Friday, March 26, 2010

Riding the Night Train, Soon to Return

It's Friday. It's the end of the work week. You've made it, you've survived to the weekend and even though it's seasonably cold out here in NYC (which is a real bummer after last week, let me tell ya), warmer days on their way and you've earned the right to celebrate their coming. Or so I feel, anyway; but I'm headed to warmer climes for the next week, so I'm feeling especially feisty. I was listening to Appetite for Destruction for the first time in ages earlier, remembering once again how well it's stood up to the last 20+ years, and decided that there was no better way to celebrate the end of this week than a live rendition of "Nightrain," featuring Axl looking a bit like Donna from That 70's Show and Slash opening the song by explaining that this song is not about drinking or drug addiction but actually about a walk in the park. You know, the way "Sweet Leaf" was about a packet of cigarettes. Enjoy and happy fucking Friday:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This Week in The Man: Travis Smith

And just like that, BBB turned into an album art blog.

After seeing the cover for Nevermore's upcoming release The Obsidian Conspiracy, I think I might have a bit of a hard on for the artwork of Travis Smith, whose credits also include Nevermore's Dreaming Neon Black and This Godless Endeavor and Opeth's Blackwater Park, Ghost Reveries, and Watershed, which are all pretty sweet pieces of album art. Looking over Smith's full portfolio, I suspect he gets work because he knows how to make covers that fit the band's style, but what draws me to the covers I linked to above is how he's developed visual representations of each band's musical aesthetic that, even when they rely on metal art's more standard cliches, present something new to contemplate. Let me give you an example of what I mean:

Nevermore's covers all go for a bit of shock value, whether it's the hand of someone drowning, a baby with a stamp on its head, a death mask, or feral children, which match the rather bleak outlook of the lyrics. But that shock value becomes far more interesting when Smith gets involved - compare the cover of The Politics of Ecstasy (which Smith did not design) with that of The Obsidian Conspiracy:

The baby in the fire with the "Controlled" stamp has some impact (innocence subverted, the manipulation of the illusion of freedom), but has all of the subtlety of a brick wall across a superhighway when compared with the creepy Cthulu children and their post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C. The cover of The Politics of Ecstasy wants to make a point; the cover of The Obsidian Conspiracy hints at a really awesome story. To my mind, it's the later that makes for really good album art in metal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Romans Are the New Vikings

If two names make a trend, and if we're counting band names, not lyrical content: first there was Ex Deo, the side project of Kataklysm front man Maurizio Iacono, a guy who looks - had he been alive in the Classical period - like he'd be a member of the Germanic tribes, not the legions:

Now we've got the press release about the upcoming debut of Stephen Carpenter's (of The Deftones) side project, Sol Invicto. Sol Invictus (Unconquered Sun) was one of the Roman deities at various points during the Empire, so I assumed we'd be getting another take on Roman history. Unfortunately, the reality isn't nearly as cool: they're a genre mashup between metal and drum-and-bass using Deftones-style riffs. Seems like a waste of a perfectly metal band name to me.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dirge for Spring Weather

It's taken me a while to recognize how good My Arms, Your Hearse really is and I really only warmed to the album after hearing pieces of it on The Roundhouse Tapes. Either way, it made for an excellent accompaniment to today's dreary weather, providing a perfect compliment to the rain that washed away this weekend's glorious sun. But it's "Credence," with its dreamy acoustic riff, half-time beat, and morose lyrics ("Strange silhouettes whisper your thoughts, scream your sadness/And they all turned away, unable to face more of this death.") that really brings the point home:

Rock 'N Roll the Metro Map

I love maps. I love rock music. I love history. Not surprisingly, I love someone's attempt to combine all three things into one, as artist theonlyone did with this subway map:

It's marvelously flawed, of course: Van Halen and Elvis aren't on there, for example, and Europe gets a mention, but the progenitors of black metal do not. Emo and Nu-Metal don't deserve their own lines, categorizing Faith No More as just grunge is criminal, and the whole thing is much more a snapshot of current perceptions than reality (although one might argue that a diagram mapping influence would only work as a snapshot). But layout: man, it's beautiful, because it really takes advantage of the subway portion of the concept. Interchanges between lines and the line curves themselves make for an excellent demonstration of genre crossover, and the stations are placed in a rough chronological order that demonstrates where things came from and where they've gone since.

Via MetalSucks

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hot for Warm Weather

It's the end of a beautiful and unseasonably warm day, I've just accidentally mixed a beer with a 7.2% alcohol content with a Sudafed, and I'm feeling the need to celebrate the impending arrival of Spring. Only one hope for it, of course: fire up some Van Halen. 1984, specifically, with "Jump," "Panama," "Drop Dead Legs," and, of course, "Hot for Teacher:"

Friday, March 19, 2010

Reveling With the Warrior

Someone of overwhelming awesomeness has made it possible for us to experience the new Triptykon before our pre-ordered copies make their way into our desirous hands, and it's made this Friday a special day for both Seth and myself. Eparistera Daimones slays for a number of reasons, but the main one might be that it plays like a continuation of Monotheist (already a BBB favorite), aged in a cask of awesomeness until it reaches a new level of maturity. To put it in Scotch terms, if Monotheist were the 10-year, Eparistera Daimones would be the 18-year, full of new flavors that were only hints on the older album. Go on: listen to a few of the tracks on their MySpace page, curse the metal gods for sticking you with a player that crushes so much of the juice out of the music, and then go order the real thing so you can get the full experience. I'll be preparing myself for the tour, looking forward to the day when I can chant, "lie upon lie mankind shall die" with a crowd of like-minded metal heads.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Sweet Song of Spring

Spring isn't exactly the most metal of months: the renewal of life, the thawing of the land, and nature's rising sexual obsession (seriously: even the trees are out there getting it on) don't really call for a soundtrack that's either angry, death-obsessed, or overwhelmingly bleak. But to put another face on things, Spring *is* all about energy, and that's something metal has in spades. Take Gojira, for example: need a mid-day pick up? Put on From Mars to Sirius, crank up the volume, and feel yourself revitalized by tree-hugging Frenchmen making lots of noise about flying whales. Take a listen to the opening track, "Ocean Planet," and see if you don't feel positively Spring-like:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beer and Brains!

Cheers to you on the occasion of America's national drinking holiday! What better way to celebrate than a song - by Irish thrash band Gama Bomb - about beer made by zombies? Please to enjoy:

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stepping into the Atomic Chamber

Baroque, Bleak, Brutal, where it's 1349, all the time. The black metallers added the track "Atomic Chamber" from Demonoir to their MySpace page and because I must experience the future as soon as possible - even in its shitty, over-compressed form - I went to check it out (twice, actually: you have to be sure about these things) and over all, I'm pretty impressed: this track manages to find a happy medium between Hellfire and Revelations of the Black Flame: there's plenty of pounding, there's some (slightly) more atmospheric stuff, and there's a decent amount of structure that keeps a six minute song sounding like a six minute song and not an endless assault. Things manage to get a little melodic at one point, I swear I could hear the presence of a bass track, and Frost gets a special call out for being a living metronome on a high-speed setting.

Still, I'm sticking with cautious optimism rather than all-out excitement about Demonoir: there are a few things about this song - like the off-tempo piano counterpoint in the middle of the song and Ravn slowly repeating "atomic chamber" at the end - that don't sit quite right. Time will tell if these are aberrations, or a symptoms of a band trying too hard to break boundaries while sounding kvlt.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sounds for a Rainy Friday

It's a cold, rainy day in New York; the kind of day where the raw edge of the elements cuts at you, mocking you for daring to challenge the faceless, endless gray universe. A day, in other words, for black metal. Blut Aus Nord has the perfect sound to match the weather on "Elevation": an arpeggiated riff, sporting fuzz and drenched in reverb, plodding forward under the searing scream of a solo guitar. 'Remember,' it seems to say, 'in the face of infinity, you are less than nothing.' Enjoy:

Monday, March 08, 2010

Limited Edition Knock Off

To continue the commentary on the artwork for Demonoir: 1349 announced a limited edition version of the album - available both on CD and as picture disc vinyl - with different artwork, displayed below:

Now, I'll not be the one to bash the use of a skull in art, particularly one that seems to rely on the always-excellent elements of blood and fire to keep its shattered form. However, I get a feeling that the artist might have drawn inspiration from the cover of a well-known member of metal's catalog:

It's not quite a rip off, but it's not exactly original, either.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Zazas Zazas NaSatanada Zazas!

The magnificent missive displayed below is a scan of a flyer handed out by a few brave souls (apparently on behalf of someone named G/) at last night's Kreator show in NYC. When you read it (click on it to load a larger version for easier reading), be sure to look for these highlights:
  • The use of inconsistent title case throughout the flyer. It's almost like the writer wanted to drive home a point, but worried about going too overboard with capitalization. I can almost see him sitting at his computer, corpse paint melting off his face as he labors over his call to arms, thinking to himself, 'No, don't capitalize every word; you don't want them to think you're a crazy person.'

  • Using "ov" instead of "of" to demonstrate the band's uber-kvltness.

  • The band's influences: we've got some death metal (Morbid Angel, Entombed, Dismember), some black metal (Beherit), some of both (Dissection, Bathory)...and Iron Maiden. Oh, and the touches of doom. Can't forget those. Since we know the band has "a Full-Lengths Worth ov Material Written," I can only imagine they're planning on releasing an album that sounds like a terrifying cross between In Flames, Behemoth, and My Dying Bride.

  • The Lovecraft-style allusions to ancient evils and nameless horrors and the use of fake foreign languages. The hand-written text at the end is particularly awesome. Is it for special emphasis? Did the writer forget to write it before printing and decide not to reprint because he was too cheap? Why is there a dot in the middle of the upside down star?

  • The exclamation points. You can never have too many exclamation points when you're trying to move people.

  • The email address. When you're forming a band, always remember: AOL is by far the most metal free email service. I also like the use of the phrase, "Interested Parties May Contact," which sounds like a crib from a Victorian horror novel.

Friday, March 05, 2010

(More) Songs for Your Gaming Soundtrack

I am a huge nerd. Not just a music nerd, either: I'm your garden variety, interested in geeky-pursuits-of-all-stripes-of-all-types nerd, but with social graces and a healthy grasp on proper hygiene. As a result, I can definitely appreciate a list like this one; I've made use of songs on this list or songs like them as background for a few gaming events (both tabletop and computerized) myself. A few additions:
  • Dio - "Rainbow in the Dark." Not a fantasy-focused track specifically, but if you're preparing for a battle, being told you're strong enough to stand alone in hopeless places and not fall - not mention defy physics and make rainbows appear in areas entirely without light - is pretty inspiring.
  • Queen - "Princes of the Universe." I'm cheating a little bit, because Queen isn't metal, but they're definitely BBB approved. Same general idea as "Rainbow in the Dark," but with a group additive: we're all tremendous badasses who can take down anything. Plus it's from the soundtrack of a movie where immortals settle their differences with sword fights, Sean Connery plays a Spaniard with a Scottish accent, and the bad guy wears a helmet made out of a lizard skull. Not including it on a list like this would be a crime against music.
  • Metallica - "All Nightmare Long." Metallica's written a few songs about the madness of the Elder Gods, but the imagery in this one is particularly visceral, making it a nice choice for any time you're facing anything particularly horrifying. Plus I've already demonstrated how it's part of a good gaming sound track.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

As the Palaces Burned: Anthrax - Sound of White Noise

On September 24, 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind. Nine years later, a reunited Iron Maiden played Madison Square Garden. The time in between was one of metal's bleaker periods, where the genre's mainstream face all but disappeared and it retreated not just underground, but underwater. To celebrate the rare gems of this dark time - and remember our fortune now that metal has ceased to be such a dirty word - we present As the Palaces Burned, a weekly series published every Wednesday that covers notable metal albums released between 1991 and 2000.

Today's entry is Anthrax's 1993 album Sound of White Noise.

John Bush's Anthrax was the best version of Anthrax. Period. His voice, attitude and vocal style mesh perfectly with the band overall. If you need to hear the old Belladonna songs pick up The Greater of Two Evils, the album where the Bush-era lineup does new versions of Belladonna songs.

This is the first album released by the lineup, and one of their best albums overall. To let you know just how good this record was, when I saw them on this tour at Roseland, Quicksand and White Zombie opened. How is that for a bill?

Sound of White Noise is a record which retained all of its Metal roots and spirit while embracing more "Alternative" elements and dipping further into Hardcore than they had since the early 80s. And on top of all of this the record is super catchy and has some amazing hooks and vocal harmonies.

Kicking off with some great proto-blast beats, the first song "Potter's Field" gives a good indication of the melodic riffing, grainy overdriven vocals and very heavy drumming all blending into a very pleasing midrange which mixer Dave Jerden treats us to over the course of the record.

Afterwards things kick into high gear with "Only," which was not only a huge hit at the time, but probably the best song Anthrax has ever written. What a monster of a singable riff. Droning chords have never had such forward momentum before! That song is about as perfect as you can get without standing out to much on the record as a "single" amongst filler tracks. In fact almost every song is presented as a possible single. I'm always surprised "Invisible" was neither released as a single nor a huge breakout hit.

And no Anthrax album would be complete without a big nerd-out moment. On Sound of White Noise this is delivered to the listener in the form of "Black Lodge," a song about the TV show Twin Peaks co-written with the man who composed the music for that show, Angelo Badalamenti.

This album is certainly not as obscure as other "As the Palaces Burned" entries but there are still a lot of people who never followed this era of Anthrax. They never made a bad record. Stomp 442 and Vol. 8 both have amazing songs and We've Come For You All, released far too late to be included in this column is a masterpiece which I listen to at least once a month. Just fire up "What Doesn't Die" in YouTube. You'll see what's up.

So let's have a listen.......



Black Lodge:

1000 Points of Hate:

Potter's Field:

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Demonoir Cover Art: Cool or Cheesy?

Above is the artwork for 1349's upcoming release, Demonoir. The album has already generated some discussion 'round these parts for its promised return to the band's more traditional black metal sound and it seems the artwork is in keeping with the concept: not only - as Seth pointed out in an email to me - does the title font have a lot in common with the font used by Bathory, but the art has some substantial feel to it the way Hellfire did and Revelation of the Black Flame did not. However, though I think the Lovecraftian horror in the backgorund is pretty cool, there's something that bothers me about the whole presentation. Part of it is the eyes in the darkness, which seems just a little too cheesy evil; part of it might be the blocks surrounding the letters in the title font, which - either at first blush, or maybe because of the pixelation of the image - look like those Celtic-style fonts from a free font catalog that are meant to imitate illuminated manuscripts. I guess if they're trying to play up their old-school kvlt cred, using all of the cheesy old school artwork tricks emphasizes the point...

What do you all think?

Via Blabbermouth

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I Believe You Have My Stapler

Thanks to Seth for this one: has, for reasons unknown and for time unspecified, put up a selection of shows from 1982 to 2003 for free download. I took a look, hoping to find the 2003 stop in Gillette Stadium of fond memory, but no dice. I did, however, find that the 1992 show at Giants Stadium is the supposed contribution of this man:

Probably no more skeevy than anyone else you'd see running around northern New Jersey, to be honest. Here's the complete list of available shows:

10/18/1982 - Old Waldorf, San Francisco, CA
12/18/1983 - Agora Ballroom, Cleveland, OH
12/20/1984 - Lyceum, London, UK
3/15/1985 - Kabuki Theater, San Francisco, CA
8/17/1985 - Donington Park, Donington, UK
5/24/1986 - Arena Building, Cape Girardeau, MO
7/29/1986 - UTC Arena, Chattanooga, TN
8/1/1986 - Civic Center, Charleston, WV
9/21/1986 - Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK
2/13/1987 - Frolundaborg, Gothenburg, SWE
2/3/1989 - Erwin Events Center, Austin, TX
7/18/1992 - Giants Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
6/17/1994 - County Fairgrounds, Middletown, NY
8/23/1995 - London Astoria II, London, UK
10/6/1996 - NEC, Birmingham, UK
12/21/1996 - Great Western Forum, Los Angeles, CA
7/8/1998 - Blossom Music Center, Cuyahoga Falls, OH
7/19/1998 - Great Woods Center, Mansfield, MA
5/21/1999 - Frankenstadion, Nurnberg, GER
7/13/2003 - Citrus Bowl, Orlando, FL