Thursday, January 28, 2010
Now ask yourself: as appropriate as Abbath's voice is for Immortal's music, why would you ever want to try to reuse that sound for your own band?
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Today's entry is Resurrection by Halford
As we previously covered, I was the only person upset when Rob Halford rejoined Judas Priest. I was happy seeing Priest in clubs kicking ass with Ripper, while Halford was an amazing and viable band in its own right. I would love to cover their misunderstood and highly underrated second album Crucible, but its 2002 release date falls outside the window of this series.
So we will look at Resurrection, the comeback record. I really like this album, and when I put it on again to write this I was pleasantly surprised at how well it holds up. It was a safety album. After leaving Judas Priest and releasing a the mediocre industrial goth album 2wo Rob Halford needed to re-establish himself in the hearts and minds of the Metal community. So what would you have done in 1999-2000? I would have done what Rob Halford did. Get together with Roy Z who re-energized Bruce Dickinson's career (this will be covered in great detail in a later entry), put together a heavy as balls band, and write a record that sounds as close to classic Judas Priest as humanly possible.
After years of hearing nothing from Rob Halford this song was leaked by the label.
Wonderful, right? I still get chills when I hear him scream "resurrection" at the very top of his vocal register. The rest of the album is a decent meat and potatoes hard rocking affair. My favorite song is the obviously "Electric Eye" influenced "Cyberworld" which has a wonderful chorus hook. "The One You Love to Hate" is a duet with Bruce Dickinson which truly exemplifies the "less is more" attitude of the album. There is no experimentation present anywhere. They saved that for album number two. This album's only purpose was to be a completely kick ass Metal record which would re-establish Rob Halford's career, and it worked.
It was official that the Metal God was back when he played as the first of three act at the sold out August 20th, 2000 Iron Maiden MSG show which we here at Baroque Bleak Brutal consider the spiritual rebirth of Metal. He was still a bit of an unknown quantity, and even at the ludicrously early 7PM set time the Garden was already packed. When his band started the opening notes of "The Hellion," the world's most famous arena got up on their feet and gave the man a standing ovation. I'm tearing up right now remembering the feeling of watching 15,000 Metal fans collectively have their own spiritual resurrection.
The One You Love to Hate (with Bruce Dickinson)
With all of those known names on stage playing such a wide variety of material, there were plenty of historical connections to be mined from the ores of metal lore. Here are a few of the more interesting ones we noticed:
- There were a few different songs where one of the band members had been in the band that recorded the original: Ripper was in Priest, Bello is in Anthrax, Kisser wrote the lyrics for "Territory" and co-wrote the music for "Refuse/Resist."
- Three of the covers were really covers of covers, done in the style of the band that did the first cover: "The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown)," originally by Fleetwood Mac but played in the style of the Judas Priest cover; "Symptom of the Universe," originally by Black Sabbath but played in the style of Sepultura; and "Got the Time," originally by Joe Jackson but played in the style of Anthrax. The later two songs get even more meta: each had a member of band who played on the original cover on stage to play the cover.
- Hail! did not play anything by Megadeth at this show, but they did play Metallica's "The Four Horsemen," which is based on "The Mechanix," a song written by Dave Mustaine and included on Megadeth's first album - which featured Dave Ellefson on bass.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
The microphone on the camera used to record this clip can't even hope to capture the magnificence of the sound coming from that stage, but you do get a sense of intensity. Arch Enemy has never been one of my favorites in recordings (maybe something about stuff all of that sound into one package is always a risk, whether it's a video camera or a recording studio?) but I've had the pleasure of seeing them live twice now - including the show on Friday that this clip came from - and both times their energy has blown me away.
Monday, January 25, 2010
We're playing this track because it features hard rock roots, electronica influences, punk influences, a subtle uses of vocal harmony, varying tempo and time signatures, repetitive melodic phrasing, demanding instrumental part writing, a vocal-centric aesthetic, a clear focus on recording studio production, heavy syncopation, minor key tonality, a dirty electric guitar solo, a gravelly male vocalist, an aggressive male vocalist, an unintelligible vocal delivery, intricate arranging and many other similiarities identified in the Music Genome Project.For those of you unfamiliar with Pandora, the above is taken from one of the justification descriptions the software offers you when it plays a track. Writing about the odd things kicked up by an algorithm is like shooting fish in a barrel, but I can't really resist: based on that description, you'd think I'm listening to some sort of jazz fusion piece with a hypersexualized guitarist ("dirty electric guitar solo"? Really?), or maybe something really, really post-punk. The real answer: Zyklon's "Transcendental War - Battle Between Gods." Then it played a cover of "Dead Skin Mask" while showing me an ad for a dentist who I will never, ever want to visit.
Friday, January 22, 2010
"It seems like these people, you know, they make their life on Blabbermouth. They make a name for themselves by bashing someone. It's really funny. It's like they are rock stars in their own little world, and it's just funny that someone would want to get on there and bash a band ... they don't really know. Maybe they were a fan of the band, and they just don't like them anymore. I don't know."I'm starting to wonder if they teach the Blabbermouth hater mention technique in schools for publicists.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
I don't know how well the scheme worked from a sales perspective, but it got me while shopping in a now-defunct Circuit City in a Massachusetts suburb. Well, I say 'got me,' but the truth is that I was a teenager with an extremely limited music horizon who picked the album up because it had an association with a band I knew and loved, not because I had any of the history of the target audience. Besides, it had some funky cover art that mystifies me to this day: why would you take a money scale (a nice visual dig at Metallica) and stick a skull on it? Now how it will ever work? Besides, if you're going to attack the band's credibility, wouldn't you want to put the money on one side and some representation of integrity on the other?
In any case, the compilation - which I was listening to earlier today - turned out to be a fantastic investment: originally, of course, it was an introduction to a lot of great music. As time passed, however, I found that the track listing combined with the promo ads at the back of the CD booklet gave me enough of an education for me to able to talk a bit of the talk until we reached that magical time when old albums started growing on digital trees.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
All of this discussion, of course, ignores the question of whether or not you'd want to buy an item from a company with no feedback score that can't tell the difference between masters and transfers.
Testament.......I labored over this band, and how to approach their AtPB entry. I mean where to begin? Skolnick's last album with the band, 1992's grungy The Ritual? Their experiments with Pantera-esque modernization on Low?
Well, Low is a great under-appreciated album, but I'm not going to go there. The Ritual has some very funny moments that need to be written about, but that will be in my upcoming series about Metal bands who released Grunge albums in the 90s.
No, we're going to cover Testament when they were in the same position Voivod was in my column last week. Having been dropped and relegated to the CMC International/Spitfire records purgatory, a brand new lineup of Testament decided the best approach would be to modernize and play more of that death metal the kids are always talking about. Now Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson were well set up for this, with the secret weapon Gene Hoglan on drums, and a great working knowledge of the underground. However despite some great moments 1997's Demonic is not a great album. The approach is a bit generic. Some songs are great are still played in concert, such as "The Burning Times". Here, have a quick listen. It's good!
But the whole record isn't great, and doesn't make the cut as a lost classic.
Plagued with yet more lineup changes, Chuck Billy and Eric Peterson "gathered" (get it?) all their friends together. Grabbing no less than two ex-members of Death (James Murphy and Steve DiGiorgio) plus Dave Lombardo from Slayer, Testament released one hell of a war cry with The Gathering in 1999. To me it is a unifying statement which best sums up everything the band had been trying to say since Low. The aggression level is even higher than Demonic without that album's generic riffing. The thrash is back in full force but with the added power of Billy's newfound growl. Topping the whole album off with a delicious satanic cherry was the production of Andy Sneap, now recognized as the gifted master of aggressive recording.
Anyone who returned to the band with The Formation of Damnation needs to go back and fall in love with The Gathering. Starting with "DNR", still a favorite in modern set lists, you are hearing a band at the height of their Metal powers. The way thrash and death metal are so seamlessly merged on this record may seem pretty textbook now, but this is the band and the album from which those textbooks were written. And not enough can be said about the subtle virtuosity, especially in DiGiorgio's smooth yet violent bass playing. If there was ever any recorded document that Testament never deserved their reputation as Metallica-lite this is the album.
But enough tell, here's some show:
Sewn Shut Eyes!
DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
Eyes of Wrath
And the song which should have been the "hit," True Believer. I think this was on the soundtrack to one of the Saw movies.......
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Friday, January 15, 2010
Notice in particular the large pink stain on the cover of After, which is the biggest indicator that the art direction seems to have gone awry: the covers of The Adversary and angL are so dark; why the pink and white that suggests some sort of black metal princess cake? In addition, the photo seems a little incongruous: as Seth pointed out, using a cross makes the album seem like it's crossing in Black Sabbath territory. On closer inspection, I think there's a bit more linking the three, like the transition of living angel to angel statue to cross, the inclusion of color on the cover of The Adversary, the different mediums of the artwork (chalk drawing, sculpture, and photograph) and the bleakness of the photo on the cover of After, which I suspect is a reference - along with those dirgy saxophones - to the album's title. Still haven't figured out what that pink stain is supposed to mean, though.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
- "We Will Rock You" and "We Are The Champions:" two of Queen's most well-known tracks have undergone a whole host of treatments, including various re-recordings by different versions of the Queen lineup years after the band's demise. I'm pretty sure I don't plan to go out and find any of them, either.
- "Sheer Heart Attack:" Helloween recorded a version, but the band that crept out of a dark recess of my mind when I thought about covers of this song was Sam Black Church, who released a live recording of the song as a bonus track on Superchrist in 1995.
- "Spread Your Wings:" Germans who love ostentatious metal seem to love Queen, too: Blind Guardian took the far more genre-appropriate "Spread Your Wings" and recorded a pretty kickin' version for Somewhere Far Beyond.
- "Get Down, Make Love:" much like The Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," Queen's psychedelic celebration of free love was begging to be re-recorded in a more twisted form by an artist with the right chops. Nine Inch Nails did so in 1990, releasing the cover as a b-side on the single for the equally bondage-heavy "Sin."
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
On September 24, 1991 Nirvana released Nevermind. Nine years later, a reunited Iron Maiden played
Today’s entry is Voivod’s brilliant 1997 album Phobos.
In 1994, after Snake and Blacky had both left Voivod, they were both replaced by one man, Eric Forrest. By playing bass and singing, he briefly led Voivod into the storied pantheon of Canadian power trios. Their first album with this lineup, 1995’s Negatron, was a complete bust. The band opted for a traditional death metal sound which probably seemed like a solid commercial decision at the time, but fell completely flat, alienating those fans who chose to stick with this lineup.
Here is an example of the blah that was Negatron:
But after a few years off, Voivod came back with a vengeance, and in 1997 this lineup released Phobos. Not only did they get their groove back, it is one of the consistently strongest albums in their catalog. And it came in completely under the radar. Negatron built up so much bad will among the remaining Voivod loyalists that no one bothered to listen to this album the first time around. I bought it for the King Crimson cover when it came out (“21st Century Schizoid Man,” it was hard to hear music in 1997 you didn’t pay for) and wound up owning a masterpiece.
Everything about this album showcases what made Voivod great. The abstract sci-fi lyrics, snarling punk vocals updated with a bit of a death metal grunt, progressive time signatures, and that unmistakably Piggy riffing. Oh the riffs, they are killer on this album. Think Killing Technology, but updated for the death metal kids.
Although that first reunion record with Snake, 2003’s self titled Voivod was great, I don’t think that album touched the creative energy or tripped out intensity of Phobos. What a shame it went completely under the radar.
Title Track Phobos:
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Friday, January 08, 2010
In the measurement of an album's brutality, there are a few key ways for a release to stand out: it can hit you physically, executing a convergence of riffs and mix that feel like a beating; mentally, dazzling you with vision-generating atmospherics; or psychologically, daring you to confront the true meaning of emptiness. Metal being such a masochistic art form, all three methods are enjoyable, but it's the psychologically brutal albums that are perhaps the most effective - and of the past decade's releases, none were more effective than Monotheist. Fourteen years in the waiting and six in the making, the swansong album for Celtic Frost takes its surface character from the bone-dry distortion of a single shambling guitar and the tuneless chant of Tom Warrior, working in tandem to drive the listener slowly down the road to the abyss.
There are many strange and wonderful sights along the way, however that keep Monotheist from becoming a simple plodder: the opening of "A Dying God Coming Into Human Flesh," where a few simple guitar counterpoints, the rumble of a bass, and a haunting melody sung by Martin Ain build to a crushing crescendo that they eliminate the potential cliché in the lyrics - "frozen is heaven/frozen is hell/and I am dying in this living human shell" - with mesmerizing ability.
The combination of feedback, analog keyboard pads, and a To Mega Therion-style female vocal in duet with Warrior's growl on "Drown in Ashes" becomes the aural equivalent of chasing will 'o the wisps through a swamp.
The sonic imagery of "Totengott," which might as well be the bedrock for the albums released by Teitanblood, Anaal Nathrakh, and 1349 last year.
"Winter," which sums up all of the emptiness Monotheist trumpets in spades with a simple 1:30 of droning, shifting strings.
If the contemplation of nothing and our insignificance in the face of that infinity that represents this contemplation at its truest had a soundtrack, it would be Monotheist.
Thursday, January 07, 2010
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
Today's entry, Judas Priest's buried and forgotten classic, Jugulator.
Way before YouTube would make finding replacement band-members from tribute bands positively mainstream (hello Journey!) Judas Priest found their replacement in Tim "Ripper" Owens. At the time this got laughed at by the Metal community as "pathetic," but really, in 1997 there was not much Judas Priest could do that wouldn't have been mocked. At the height of Nu-Metal, Boy Bands and what was still called "Alternative" there was very little place for Judas Priest.
But they soldiered on, and made a true follow up to Painkiller. Still written by the core songwriting team of Glen Tipton and KK Downing, Jugulator is a sick album. It is heavier, faster and more explosive than anything Priest had ever done. The opening track "Jugulator" was not only a war cry for the band, but showcased that Ripper could absolutely hold his own on Halford's turf and in his upper tenor range. The songs varied wildly from the near grunge of "Blood Stained" and "Death Row" to the old school and epic closer "Cathedral Spires."
Ripper would end up getting his due in the Metal community much later for his work with Iced Earth and Yngwie, but "Jugulator" was an amazing work by a band inspired and at the height of their creative powers, even if no one was listening.
In the summer of 2000, I was working a job whose intellectual rigors were so intense that they permitted endless amounts of web surfing. On one of my journeys, I found an interview with Ihsahn where he discussed the dichotomy of quality: his dissatisfaction with the quality of Emperor's output to that point, but his hopefulness about the future, as each new release fixed the problems of the past. The statement related in part to the progress of recording Prometheus, which I bought a bit over a year later after hearing a sample of the first thirty seconds of "Thorns on My Grave" on Amazon: the layering of drums and guitar makes for such an impressively heavy composition that I had to hear more.
Despite my initial hopes, it took me a good four or five years to realize Prometheus's genius; perhaps because I was expecting another Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk or IX Equilibrium, I fell into later category of listeners described by the All Music Guide's John Serba:
"Those willing to invest a significant amount of time into Prometheus will be thoroughly rewarded on intellectual and emotional levels — especially when drawing parallels between the album's elaborate concept and Emperor's musical reign — while more practical listeners unwilling to slap on headphones and willfully ingest the lyrics will find the record impenetrable.""Impenetrable" is the word: the album's multitude of layers, swirling textures, and dueling instruments; its rampaging melodies that present a nefarious mindfuck by individually stretching the very concept of tonality while collectively delivering some of music's more glorious aspirations; the lyrics, where a concept just barely comprehensible when read on a page stands nearly veiled by the individual phrases that describe the action; these are not the elements of an easy listen. Digging further, phrases start to collect in the brain and continuity establishes itself - I can remember how "Depraved" sounds, for example, because I remember the feeling evoked by the chilling arpeggio that opens the track - but on the whole there is the whispered beginning that starts the record, the final rush that ends it, and the wonderful, bleak-as-hell maelstrom in between. That Emperor managed to put together such an effort is impressive enough; that they did so while walking the tightrope between wankery and creative desire and emerged with something complex and cohesive is almost unbelievable.
Tuesday, January 05, 2010
Anyway, I bring all of this info up not just to bash Age of Evil's recording (because I kinda hope that with statements like, "But we give 150% every night we play," they have more energy on stage than they do on tape), but because in their video for "Living a Sick Dream," the band's guitarist bears more than a passing resemblance to Dave Mustaine...and Hail! features former Megadeth member (and on and off Mustaine feud target) Dave Ellefson on bass. A part of me likes to think the selection of Age of Evil as an opener was a really elaborate way for Ellefson to get a dig in on Mustaine and I will hold on to that hope if Age of Evil really does suck live.