The Faceless and Revocation at The Beaumont Club, Kansas City – Nov. 29th, 2012

•November 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment
Revocation

Revocation

First off, the bill for this show was six bands deep – which a younger, more impressionable concert attendee might appreciate. Bang for your buck, right? No thanks. This simply means I’ll be up later on a school night AND I’ll be forced to listen to three local bands whose sets will be sabotaged by the house sound guy.  My solution? Eliminate the second part of that equation by showing up an hour and a half late.

I arrive in the middle of the Sicadis set, which is band #3. As expected, they may actually be decent, but all I can hear is a wall of distortion. I see fingers moving on the guitars, but the sound does not change. They were giving away demo CDs, which I picked up but haven’t listened to yet. Best of luck to you, Sicadis.

As The Haarp Machine sets up, I’m checking out the crowd. Death metal shows seem to draw a more civilized group than say, a Lamb of God or Slayer show. Especially with a technical death metal band headlining. Metal nerds abound, myself included. There’s always a couple of chuckleheads looking to knock people around regardless of who’s playing, but they’re few and far between.

I’m looking forward to The Haarp Machine, based on a couple of songs I’ve heard online. They have an interesting middle-eastern element to their sound, and their vocals (good cop/bad cop) are strong. The crowd is worked up for their performance as well. People flock to the stage during the sound check. Wait, what’s that, Mr. Sound Guy? Oh, you plan on ruining this set as well. Lovely. Vocals were completely lost in the mix. The lead singer is good, too, but he’s got no chance fighting through this wall of noise. All I can hear are drums and occasionally some guitars fighting their way through the aural mud. So sad. I promise to give The Haarp Machine a long listen when I have a chance to spend some time with their studio album.

Now for the big guns. Revocation! For the uninformed, Revocation’s lead guitarist and vocalist, David Davidson, is considered one of the best guitarists in metal today. They are fast and heavy, a mostly thrash sound with a sprinkling of death metal now and again. Surely the sound will be better, yes? Well…an improvement, but nowhere close to good. I apologize, I know these write ups always end up being indictments of sound engineers. But I can’t help it. It’s really frustrating to hear a good band’s set ruined over and over again. Anyhoo, Davidson is as advertised. Dynamic, energetic, and flamboyant. Lots of masturbatory, technically ridiculous solos. And the crowd loves it. Revocation’s set is a flurry of screaming, super fast riffing and relentless drums. It’s hard not to get into it, watching Davidson strut his stuff. Circle pits, metal salutes, beer is spilled. Well played!

Revocation wraps up and I am cautiously optimistic that this show will end on a good note. Revocation’s set was good, but I didn’t get that “cut through your chest like a chainsaw” guitar sound that I was hoping for. I experienced this when I saw Krisiun and Nile at the Beaumont last year, so I know it’s possible in this club. The Faceless have an opportunity to right the ship.

I’ve been a fan of The Faceless for many years. I think their first two albums are about as good as technical death metal gets. But their latest album “Autotheism” (sweet title) was a little disappointing, so this has dampened my enthusiasm a bit. But now I really need them to come through. If Revocation had blown me away, I would be okay with a mediocre Faceless set. But that didn’t happen, so I need The Faceless to reaffirm my faith in live metal.

As The Faceless take the stage, let me just wax poetic on technical death metal for a moment. Technical/progressive death metal is an odd bird. In many ways it closer to jazz than traditional metal in the song arrangements and experimentation, yet it can also be incredibly brutal. The practitioners are often among the most talented musicians in the industry, but probably sell the fewest records. Technical/progressive death metal bands are more concerned with playing a song perfectly and beautifully than putting on a flashy show. Case in point, The Faceless arrive on stage not in leather pants, sleeveless shirts and long, sweaty hair, but in button down shirts…nondescript gap jeans…the bass player is wearing a windbreaker. Wha? Only one guy has long hair, the rest are clean cut.

Oh, and apparently they employ highly capable sound engineers. Finally, the sound mix I’ve been waiting for. The drums are clean but thunderous. The guitars sound nimble yet the power chords are buzz saws when the need to be. The bass…well, who cares about the bassist. He’s wearing a windbreaker.

The Faceless absolutely destroy the joint. They are the perfect combination of Tom Morello-type virtuosity and freight train brutality. The vocals are curt and forceful, and they throw in some clean vocals on top in just the right places. I’m sixteen again, playing air guitar and drums and trying not to get stomped because I need to get up close. The set includes lots of stuff from the first two albums, which I appreciate. Even the new stuff sounds great live. At these moments, I get a little sad because I know that this type of music will never receive the type of respect that is deserves. When people hear the word “death metal”, they shut down. They know the cliché and they’re not interested in hearing more. I guess I should just be thankful that these bands can draw enough of a crowd to justify touring.

Map of Metal and Requiem Podcast

•February 23, 2011 • 1 Comment

I’m embarrassed to say that a couple of non-metalhead friends of mine discovered an amazing piece of metal artwork before I did. Thankfully, they forwarded me the link, so I can share it with all of you. Behold, the Map of Metal.

Map of Metal

I can’t say enough about this map. First, it kicks my map’s ass, but it’s not a competition, right? We’re all interested in the same thing – the study and celebration of our favorite musical subgenre. This must have taken untold hours of research and parsing of information. Deciding on which subgenres to keep and which to discard, deciding on how to organize them and what bands should represent each subgenre. Not to mention all the crossover connections to account for. I love that it’s interactive as well. You can peruse the landscape, then click on a subgenre (or sub-subgenre) to learn more and listen to representative bands.

My next recent discovery was thanks to the Deciblog, which is Decibel Magazine’s blog. I subscribe to Decibel, and I think it’s the best heavy metal/extreme music resource out there. The writers truly care about metal, and are very forward thinking in their writing and interviews. But I digress…

The Deciblog pointed me to a heavy metal podcast called Requiem, the brainchild of Mark Rudolf and Jason Hundey. These lifelong metalheads delve into their favorite bands, playing tracks and dispensing knowledge in each episode. They mix fact and rumor, firsthand knowledge and researched information. It’s like hanging out with a couple of friends talking about bands you love. So far I’ve been able to listen to the Mercyful Fate and Death (part 1) episodes, and I was well pleased. Be sure to check this out.

Slayer, Megadeth and Testament, LIVE

•August 25, 2010 • 1 Comment

Monday night I went to see Testament, Megadeth and Slayer, at the Sandstone Ampitheater right outside Kansas City. Tickets for this show were more than I would usually pay, but the prospect of hearing “Rust In Peace” from start to finish was too tempting to pass up.

Before arriving, I was wondering what the crowd would look like. Would everyone be old (like me), or would there be a good mix? Well, there were a few youngsters there, but I’d say 90% were 40+ . I think this was the first time I saw vehicles with car seats in the back at a metal show.

All the tickets to this show were one price, and all were “General Admission”. Usually general admission means you have to stake a spot out on the lawn behind the seats in front. However, they had apparently removed the first 15 or so rows of seats to create a giant standing-only area in front of the stage, and the rest of the seats were first come first serve. I arrived about 45 min early and was able to snag some amazing seats, front and center.

Onto the show. Testament opened up, and I was hoping that since Testament is such an accomplished band, they would get a little more playing time than your typical opening act. No so much. However, this bit of bad luck actually turned into good luck since Testament sounded like garbage. Granted, part of it was the sound guy (who must have fallen asleep) muddying the guitars beyond all recognition, but Chuck Billy’s voice was also to blame. The dude sounded like he took a cheese grater to his larynx before going on stage. Paul Bostaph was their only saving grace. He killed it on the drums, which turned out to be a theme repeated throughout the show. Finally, Testament did themselves no favors by playing more songs from later albums than from their first three. Away with you, Testament, you have failed me for the last time.

Megadeth came on next, and all was right with the world. Before I get into Megadeth’s set, let me first say that I experienced a moment that night that I am not proud of. I’ll preface this tangent with the fact that a metal show in Kansas is jam packed full of two things: nerds and rednecks (or some combination of the two). Most of them super nice and happy to be there, and some sunburned jackasses that just want to hurt people in the mosh pit. The dude that sat down in the seat in front of me before Megadeth went on did not fit into either of the aforementioned categories, and was therefore immediately deemed suspicious by myself. This guy looked like he came out of a dance club: designer wraparound sunglasses, pencil-thin chin strap beard, some sort of beret, and an Armani t-shirt. Add in a cute, trendy girlfriend wearing a knit top and holding a clutch purse (!) and an entourage of similarly-dressed buddies, and color me confused. I immediately got defensive, thinking this guy and his friends are some friends of the promoter, and they got in for free, and thought it would be funny to come in and laugh at the dirty heshers. Well, I was wrong. Three songs into Megadeth’s set, and Mr. Club Kid knows all the words and is playing air drums and air guitar the whole time just like me. So, sorry I judged you, dude. You’re all right.

As I mentioned, Megadeth made everything right. The sound mix was perfect, and talent oozed out of every member of the band. The drummer they have on this tour – Shawn Drover – was incredible. Honestly, I was in awe the entire set. To see a band play so tight, so powerfully, and play one of your favorite albums of all time? Totally worth the money. It’s hard to pick a favorite song from the set, but “Holy Wars…” would have to be it. Dave Mustaine is an incredible talent, and got me thinking…how many lead guitarists sing vocals, too? Clearly, Dave values his guitar chops over his vocals when onstage, but I think it’s a worthy sacrifice.

Slayer rounded out the night, and I was hoping they could match the impressive show that Megadeth just put on. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Slayer was clearly having an off night. Jeff Hanneman’s guitar was lost in a poor sound mix – it was Kerry King or nothing. Jeff was clearly frustrated the whole set. He changed guitars three times in the first two songs, once in the middle of a song. Sometimes being louder than the band before you doesn’t always work in your favor. That said, sometimes Slayer got by on pure sonic fury. Thanks to the unparalleled skill of drummer Dave Lombardo, the set had many satisfying moments, including “War Ensemble”, “Spirit in Black”, and “Born of Fire”.

An Imagined Conversation: Listening in on the director of the “Holy Diver” music video talk to Ronnie James Dio on the phone

•June 22, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Inspired by the “Holy Diver” video from my previous post, and the hilarious “Short Imagined Monologues” on McSweeney’s, I’ve composed an imagined conversation of my own, between the director of the “Holy Diver” video and Ronnie James Dio. For reference, please view the “Holy Diver” video before reading the conversation below.

An imagined conversation: Listening in on the director of the “Holy Diver” music video talk to Ronnie James Dio on the phone…

Ronnie James! Sorry, I mean Mr. Dio. Great to talk with you again. So my first concept for the video didn’t go over very well? Let’s just start from scratch, shall we? Great. What’s that? Just spent the weekend at the renaissance festival? And you’ve been inspired? Super.

So you want to start out in an old burned out medieval castle or something…I love it. I’m picturing the band playing in middle of the castle, some smoke, maybe, and…I’m sorry, what’s that? No other band members but yourself? Okay, okay, I get that. I mean, the band’s name is Dio, right? You’re the star. Got it. So, you, singing in the church…No? You don’t want to be singing, just walking…with a sword. Okay, we can get a sword, no problem. What’s that? Sure, you can bring your own sword. That’s cool. Where does one get a sword, if you don’t mind me asking? At the renaissance festival, of course. In retrospect, a silly question.

Moving on…so you’ve got the sword, and how about this: it’s a crazy battle scene, you’re fighting off evil priests and…no? Can we have you attacking at least a couple of dudes? Just one? Okay, so how about this one crazy guy comes running at you and you strike him down! No? You want him to just stand there? And he gives you a look? *sigh* No, Mr. Dio, I don’t doubt you’ve killed for less.

So what happens after that? You visit a blacksmith and get another sword? Sorry, but why do you need another sword? Uh-huh…um, sorry, you lost me at “velvet lies and life’s a never ending wheel.” Yes sir, I will listen to the song again. My bad. So, blacksmith it is! I’m sure we can cast some super buff, scary looking guy for that part. What’s that? You’d rather use a guy you met at the renaissance festival? I…uh…I can make that happen. So, you get this other sword from the blacksmith, and…YES! YES! Great idea, Mr. Dio. Mysterious hooded characters, very evil. Spooky room, I’m with you. And how about you fight them with the new sword! No? Just more walking. No, I’m sure that will be cool. People wanna see Dio, right? Not some silly sword fighting.

Let’s talk wardrobe. I was thinking leather, spikes, that kind of thing. Animal skins? Huh. Let me guess, you know this guy from the renaissance festival…Yep. No, I agree, let’s support local artisans. You got it.

What other evil shit we can add in here…I like this demon guy on the album cover, we could have a huge shadow creeping up, or…a cardboard cutout, you say? Not exactly what I had in mind, but…yeah. I can come up with some stock footage of fire or lava or something to put behind it. Are you sure? Okay, great. As long as you’re happy, we’re happy. This video is gonna be a classic.

Bits and Pieces

•June 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve accumulated a number of metal related tidbits over the past month, and that combined with three high-profile metal deaths this spring has compelled me to address it all in a crockpot-type post.

First, I’ll address the recent passing of three deeply entrenched members of the heavy metal community.

I was aware of Ronnie James Dio when I was a kid, watching his awesome/hilarious videos on MTV. If for some bizarre reason you haven’t seen the video for “Holy Diver”, do yourself a favor and watch in now. I didn’t fully appreciate his genius until later in life, when my own dedication to metal garnered more snickers than respect from my friends and colleagues. Dio was fully committed to metal in every possible way , and his contributions are too numerous to get into. I’ll leave the obit to the experts. For me, next to only Ozzy Osborne perhaps, he has to be the most influential metal vocalist ever.

Which leads me to Peter Steele. I never got into Type-O Negative, although to be fair I never really heard anything of theirs until the last couple of years. I found their music intriguing, and after reading and hearing a few interviews with Mr. Steele, I’ve become more intrigued. I guess what I’m trying to say is that from my limited exposure, he seemed like a genuine talent and a an important part of metal’s growth as a genre.

Finally, Paul Gray, bassist for Slipknot. I’ve never liked Slipknot, not even a little bit. But musical taste aside, this guy seemed genuinely nice. Also, he was only two years older than me, and had at least one young child from what I’ve read. That makes it a little sadder for me.

Now, on to my random bits of stuff:

I’ve been listening to Suicidal Angels lately, and I’m loving them. They’re a thrash band out of Greece. They sort of sound like Sepultura meets old school Slater. Let me just say that I’m aware that everyone supposed to think the the “New Wave of Thrash” is lame and played out and blah blah blah. Well, I’ve heard more new thrash bands that I like than ones I don’t like, so I say keep cranking it out, kids.

One of my favorite new time wasters – Six Degrees of Black Sabbath. I was duly impressed when I was able to connect Suicidal Tendencies and Immortal.

Not really metal, but close. Check out the drummer in this awful cover band.

Lastly, an awesome metal-themed license plate:

New research resources, odds and ends

•March 31, 2010 • 1 Comment

I was contacted recently by a couple of people who have similar interests in promoting metal. First, check out http://metalarchives.transcix.com. It’s described as “…an archive of metal-related articles, papers, editorials, news articles, etc., on such subjects as genre, history, culture, ideology, psychology, spirituality, occultism, etc.” It’s a good catch-all for people who need quick access to quality online resources for researching metal.

Next, a fellow metal blogger emailed me a link to his blog. Take a look: hpmetal.blogspot.com

Finally, a couple of news bits I found interesting:

I saw Moby when I was in college, probably around 1994. He was performing some pretty intense techno live. I remember him being incredibly petulant on stage, screaming at the sound guy and kicking equipment. Here’s a Q&A I found on NYTimes.com, with some funny metal-related insights.

A Swedish man gets disability benefits for an addiction to heavy metal. Only in Sweden.

Relatively New Music

•February 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I seem to acquire new music in bunches, and below is the best of the last batch I’ve been listening to:

Arkona - Goi Rode, Goi!

Arkona
Goi Rode, Goi!

I can only do folk metal in small doses, and those doses have to be really good for me to keep listening. Arkona makes me want to overdose on their new album Goi Rode, Goi! All the vocals are in Russian, and they use a combination of a black-metallish low scream (male) and traditional sounding vocal (female). Folk instruments abound, from flutes to accordions to lots of interesting percussion.

The song arrangements are diverse and interesting, you never know which direction they’re going to take. But, as all good folk metal should, it always gets heavy enough to keep the metal alive in each song. I think this is an excellent album for folk metal veterans and newbies (like me) alike.

Arsis - Starve for the Devil

Arsis
Starve for the Devil

Yeah, I was late to the Arsis party. I’m not sure why, maybe I heard an atypical song a while back and wrote them off too soon. It happens sometimes when you sift through a lot of music. All is well now, as I have seen the light (or dark).

Arsisfalls into the category of “Solid, badass metal”. Like the new Goatwhore record, Arsis doesn’t veer too far into any particular sound. They’re tight as hell, and throw tons of interesting riffs and drumming around in each song. I imagine these guys are incredible live.

Dagon - Terraphobic

Dagon
Terraphobic

For those unaware, Dagon is a ancient god that has been referenced in various cultures. He also appears as a mysterious and powerful sea creature in a few of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories. I’m guessing it’s Lovecraft’s Dagon that this band uses as their muse.

Dagon incorporates the sea and all it’s peril and glory into each of their songs. This self-described “Ocean Metal” makes for a fun listen, and suits the band’s style of catchy, rhythmic old-school-meets-new-school metal (think 3 Inches of Blood without the soaring vocals). Dagon is a great listen of those who like their metal energetic with a healthy dose of cheese.

The Devil's Blood - The Time of No Time Evermore

The Devil’s Blood
The Time of No Time Evermore

The Devil’s Blood has a distinct 70’s era psychadelic/cult/hard rock sound, with a haunting female vocal at the forefront. Their previous EP Come, Reap was one of my favorite releases of 2008. Their full-length followup, The Time of No Time Evermore, is similarly enchanting and spooky, perhaps with a little less intensity. Overall the album is not as dynamic as the previous EP, but definitely worth checking out.

The Last Ten

•February 3, 2010 • 1 Comment

My wife and I recently started watching the “Lost” series, which we both missed the first time around. For those unaware, the premise of Lost is this: an aircraft flying from Australia to Los Angeles crashes on a deserted island, and the survivors are left to fend for themselves. Strange and mysterious things happen on the island, but that’s not what inspired this post. One of the survivors of the crash, a guy named Hurley, has a CD player with him that he listens to off and on until the batteries finally die. That got me thinking…if I was stranded on a deserted island (or anywhere, I suppose) with no hope of being rescued, what would be the last 10 songs I would want to listen to before the batteries died on my iPod?

Before coming up with my list, I was curious as to how I would compile my list. Would I include a combination of old and new songs? Would I choose songs that reminded me of people, places, or experiences? Would I strive for diversity, considering the 10 as a whole, or judge strictly on each song’s individual merit?

In the end, I chose songs based on pure visceral, gut feelings. I wanted songs that – for whatever reason – struck me to the core. No rationalizations, such as “well this song is considered to be the best by this artist”, or “I should definitely have some jazz in this mix”.

I was surprised to find that 8 of the 10 songs I chose were from albums that I first listened to in high school. I thought that perhaps I might choose newer music, simply because of it’s new-ness. I also though I might choose less metal, but I didn’t. 8 of the 10 songs are metal. I suppose this reinforces the primary reason that I enjoy metal – escapism. It conjures up those feelings I had when I was a teenager in my room, with my headphones on and my eyes closed, listening to these albums for the first time. Feelings of awe, adrenaline, fascination, and pure joy. I guess experienced music differently back then. Metal was new and exciting, and every new album got played over and over until I had the songs memorized. Once in a great while I’ll come across a song that does that to me now. Volbeat’s “The Human Instrument” does, which is why it made the list.

And now, for no other reason than full disclosure, the list (in no particular order):

...And Justice For All

Metallica
“Blackened”
…And Justice For All

…And Justice For All was the first Metallica album I owned. Mostly because I saw the video for “One” (still a classic) and it haunted my dreams. Literally. It was 1988, and I was in eighth grade. I was a budding metalhead, and I was looking for something a little heavier after getting into Guns ‘n Roses. I knew of Metallica, but they were more of a myth to me. I had no idea that they would be everything I wanted them to be. I can still remember what I was thinking when I saw that video:

“Whoa, the dude who’s singing, he plays guitar, too? But not an acoustic guitar? What, no scarves tied onto the mic stand? Badass”…”Are those double bass drum pedals?”

But the star of ...And Justice For All is not “One”, but “Blackened”. Furious, unrelenting, with some of Kirk Hammett’s best solo work.

Imagine my disappointment when the Black Album came out three years later.

Reign In Blood

Slayer
“Angel of Death”
Reign In Blood

I didn’t discover Slayer until maybe a year or so after I got into thrash music (see above). I was living in Plattsburgh, NY on an air force base. Across Lake Champlain was Burlington, VT, which had a very good college radio station broadcasting out of it. I’d catch the metal show once in a while. Well, one day I was sitting in my room minding my own business, listening to this show when they play…”Angel of Death”. My life was forever changed. At that moment, that song became “My Favorite Song Ever”.

Everything about it was perfect: The changes, the drumming, the no-nonsense singing style. And of course, “The Riff”. When I heard that riff at 1:38 through the song…well…shit. I honestly thought at one point that Slayer must have sold their souls to the devil to get the riffs they got. How else to explain it?

Megadeth
“Mary Jane”
So Far, So Good, So What!

I don’t really remember how I got into Megadeth. It was probably the “Wake Up Dead” video on Headbanger’s Ball. When you have no older siblings or friends to help you with your metal choices, Headbanger’s Ball is like mother’s milk. Although I had to sit through hours of supremely shitty glam metal wannabe videos for those few precious nuggets of Megadeth or Sepultura. Fuck you, Riki Rachtman.

Anyway, So Far, So Good, So What! was my first exposure to Megadeth, and “Mary Jane” spoke to me. It must be Dave Mustaine’s unique combination of theater, anger, bitterness, and guitar chops.

Blessing In Disguise

Metal Church
“Badlands”
Blessing in Disguise

I was always suspicious that Metal Church was a Christian metal band. None of their songs ever sounded Christian, but when your band’s name is Metal Church and you release an album called Blessing in Disguise…well, people are gonna talk. That said, I think Blessing in Disguise is Metal Church’s best album. I know a lot of people out there think that’s blasphemy (sticking with the religious theme here), since David Wayne wasn’t in the band anymore, but I actually think Mike Howe is a superior vocalist and the songs are much stronger on this album.

“Badlands” was another discovery-via-video when I was a teenager, and until a few years ago I never admitted to myself how much I love this song. It’s a pretty straightforward metal song, nothing technically outstanding. It’s just really catchy and really well done.

How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today

Suicidal Tendencies
“Trip At The Brain”
How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today

So, my best friend Dave Endersbee and I were totally into ST back in the day (again, high school). We knew Suicidal from their first album, but when How Will I Laugh… came out, we had no idea what to expect. There were rumors that Suicidal went metal, but would it be any good? I took the plunge and bought the tape, and boy am I glad I did. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that How Will I Laugh… is one of the more unique albums in the history of thrash. I’m not sure how to describe it. It’s fun, upbeat, and almost painfully honest. And who can forget the video for “Trip At The Brain”? (click the link above) Amazing. How did they get John Cusack?

Them

King Diamond
“Welcome Home”
Them

I was raised Catholic, and although I never really bought into all of it, I definitely believed in the devil. And King Diamond looked and sounded like pure evil. I loved all of it though: the falsetto, the makeup, the album-as-horror-story. Brilliant.

Again, the video on Headbanger’s ball hooked me. I had no idea what was going on at the time. The last time I saw anyone in face paint, it was KISS, and they certainly didn’t sound this cool. And what’s with the rest of King’s band? Excellent musicians, but they all look like castoffs from the band Europe. Thankfully they stay in the background.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I invested in the whole catalog of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond albums. And although Abigail might be a better album, “Welcome Home” will always be my favorite KD song.

Human

Death
“Secret Face”
Human

Napalm Death and Death were my first forays into death metal. I was really into thrash (who wasn’t), and as before with Guns n’ Roses, I was looking for something heavier, something faster. Death’s Human album was the fastest and coolest thing I’d ever heard. Bands may have played faster before and since, but none have Death’s flawless hooks and Chuck Schuldiner’s beautiful solos. The drums, bass, and guitars seem to be interwoven with each other.

Death is one of those rare bands that pushed the technical and progressive envelope with each album they released. In my opinion, Human is the perfect combination of heavy, fast, technical, and progressive. And “Secret Face” is the gem of that album.

It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Public Enemy
“Rebel Without a Pause”
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

Our first non-metal song of the list! Since this is a metal blog, I’ll put this selection in context: I was a pretty committed metalhead in high school, but none of my friends (except for the aforementioned Dave) were into metal at all. I was buddies with this guy on my soccer team, and he was always going on about Public Enemy. I’d never heard any of their songs, all knew was Flava Flav, and he looked and sounded like an idiot.

Then the crossover song hit MTV – you know the one, “Bring the Noise” with P.E. and Anthrax. I thought Chuck D was such a badass – that voice! You’d better listen to him, he’ll kick your ass.

Because of that song, I went out and bought Nation of Millions… and wow. I was into Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys before I got into metal, but this was different. This was…serious, political, and flawless. I finally understood the value of Flava Flav – when contrasted with Chuck D, he totally works.

I could have picked any number of songs off of this album and I would have been happy. I settled on “Rebel Without a Pause” because it’s just Chuck D being a badass, and the beat is relentless. Terminator X does some of his best work on this track. Kick it Terminator!

Hatful of Hollow

The Smiths
“Handsome Devil”
Hatful of Hollow

Finally, we’re out of high school. I discovered the Smiths in college, like I assume most straight men do. I wouldn’t have been ready to admit that I loved Morrissey’s voice before then. Hatful of Hollow was the first Smiths album that was given to me. I don’t remember who it was that gave me the tape, all I remember was that she was asian and I think my roommate wanted to date her.

Listening to that tape was like being hypnotized. I knew music like this existed, but I didn’t know it had a sense of humor. I didn’t know it was self-aware. That was definitely part of the appeal. The other part was Morrissey, what a voice.

Like Nation of Millions… , I pretty much love this whole album (which, I know, is a sort of “Best of”). I chose “Handsome Devil” because it’s dramatic and serious in that confused teenager kind of way, and it gallops along and a nice pace. Plus, it has my favorite Smiths line ever: “Let me get my hands on your mammary glands”.

Classic.

Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil

Volbeat
“The Human Instrument”
Rock the Rebel/Metal the Devil

Finally, we come to the last member of the Last Ten: “The Human Instrument”. I surprised myself with this one. It’s the only song that I haven’t been listening to for at least 15 years. In fact, it’s only been a year. Yet Volbeat gets on with pure energy and excitement. Time will tell if I still feel as strongly about this track as I do now, but now is all that matters. I’m on a freakin’ island, remember?

Volbeat’s sound is an odd combination of metal, rockabilly, and punk (Misfits kinda punk). It’s a fun listen if no other reason than that combination. Vocalist and guitarist Michael Poulsen has a deep and unique voice and he’s not afraid to flex his vocal cords. “The Human Instrument” is probably the odd bird on this album. In addition to the metal/rockabilly/punk sound, there’s also a definite folk sound to it.

It’s just so goddamn fun to listen to, it makes me want to sing out loud every time I hear it. Perhaps this song is a bit of an indulgence, but hey, I’m worth it.

Nile with Immolation, Krisiun and Dreaming Dead at the Beaumont Club

•January 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a while since I’ve been to a metal show, and just about as long since I’ve blogged. I can’t think of a better reason for a new post than a show review.

I spent last weekend up in Omaha visiting family and working on a new (non-metal related) video project with my brother. I had been out late Friday and Saturday, and I had just driven three hours back down to Kansas City on Sunday. It was Sunday night, and it took everything I had to get my ass to this show. But I love Nile, and I wasn’t going to miss them.

I wasn’t really interested in any of the opening acts, so I arrived an hour late and still only missed the fourth band that had been tacked on to the bill. I wish I had missed Dreaming Dead, too. They were okay, but they suffered at the hands of the sound guy (more on that later). I grabbed a beer and waited for Krisiun.

While I was waiting, I contemplated the phenomenon that I had noticed since my first death metal show (Napalm Death and At The Gates in 1996): does the singer talk to the crowd in his “death metal growl” or his normal voice? Or, does he talk in his normal voice, but introduce songs in the “death metal growl”? From my experience, there is no standard. So noted which bands did what during this show:

Dreaming Dead – I wasn’t paying attention, so I don’t know, but I think normal.
Krisiun – Death metal growl the whole time
Immolation – Normal voice the whole time
Nile – Normal voice during crowd banter, then death metal growl when introducing songs

There were quite a few Krisiun t-shirt clad fans in the club, and I soon found myself among them near the front of the stage during their set. Krisiun burst out of the gate, endearing themselves to the crowd with incredibly solid and thrashy death metal. The drummer, Max Kolesne, was especially impressive, pounding out blast beats and double bass drum kicks harder that I’ve ever seen. Lone guitarist Moyses Kolesne was earning his money with a furious, non-stop assault of speed riffs and solos. Most death metal bands feature two guitarists, so it was startling to see one guy shoulder the load. Maybe more bands should try it, it was clearly working for Krisiun. By the end of their short set, I was a fan. I would chalk this up as one of the best metal performances I’ve ever seen, period.

Immolation had the unfortunate luck of following this performance, and they fell flat. Again, the sound was terrible, which prompted me to check out the sound guy in the back of the room. How could Krisiun’s set sound so powerful and clean, and Immolation sound so muddy and flat? I decided to ask the guy working the merch table if each band has their own sound guy, and he confirmed that this was true. I now have a new respect for sound guys.

Nile had no such problem with their sound, and they truly destroyed. They played pretty much every song I wanted to hear, including my favorite – Lashed to the Slave Stick. During slower songs, the riffs rose and fell like chain saws. The drumming was impeccable. My only beef with Nile was Dallas Toler-Wade’s bland interaction with the audience. My feeling is that if you have nothing interesting to say, just play your songs. One thing I will say, though, all the bands were constantly thanking the fans throughout their sets, and one got the impression they were very sincere.

When I’m at these shows, I always marvel at the sheer technical skill that these musicians possess. The combination of speed, plus technicality, plus aggression is truly unique in music. It’s such a cliché, but if people understood what it takes to play good metal music, they would have more respect for it as a musical genre.

Edumacation

•July 8, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I was recently contacted by Brian Hickam, an academic at the University of Toledo, informing me that there is a large contingent of scholars interested in heavy metal as a topic of research, study, and analysis. These scholars reside all across the globe, and hold several conferences throughout the year to discuss their research and findings. This was exciting to hear. Part of the reason I started my drawing project was to educate the public about heavy metal, and hopefully get more people to take it seriously as a music genre.

It turns out that this community of music scholars is also very interested in my drawing project, and have invited me to attend one of their conferences later this year in Austria. I’m working on getting funding to attend this conference. I’ll keep you posted.

On a related note, I was mentioned in Keith Kahn-Harris’ blog awhile back. Harris is a sociologist and author who’s books include Extreme Metal: Music and Culture on the Edge. Check out his blog.

I was also interviewed recently by SPIN magazine for an article about heavy metal themed artwork (random, right?). The article will appear in the August issue, I’m told. I’ll post a link to the article when I get one.

Since I’m on the topic of education, I thought I’d share this bit: Since I’m not a musician, I often wonder what people are talking about when they refer to specific techniques when playing instruments. For example, in drumming you have blast beats, and guitarists always talk about sweep picking and tremolo. I’m pretty sure I figured out what a blast beat is, and I recently stumbled upon this video explaining sweep picking. So if you’ve always wondered, check it out.

Finally, The Onion’s AV Club has a series of articles that addresses “pop culture for beginners”. In June they covered metal. I think they did a decent job.