  • An entry into a 'Thea Gilmore Song Lottery' - all members can suggest a song they want to hear [her] cover and once during the year [she]'ll pull one out of the hat and record it!
  • A namecheck on [her] albums. For the duration of your membership you will recieve a special thankyou on my albums
  • Opportunities for exclusive live shows and backstage passes to gigs.
  • A set of 4 exclusive badges, unavailable elsewhere
  • Access to a members only website [, F]eaturing: video diaries, an ‘ask Thea’ forum, previews of new releases, merch and generally getting the news before anyone else.
If Bob Lefsetz is right, if the only way to succeed in music (succeed being "have enough money not to starve to death while you do what you love") is to pander to the hardcore, Gilmore's business plan will not only succeed, but give her a much better sense of who her audience is and why they love her music. She may not make changes to fit their tastes, but she might get inspiration for her songs and in the process, find new ways to connect to her fans. I hope it works. Even more, I hope it scales.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dave Mustaine Tempts Us With "Best Since Rust in Peace"

Dave Mustaine has graced us with an announcement of the title of the next Megadeth album. Because it's Mustaine, it comes complete with a statement about the meaning behind the album's name that either borders on the lunatic fringe or lets us know this next one is going to be based on a concept: apparently there's some law/document out there called "Endgame" that details President Bush's legacy in terms on par with the Final Solution. Guess we'll have to hear it to see what's what. In any case, picking through Mustaine's odd verbiage aside, what caught my eye was the promo quote: "This new album is my proudest moment since the famous (or infamous) Rust in Peace album."

Now, I am normally happy to cast a jaundiced eye on anything so hype-heavy, but things have been building in a pretty steady progression in Megadeth land since Mustaine's nerve-damaged hiatus, and I see no reason why they shouldn't continue with the next release. Even if Endgame is nowhere near the career peak that is Rust in Peace, it should make for some good listening.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Song Review: Dream Theater Covering Queen

I've now listened to Black Clouds & Silver Linings once through, which means that I'm nowhere near ready to give my thoughts on it. However, I do have some thoughts on the cover of the "Tenement Funster/Flick of the Wrist/Lily of the Valley" medley: I finally understand why people think that Dream Theater's covers are so soulless.

You see, Queen was my favorite band from around the time Wayne's World came out. I spent far more of my adolescence listening to A Night at the Opera, Sheer Heart Attack, A Day at the Races, and News of the World than I did pretty much anything else. I wanted to be able to sing like Freddy Mercury; I wanted to find a gigantic copy of the cover of Queen II and put it up on my wall; and I definitely gave Queen's music enough ear time that a lot of it became ingrained on a subconscious level.

When I listen to the original "Tenement Funster," I hear the essence of rock music: musicianship that's loose without being sloppy, a vocal line that sprouts sex appeal and attitude. When I listen to "Lily of the Valley," I hear one of Brian May and Freddie Mercury's most beautiful collaborations, a song that builds from a fragile beginning to a gorgeous bloom that crescendos with one of the best examples of Queen's multitracking vocal experiments. The Dream Theater covers seem pale in comparison, faithfully rendering the material without being able to execute the idiom that made the originals so powerful. As the song closest to a metal track, "Flick of the Wrist" is the best showing (which might be more indicative of either the limitations of the band's abilities as a cover band or their stylistic choices when arranging covers than anything else), but overall these recordings sound like Dream Theater covering Queen - if Queen sounded like Dream Theater.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Voivod challenging my faith.......

People that know me in my private life are aware that while packing and planning for the impending move-in with my girlfriend I have been giving away many of my material possessions. I have been trying very hard to go completely digital and free myself of the collector's mentality.

It has been going very well and becoming less of a pack rat has been liberating.

Then I saw a banner ad on Blabbermouth..........Worlds Away is actually coming out!

I have been wondering what was up with Away's long delayed book of art. I LOVE the artwork of Voivod and had planned on buying this. And now it is here and shipping in July.

So it is hardcover, limited edition and $50. I know I shouldn't buy it but one last collectible book purchase can't hurt. Right? Right?

Mike Alpert, this Google News Alert is for you.......

Ever since Eric put up his blog post about Blabbermouth hitting the bottom of the Megadeth posting barrel with their story on Mike Alpert's upcoming solo record the real Mike Alpert has been spamming our comments under the name "megadethfan." You only need to click his Google/Blogger profile to realize it is him.

It looks like his album came out today and he left another post on that ancient old story to let us know.

So Mike Alpert, while you are popping the champagne tonight with your special someone tracking Google News Alerts for your name, this hit is for you. Enjoy.

I'm going to go back to not holding up my end of writing posts for this blog by marveling at the obscure C list Metal celebrities who now follow my Twitter feed.............

Brütal Legend Studio Head Explains Why Dio Had to Go

I pretty much want to have sex with the concept of Brütal Legend: it's basically Jack Black using heavy metal technology to recreate Bruce Campbell's role in Army of Darkness in video game form and as such combines pretty much everything I love about pop culture in one form. However, I will still take this time to call shenanigans on the explanation given by Tim Schafer, the head of the studio creating Brütal Legend, on why they replaced Dio with Tim Curry as the voice of the main bad guy, Emperor Doviculus. Tim's explanation:
"Ronnie James Dio is an amazing singer and truly one of the great figures of metal, but as the character of Doviculus evolved, we realized that Tim Curry was a better fit for the part," Schafer told GameSpot. "Anyone who has seen his amazing performance as the Lord of Darkness in the movie 'Legend' knows why we cast him in the role of Doviculus, Emperor of the Tainted Coil."
Not that Tim Curry is a bad choice - while I haven't seen Legend, I have seen The Three Musketeers and he made a kick-ass Cardinal Richelieu - but it's not like Dio lacks experience in these areas: his portrayal of Doctor X in Mindcrime II was one of the highlights of the album. I suspect the real reason for the switch is either:
  • It's all about work: Touring The Devil You Know with Heaven and Hell is taking up too much time and Dio can't fully commit to the voice-over project OR
  • It's all about ego: Dio can't stand working on the same project as Ozzy Osbourne, or vice-versa, and one of them had to go.
What do you think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

I Bet Even Priest Would Be Sick of Their Music by Then

See this guy? He and I should totally get together: he's listened to Nostradamus so many times in a row the entire city of Cleveland is rallying around him, and I've never listened to the album because my friends has the decency to warn me off of it before I had a chance. I bet he and I would have lots to talk about, right?

Seriously, though: how bad are things in Cleveland right now that a bunch of people are throwing some dude a party because he'll have listened to a Judas Priest record 400 days in a row? Taking time to celebrate unilaterality in music choice: the ultimate sign of the failure of our economy.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I Kinda Wish Eluveitie Hadn't Made An Acoustic Album

Because on the first listen, it's not really that good. Part of the problem might be the concept: if you have a folk metal act and you take away the metal, you're left with...folk. Folk is fine and all, but the biggest portion of this band's appeal to me was how they rocked, and on this album the rock is gone. I'm already a little disappointed in Slania-precursor Spirit, and now hearing Evocation I... and its slightly toothless potterings, I'm starting to wonder if Eluveitie was just a one-album flash in the pan.

The Hopi Sound Like They Could Be Pretty Br00tal

Some might question of drawing my information from such scholarly sources as Cracked.com, but based on this quote alone, the Hopi sound like they be able to tell all of Scandinavia (yes, even you, Finland) to get fucked when it comes to being the most metal people on Earth:
The Hopi are one of America's oldest Indian tribes, found in the northeastern section of Arizona along with absolutely nothing else. They have a rich mythology filled with Spider Women, Skeleton Men and the repeated creation and destruction of the Earth. They are a bleak people.
In other words, if I'm looking for some metal inspiration, I might want to skip the journey to the dark northern forests and take a trip to the Arizona desert. Is there a burgeoning Hopi black metal scene down there just waiting to bust out?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Trent Pulls Out Of Social Media

Full reasoning why is here if you're interested, but the short answer is that the whole idea was an experiment, and he's tired of dealing with the trolls. The paragraph that really struck me, though was this one:
I had thought a while ago about attempting to start a mainstream public forum that required real verification of it's participants for purposes of context. The idea was to have a place where you can actually discuss whatever and have some idea of who you're conversing with. For example, if we were discussing drumming techniques and you can see that someone participating in the discussion is a drum instructor vs. a 13 year old kid Googling answers, you'd have the proper context in which to have a potentially valid discussion. If we were discussing EDLC's heart condition and a real cardiologist speaks up, I'd value his opinion over, say FredFuckFaceWhateverHisLastFuckingNameIs's "opinion". Know what I mean? Anyway, we're in a world where the mainstream social networks want any and all people to boost user numbers for the big selloff and are not concerned with the quality of experience.
He's got a point, but I wonder how much of the problem is the functioning of social networks versus Trent's conception of how his interactions with fans should work. Twitter (especially Twitter) is a complete free for all with troll-spawning capabilities that make the worst forums look like sunshine and rainbow generators, because anyone can join and anyone can talk at anyone else, and censorship is non-existent. From the standpoint of an artist looking to break down walls between himself and his fans, it seems like a great opportunity, but I have to wonder if there would be a Trent Reznor twitter account in the first place if he focused on how problematic breaking down those walls could be.

Of course, if he worried about things like that, he probably wouldn't be so successful as an artist.

It did make me wonder if the results of the Nine Inch Nails social media experiment might herald the ultimate limitations of sites like Twitter. If people who are targets because of the brands they represent end up shying away from Twitter's complete lack of boundaries, it seems like we've reached ceiling the possibilities of social media's brave new world.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

NIN/JA at PNC Bank Arts Center

In cooking, it is the combination of the ingredients, the creation of a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts, that the gourmet enjoys the most. A freshly-caught fish, for example, no matter how delicious on its own, can become a part of a far more sublime experience when combined with the right supplementary flavors. In the same way, while each portion of the NIN/JA experience was a good time by itself, it was the combination of the three bands, the surprisingly wide variety of styles of "rock," and the limitations on their set times that forced a focus on stronger material that made NIN/JA a much better show in sum than it might well have been in pieces - and I say that even after my sublime Nine Inch Nails experience in northern New Jersey last summer.

The Street Sweeper Social Club came out swinging: all five members in glasses and military-style jackets, laying down a funky rock track that supported Boots Riley as he bopped and spun around the stage. All three bands had all kinds of energy, but the Street Sweeper Social Club had the kind of energy you see in footage of classic punk rock shows, each member careening through their space like meteorites on a mission of collision. Their music was infectious, Boots looked he'd originated the concept of cool, and seeing Tom Morello live makes all of those great sounds he's put into recordings seem as pale as shadows in sunlight: when he gets going, the man absolutely smokes.

Nine Inch Nails opted for a set list that focused pretty heavily on the rage-filed portions on their catalog, with strong doses of Broken, The Downward Spiral, Year Zero, and the songs of alienation from The Slip (think "1,000,000" and "Echoplex"). The energy might have dragged a bit in the middle with a selection from The Fragile and one of the tracks from Ghosts - which is tougher to translate live without the heavy visuals from Lights in the Sky - but a strong finish with a string of the band's hits ("Survivalism," "The Hand That Feeds," "Head Like A Hole") roped in the crowd in time for a closing rendition of "Hurt" in the deepening twilight. My favorite moment from the whole set: watching Robin Finck stalk around the stage during "Reptile." Close second (and pictured to the left): the lights going absolutely apeshit during the end of "Mr. Self Destruct," pulsing so rapidly that Robin looked like a vision out of a drug trip.

And then there was Jane's Addiction, rocking their original line up and looking to bring a large group of people (most of whom appeared out of nowhere when the NIN fans disappeared during the break) on a trip back through their old school material. Just looking at the four of them, you can almost see why they broke up: if Farrell and Navarro are rock via Van Halen, Avery - and to a lesser extent, Perkins - are rock via Black Flag and seeing the two styles together on stage seems to define incongruity. And yet when they play, the differences disappear in the moment it takes for the first notes to peal through the amplifiers. Avery and Perkins provide the foundation, Navarro builds the sweeping structures and adds the lofty touches, and Farrell...well, as Seth put it at one point in the show: Perry Farrell in any other band is David Lee Roth, owning the stage, drinking from a bottle of wine between songs, slapping fives with the audience in the front row. I wouldn't call myself a big enough fan to go see the band headline a show on their own, but in this context it was a great setup and an excellent way to end the night.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Chris Anselmo, Singer for Anthrax

Scott Ian described new (or not so new...it's been going on 2 years at this point) Anthrax singer Dan Nelson as sounding like "Chris Cornell singing in Pantera" in an interview with The Quietus.  I'm not entire sure what to do with this information.  It might be because I can't get the image of Chris Cornell singing "Walk" - or its companion, Phil Anselmo singing "Outshined" - out of my head, but that image has pretty much broken my brain for the evening.  I mean, does Ian mean Badmotorfinger-era Cornell?  Or Down On The Upside-era?  Or crappy solo album-era?  Or something later?  I'm so confused...

Quick Review: Keep of Kalessin - Armada

I enjoyed Keep of Kalessin's Kolossus last year - and have continued to do so this year - so much that I decided to risk a trip further into their catalog.  My selection was Armada, which like Kolossus has the trappings - if not the outright thread - of a concept album and comes replete with a bad ass cover of a spear-bearing army.  I'm now nearly done with my fourth listen and while I enjoy the sound, compared to Kolossus it's definitely a lesser album that stands best as suggesting the trajectory of where the band ended up going two years later.  In particular, the variation that makes Kolossus such an enjoyable ride - I'm thinking "The Rising Sign" as a particularly good example - is less prevalent on Armada, with Keep of Kalessin instead choosing to rely more on standard black metal idioms that vary only just enough to keep the music interesting without really being innovative.  Black metal purists would probably call Armada closer to tr00 form, but you know what?  Fuck 'em; Keep of Kalessin is a much more interesting band when they push boundaries.

My take: if you're a fan, Armada is good addition to the collection.  If you're new to the group, check out Kolossus first.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Cover Of The New Tyr Album Is Awesome

Seriously, how sweet is this picture? I'm pretty sure that dude just hacked that stone-looking wooder cross in half with his sword and a bit of sheer badassery.  Right up there with the cover of Twilight of the Thunder God for kick-ass Viking art.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Paul and Steve; Trent and Marilyn

Maybe it's something in the water, but today seems to be the day for people with long-over associations to trash them heavily: Paul Di'Anno took Steve Harris to task for being controlling and powering a boring band, while Trent Reznor thinks Marilyn Manson is simultaneously a backstabber and a disappointment to himself that was pushed to being a jerk because he and Trent had a falling out.  And yes, it took me three tries to write that last sentence because Trent's quote really reads like he's trying to excuse Manson while calling him out:
"Things got shitty between us and I'm not blameless," Reznor admitted. "The majority of it though was coming from a resentment guy who finally got out from under the master's umbrella and was able to stab him in the back."
Fun stuff for a slow afternoon.