What Wednesday 13 Brings

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

Like Liam Neeson on the movie Taken, Wednesday 13 is a man with ‘a particular set of skills.’ If you want to listen to Campy Horror Metal that blends the sound of Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar with the first two Motley Crue records then Mr. 13’s your Ghoul.  But to Wednesday’s credit, he is not afraid to mix things up. Among other things, he’s done a country side project called Bourbon Crow and a concept album called Monsters of the Universe. An album that combines a love for cheesy monster movies with cheesier conspiracy theories. Despite knowing this, I wasn’t sure what to think of the new record Condolences.

It all started with look. It was as if they got their new stage outfits from Cradle of Filth’s garage sale. Then, Wednesday 13 was saying in interviews how the band is going in a new non campy direction. The kind of thing that as a long time fan, makes you wonder: Dude what are you doing? Making a Wednesday 13 without ‘the camp’ makes about as much sense as doing a Planet of the Apes movie without , you know…APES. To add to the confusion, the lead off track/first video “What the Night Brings” sounds like a Cradle of Filth song on downers.

To me, Condolences feels more like a gritty Wednesday 13 reboot than some dramatic musical shift.  The problem with many of these gritty reboots is (to quote Dr. Ian Malcom from Jurassic Park) that they ‘were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.’

For the most part Wednesday 13 sticks to familiar territory Condolences with songs like “Blood Sick” and “Cruel to You.” The record also has its share of fast aggressive songs like “You Breathe, I Kill” and “Prey For Me.” Where he slightly deviates is on “Where the Night Brings,” and the two closing tracks “Condolences” and “Death Infinity.”  Lyrically, they stick to familiar territory but there is a darker vibe to these songs that make them sound bit more ‘serious.’  The title track “Condolences” is the closest I’ve heard Wednesday 13 to doing a Doom Metal song. “Death Infinity” is the record’s token power ballad that sounds cold, sad and detached in a way that reminds me a little of Killing Joke. Despite some minor sonic tweaks and 13’s reluctance to overuse the word motherfucker and the number 13 Wednesday 13 is still the Heavy Metal ghoul we know and love. The world might change and Wednesday 13 might try to change with it but he’s still content singing songs of Death, Dying and The Dead.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

20 Of My Favorite Metal Records from the 90’s: 11-20

Posted in Uncategorized on August 14, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

 

11.Death: Symbolic

Death lead guitarist/singer/band leader Chuck Shuldliner was as important to Death Metal as Tony Iommi is to Heavy Metal. Chuck and his band Death had a big hand in developing what we now know as Death Metal.  From the raw noise of the early records to the refined technical death of later records the ENTIRE Death discography should be MANDATORY LISTENING for anybody who wants to explore the world of Death Metal. Symbolic is one of Death’s most polished records but it’s still brutal. Drummer Gene Hoglan did some of his fanciest footwork on this record. By now Chuck’s growl had evolved into an easier to decipher bark. Symbolic was the first Death record I got and has some of my favorite Death songs: “Empty Words”, “1000 Eyes” and “Crystal Mountain.” This record along with Heartwork by Carcass, Slaughter of the Soul by At The Gates and a few others were a big influence on the metal acts that came out in the next decade. Inspiring some Death Metal musicians to strengthen their chops and or take DM in a more melodic direction. It also inspired a generation of bands that were not death metal in the strict sense to incorporate DM elements into their sound (Lamb of God, Devildriver, Killswitch Engage etc).

 

12.Manowar: Louder Than Hell

Louder Than Hell includes my favorite Manowar song: “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” At the time the record came out, (1997) Heavy Metal wasn’t very popular in the U.S. and most of the people I knew in the Puertorican rock scene preferred Hardcore, Ska Punk or Rock En Espanol. In P.R. I used to run into people ALL THE TIME who would tell me shit along the lines of: I USED to listen to that stuff when I was in high school. Assuming that I would eventually grow out of my ‘Heavy Metal Phase” like they did. At the time, it did feel that Me and a handful of my friends were the ‘last in line.’ That it was up to us to keep Heavy Metal Alive at all costs. As silly as most Manowar songs are (and some of them are REALLY silly), the words to Gods Made Heavy Metal rang true back then. At the time, Metallica might have been too busy being the kind of band they used to mock in the 80’s but Manowar wasn’t going anywhere. On Louder than Hell, Manowar demonstrated that they were still the same 4 guys who thought it would be a good idea to form a band that was equal parts Conan The Barbarian and This Is Spinal Tap. THE GODS MADE HEAVY METAL AND THEY SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD. THEY SAID TO PLAY IT LOUDER THAN HELL, WE PROMISED THAT WE WOULD. WHEN LOSERS SAY IT’S OVER WITH YOU KNOW IT IS A LIE. CAUSE THE GODS MADE HEAVY METAL AND IT’S NEVER GONNA DIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!!!!!

13. My Sister’s Machine Gun: Diva

My Sister’s Machine was fronted by former Alice N Chains guitarist Nick Pollock. Notice I wrote Alice N Chains not Alice IN Chains. Those are two different bands despite sharing the vocal stylings of the late Layne Stanley. Like Alice In Chains, My Sisters Machine was musically caught between 80’s Sunset Strip Metal and the 90’s Seattle sound. Musically MSM could have passed for a late 80’s Sunset Strip Metal band that was trying to match the groove of Guns N Roses with the guitar crunch of vintage Metallica. Vocally, Nick Pollock has this Chris Cornell meets Layne Staley meets Axl Rose thing going on in his voice. Lyrically, is where MSM had more in common with their Seattle peers than the Metal bands of the era. The lyrics had the requisite amount of 90’s angst and introspection but with a sense of humor that many people did not associate with this style of music. These guys only did two records but they’re leagues better than some of the 3rd rate 90’s shit that did become popular like Candlebox, Bush and Everclear.

 

 

14. Motley Crue Generation Swine

History has been kind to the one album Motley Crue did with singer John Corabi. The album might have sold below expectations back in the day, but nowadays there’s no shortage of people willing to defend its honor. Some even go as far as to say it’s Motley Crue’s best record. But you don’t see too many people defending their next album Generation Swine. After the lackluster sales of the Corabi album, their label pressured Motley Crue into firing Corabi and reinstating Vince Neil. At the time, Motley Crue was writing and recording a second Corabi album under the working title of Personality Number 9. So Motley Crue was forced to fire Corabi and shoehorn Vince Neil into the music they were working on. In hindsight, the suits might have been better off letting the Corabi thing run its course and let the demand for a Vince Neil reunion to grow instead of forcing that shit on everyone. Especially since Generation Swine did not become to the big comeback the band and label were hoping for. Old School fans were pissed that the record didn’t sound like a rehash of 80’s Motley Crue and their label didn’t put much effort into promoting their new music in order to replace pissed off new fans with more accepting new ones. You know, like they did with Metallica’s Load and Reload.

Generation Swine got no love from MTV and radio despite the fact that their lead single “Afraid” was a catchy 90’s power pop song with a cool video that had Larry Flynt (of hustler magazine and that Woody Harelson/Courtney Love movie fame) in a cameo. If given a chance “Afraid” could have been a big hit I think the lead single should have been “Generation Swine.” Swine was one of the heavier songs on the record and was more indicative of what Motley Crue were trying to achieve on that record: channel the fuck you attitude of old school Motley Crue through a contemporary sort of industrial metal sound. Even with the (then) new industrial coat of paint, Generation Swine has some great Metal songs like “Find Myself,” “Let us Prey” (which was heavier than anything Metallica was doing at the time), “A Rat Like Me” and their reworking of “Shout At the Devil” “Shout 97.” The band also tried different things on the record like the new wave power ballad “Glitter,” the depressing gloom of “Flush” and the sleazy Goth of “Beauty.” They even got Vince Neil to do other things with his voice apart from his usual wail. The album does have some weak spots like that atrocity of a song that Tommy Lee wrote about his kid “Brandon.” I think it’s been over ten years since I heard that turd of a song all the way through. But despite that, I love this record.

Sadly, Generation Swine was Motley Crue’s last serious attempt  at challenging itself and its audience. The next year they released a second Greatest Hits compilation that included two new songs “Bitter Pill” and “Enslaved.” I like these songs, especially “Enslaved.” The songs were pretty heavy yet catchy, closer to 80’s Crue than the bulk of Swine without sounding like a rehash of their 80’s stuff. I wonder if there is an entire album’s worth of material in this style hidden in the Motley vaults. I’d buy a copy in a heartbeat. Their next studio record New Tattoo was a lazy rehash of their 80’s stuff. From that point forward, Motley Crue became a nostalgia act. Coasting off the ‘wild’ reputation of their younger years. Which led to a lot of touring and one more studio album (the decent Saint of Los Angeles) before retiring in 2015.

 

15.Pantera: The Great Southern Trendkill
I bought my copy of Southern Trendkill the same day I bought the single for Metallica’s “Until it Sleeps.” I remember me and a friend listening to “Until It Sleeps” for the first time and not being sure what to think of it. We figured at least the chorus sounded heavy-ish and the Motorhead cover (Overkill) was cool. Next up was Pantera. To this day, I remember my friend was in the middle of saying something to the effect of: “You know Pantera’s gonna come up with something heavy,” when all the sudden this wall of sound comes out of the speakers and punches you in the fucking ear. BLRAAAAAAAAAAAAGH!!!! We immediately high fived each other and everything was right in the world again. While Metallica was playing with out emotions the way Smokey played with Big Worm’s money, Pantera was keeping shit real. Great Southern Trendkill was Pantera’s most extreme album. Not only did it include some of the band’s fastest, noisiest material (The title track, Suicide Note 2) it also included some of its quietest (Suicide Note 1, Floods). I’m forever grateful for Pantera sticking up for Heavy Metal when Metal needed them the most. Unlike that OTHER band who cut their hair and hired Depeche Mode’s art director to take pictures of them.

16. Testament: low
Testament has had its share of career ‘low’ points. In between rotating band members, music business b.s. and its lead singer having cancer…But despite all that, Testament fucking kept at it and like the late great Motorhead they’ve yet to record a shitty album. Low wasn’t as fast and thrashy as say The New Order but IT WAS FUCKING HEAVY. Vocalist Chuck Billy went from throwing a growl here or there on songs like “Falling Fast” and “Disciples of the Watch” to going in full death metal mode on “Dog Faced Gods.” The album came out in 94 and was unfortunately not as well received as the previous records but it’s the first Testament record I got (ON CASSETTE!!) and has some of my favorite Testajams: “Hail Mary,” “All I could Bleed,” “Ride.”

 

17. Prong Rude Awakening

Prong were one of the bands who helped shape the sound of 90’s metal. The same year that Pantera released Cowboys From Hell, Prong released the less successful but just as influential Beg to Differ. Like Cowboys, Prong embraced the aggression of thrash, dialed down the speed with a stronger emphasis on groove. But where Pantera embraced their classic rock roots Prong went for a drier almost mechanical sound inspired by post punk bands like Killing Joke. Prong gradually took their style of groove metal into more industrial territory on every record after Beg.  Prong’s third major label album number Cleansing, even scored a minor hit with “Snap your fingers snap your neck.” After laying the groundwork, Prong’s next record Rude Awakening seemed poised to cross Prong over into the mainstream. Prong even managed to write a handful of songs like “Rude Awakening” and Face Value” that were catchy while retaining some solid Heavy guitar riffs. Unfortunately, rude came out during the black hole years after MTV dropped ‘the ball’ on The Headbanger’s Ball but before Korn, Limp Bizkit and them other nu metal clowns went mainstream. Which cursed Rude Awakening to be ignored by the mainstream they were trying to cross over to. Prong broke up shortly after the release of Rude while bands like Static X were able to take the sound Prong was developing in the mid 90’s and cash in on their behalf. Singer guitarist Tommy Victor did reactivate Prong in the 21st century and has been touring and recording new music on a regular basis since.

 

 

18. Biohazard: State of the World Address

For a brief moment, it seemed as if Biohazard was going to be the band that would break Rap Metal into the mainstream. By their third album (State of The World Address) and major label debut Biohazard had their sound down (for life). The gang choruses, the shouting/singing/rapping stylings of vocalists Evan Seinfeld and Billy Graziadei, the crunchy guitar riffs and soloing of Heavy Metal blended with the attitude of hip hop with the breakdowns and fast beats from hardcore punk. State was arguably Biohazard’s masterpiece. Even when the songwriting got repetitive, Biohazard was able to push through on intensity and attitude. But the songs that were good on State are among Biohazard’s best like “Tales From The Hardside,” “Down For Life” and their collaboration with Zen Dogg from Cypress Hill “How it Is.” Unfortunately, MTV cancelling the Headbanger’s Ball (who gave the hazard plenty of love in their final years) ruined BioHazard’s momentum. By the time the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit and The Ozzfest were bringing Nu Metal to the masses Biohazard was having a hard time catching up. So Biohazard had to settle for ‘respect’ while the likes of Korn and Limp Bizkit made the money. That’s how it is Yo, THAT’S HOW IT IS

19.Warrior Soul: Salutations From A Ghetto Nation

It’s not very often that you get me to say anything nice about Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich or Rolling Stone magazine for that matter. But recently, Rolling Stone compiled a list of what they considered the greatest Heavy Metal albums of all time and the list was not a complete embarrassment. They also asked a few Metal luminaries such as Lars and Rob ‘The Metal God’ Halford to write about some of their favorite records. On his article Lars gave props to one of my favorite bands Warrior Soul. The album Lars mentioned (Space Age Playboys) is great and all but my personal favorite is Saludations From A Ghetto Netion. To me, Ghetto Nation is a culmination of what the band was working on its first two records (Last Decade/Dead Century, Drugs God and the New Republic). After Ghetto, the band switched gears towards the more psychedelic punk metal of Chill Pill and the sleazy glam punk of Space Age Playboys. I love Warrior Soul because they could be just as political as Rage Against The Machine (The Party), as trippy as Jane’s Addiction (Shine) but were also not afraid to write dumb punk rock n roll songs (punk and belligerent). Sometimes they could even be dumb AND political at the same time (I Love You) and be, trippy, political and crude at the same time (Blown).

 

20 New American Shame

By the end of the 90’s enough time had passed that people started to get nostalgic about the Glam Metal bands of the 80’s. Poison even managed to have a fairly successful arena tour the summer of 1999 with Ratt, Great White and LA Guns as the support acts. While the 80’s veteran acts were trying to relive past glories a new breed of hard rock bands emerged with the intent of bringing this style of music into the 21st century. This new breed bands were doing Glam Metal minus the glam. They kept their hair short, went for more of a t shirt, tattoes and jeans look while trying to channel the sleazy hard rock attitude that made the first GNR record and early Motley Crue albums timeless. Of this crop of bands, the only one that achieved any significant success was BuckCherry; but they were a few others who gave it a good effort like Loudmouth and New American Shame. New American Shame only made one album but I liked it so much I got both versions of it (the indi version and major label version with extra songs and expanded artwork) Imagine if Phil Lewis from LA Guns was trying to channel AC/DC’s Bon Scott while jamming with an AC/Dc cover band that happened to have Marky Ramone on the drums. New American Shame’s music is about as stripped down and no nonsense as it gets. Their sound wasn’t all that original or big on musical diversity but it sure did fucking rock. It sucks they only did one album but at least they didn’t stick around long enough to become a parody of themselves. Like say…BuckCherry.

 

 

20 of My Favorite Metal records from the 90’s: 1-10

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , on August 14, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

The 80’s are regarded by many as the Golden Age Of Heavy Metal. Many of its more influential groups reached the peak of their success and released some of their most important work in that decade. But by the year 1995, Heavy Metal was banished back into the underground. Some people/critics/’experts’ even went as far as to declare Heavy Metal ‘Dead’ back then. Those people didn’t take into account how resilient and stubborn us Metalheads are. So while the rest of the world was busy listening to shit like Everclear, Hootie And Blowfish and Creed, Heavy Metal was still around. Bands old and new were out there, fighting the good fight. Creating new music, touring the world and all that shit with little (if any) help from MTV or mainstream rock radio. So I want to take a moment to salute 20 of my favorite records that were released during Heavy Metal’s lost weekend: The 90’s.

Narrowing this list down to 20 records WAS FUCKING HARD. I could have easily gone all the way to 50 with this bitch. I must have replaced at least half of the original list in the process of writing this blog. Anyways, in no particular order…

 

1.Black Sabbath: Dehumanizer
No metal list should be complete with out a Black Sabbath record right? Core Black Sabbath members: guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler reunited with singer Ronnie James Dio in the early 90’s. Some ten years after their first break up. The first two Dio Sabbath records (Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules) showcased a more melodic,  but still very Metal Black Sabbath sound. Dehumanizer on the other hand, embraced the Slow Doom of early 70’s Black Sabbath but with an updated 90’s sound. Dio even toughened his lyrics to complement the heavier songs. Opting for more science fiction lyrics as opposed to Dungeons and Dragon imagery. Instead of singing about Dragons, Kings and Neon Knights, Ronnie was singing about Computer Gods, Crystal soldiers and T.V. Crimes. Dehumanizer was the best thing the band had done since Dio left the group. Although, I do feel the ‘Black Purple’ album “Born Again” is underrated… Good enough to make you overlook the later half of the 80’s when Tony Iommi kicked the shit out of the Black Sabbath horse carcass with a rotating cast of supporting characters. All appeared to be going well until Black Sabbath (minus Dio) accepted the invitation to reunite with Ozzy Osbourne during his ‘final show.’ Which led to Dio essentially saying: “Screw You Guys I’m going home.”

There was talk of a full Black Sabbath with Ozzy reunion after Ozzy’s ‘farewell’ tour but that fell through. Dio went back to being a solo artist. Tony Iommi went back to making Black Sabbath records with singer Tony Martin that nobody wanted to hear. Eventually, Sabbath did reunite with Ozzy for a series of successful tours, a live album and a new studio album with MOSTLY founding members. Some fifteen years after their second break up, Dio re-reunited with Geezer and Iommi. This time around, they toured under the name Heaven and Hell stuck exclusively to playing the old Dio era Black Sabbath material (Dio would still have to sing stuff like “Paranoid” and “Iron Man” on his Sabbath tours). They even recorded one last studio record (The Devil Cried) before cancer forced Dio to go ‘Stargazing’ in other realms.

 

 

2. Kiss Revenge
After a decade slugging it out with all of them 80’s Pop Metal bands, Kiss decided to reconnect with their roots. To remind people that before the silly merchandising, and disco tunes Kiss was a mean Heavy Metal band. Early 70’s songs like “100,00 Years,” “Parasite,” and “She” were some of the heaviest shit ANYBODY was playing at that time. Kiss even ditched their colorful 80’s Rock clothes and replaced them with a spikes and black leather look that resembled their early 70’s look. Minus the make up of course. If all this wasn’t exciting enough, bassist/singer/shameless promoter Gene Simmons, after a decade of putting the bare minimum amount of work into the band, FINALLY brings to the table material worthy of his old Demon persona. Gene’s hard work was rewarded by having his song “Unholy” be the opening track/lead single on Revenge. Revenge was the first Kiss studio record to open with a Gene song. It was also the first single Gene sang on since “Love it Loud” a decade earlier. Paul Stanley also brought some heavy stuff to the table like “Heart of Chrome” and “Tough Love.” At the time it felt as if Revenge was the start of a new chapter in Kiss’ career. Instead Revenge represented the end of an era for the band. The lure of cashing in on 70’s nostalgia proved too strong for Kiss leaders Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. It’s a shame because the album they did after Revenge, Carnival of Souls was pretty good too. It was the last thing Kiss did musically that was worth a shit.

 

3. Anthrax sound of white noise

After the unprecedented success of Metallica’s Black Album,  other trash bands like Megadeth tried a similar approach (shorter songs, slower tempos, bigger choruses) to their music. Anthrax on the other hand, decided to get weird. They ditched longtime singer Joey Belladona in favor of Armored Saint screamer John Bush and recorded The Sound Of White Noise. Some people have claimed that Anthrax tried to go ‘grunge’ with the Sound Of White Noise but those people are wrong. This record has more in common with bands like Helmet, Quicksand and Fugazi than anything that was coming out of Seattle in the early 90’s. White Noise was a fairly fast record but not Speed Metal’ fast. White Noise had the crunchy guitar riffs (Room For one More and Hy Pro Glo come to mind) you would expect from Anthrax but with a darker, (for lack of a better term) noisier vibe. John Bush didn’t sing as high and pretty as Belladona did in the 80’s but his voice had a raspy aggression to it that complemented the material on the record. On White Noise Anthrax was able to build on the sound of their earlier trash metal years while creating something that was in line with what the newer bands were doing at the time.

 

4.Bruce Dickinson: the chemical wedding

What started out as an offer to write a song (Bring your Daughter to The Slaughter) for a movie (Nightmare on Elm St 5) led to an ‘accidental’ solo career for Iron Maiden singer Bruce Dickinson. From the ironic cock rock of Tattooed Millionaire to the drum circle Metal of Balls to Picasso to the Progressive Alternative Hard Rock of Skunkworks, Dickinson had no problem messing with the expectations of his old Maiden fans. When people least expected it, Dickinson teamed up with guitarist/producer Roy Z and fellow Iron Maiden exile, Guitarist Adrian Smith and released Accident Of Birth. An album that took the heavier elements of Dickinson’s first tenure with Iron Maiden and updated them for a 90’s Metal audience. Metal Maniacs Magazine even declared Accident the best IRON MAIDEN record since Seventh Son of A Seventh Son. Accident caught many people (myself included) by surprise but Dickinson wasn’t done melting people’s faces. The NEXT YEAR Dickinson released what could be considered his masterpiece as a solo artist. A concept album based on the writings and artwork of William Blake called The Chemical Wedding. An album that took the groundwork laid by Accident and built on it.  It was just as heavy as what them Nu Metal bands were doing at the time (1998) but with the melodic sensibilities you would expect from somebody who sang in Iron Maiden. I could go on, but just listen to “The Book of Thel” and it will all make sense. The Chemical Wedding is so good that part of me was LET DOWN when plans for a Chemical Wedding tour were scrapped in favor of  Dickinson (along with Adrian Smith) reuniting with Iron Maiden instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Maiden got back together. I’ve seen them seven times since their reunion and every show was a special experience. But…I would have really really loved to hear Dickinson sing some of the Chemical Wedding songs live… If I had Wall Street level money I would PAY Dickinson to put a band together and do a solo show for me and my buddies.

 

5.Skid Row: Subhuman Race
After the massive success of their debut, Skid Row could have easily gone in a more commercial on their second record but they didn’t. Instead they went louder and heavier with Slave to the Grind. Slave might have only sold about half what their debut did (which was still a pretty decent amount of records) but they earned the respect of their peers and people who would have otherwise dismissed Skid Row as some pretty boy glam band. Subhuman Race continued on the musical path forged by Slave. Heavy enough to hang with contemporary Metal bands like Pantera and Machine Head but with the twin guitar solos, clever wordplay and high pitch screaming you would expect from Skid Row. There’s some serious ass kicking going on in this one: “Beat Yourself Blind”, “Medicine Jar”, “Face Against My Soul”…Shit! Even the fucking ballads “Eileen,” “Into Another” and “Breaking Down” were pretty heavy. Subhuman didn’t sell as many copies as the previous records but it got good press and did good enough for their label not to drop them. For a moment, it looked as if Skid Row would have been one of the few 80’s metal bands to survive the 90’s unscathed. These guys were a hit single and Ozzfest tour away from a full fledged comeback. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Shortly after touring obligations for Subhuman Race ended, singer Sebastian Bach and the rest of the band parted ways. Neither one has been quite the same since.

 

 

6.Last Crack: Burning Time

If you took a group of Prog Metal guys who decided to reevaluate their music after discovering Jane’s Addiction and a performance artist/singer who goes by the name of Boddo and looks and sounds like the Bono of heavy metal, you would get Last Crack. Last Crack’s debut Sinister Funkhouse 17 was the work of a band trying to find its sound but everything fell into place on the second album Burning Time. The guitar playing was technical, aggressive yet trippy and accessible. Buddo got to be as artsy farsty as he wanted to be and came up with some interesting lyrics and visuals for the band. Including a trippy ballad about playing in the snow when you were a kid (Mini Toboggan). This record has some great songs like “Energy Mind,” Kiss the Cold” and “Downbeat Dirt Messiah.” Burning Time could have been huge if it got pushed by the right people.  Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Last Crack has gone through their share of turmoil and periods of inactivity but the last thing I saw on Facebook was that they’re working on new material.

7.Saigon Kick: The Lizard

Because of their hit ballad, “Love is on the Way” Saigon Kick tends gets lumped with the ‘hair bands’ of the late 80’s. To me, Saigon Kick has more in common with Alice in Chains than say Warrant. That’s if Alice In Chains was all about angel dust as opposed to heroin. Had these guys been based out of Seattle instead of South Florida they could have ridden the early 90’s Seattle wave. When I THINK of Saigon Kick I think of “Hostile Youth,” with it’s mean guitar riff, sinister groove and big chorus. That song SHOULD HAVE BEEN the Heavy Metal anthem of the early 90’s. In an ideal world, “Hostile Youth” could have done for Saigon Kick what “The Beautiful People” did for fellow South Florida musical institution and early Saigon Kick supporter Marilyn Manson. I will admit that it took a while for this album to grow on me. For every badass Metal song like “Peppermint Tribe” (don’t let the title fool you, that song is vicious), “Freedom” or “Body Bags” Saigon Kick would throw in some weird slow song. Such as the sort of new wave “Feel the Same Way” or a dark ballad like “God of 42nd St” or the psychedelic “World Goes Round.” Saigon Kick kept this up until the closing number, a jazzy, upbeat, demented break up song called “Channel.” But once The Lizard won me over it, I was hooked. From that point forward Saigon Kick became one of my favorite things in the world.

 

 

 

8.Slayer: Diabolus in Musica

I don’t get why God Hates Us All gets so much love from fans and Metal critics while Daibolous is treated like the red headed stepchild of Slayer’s discography. A lot of people accused Slayer of flirting going ‘Nu Metal’ on this record but to me, God Hates Us sounds even MORE NU METAL and has shittier songs (although Bloodline is pretty good). Diabolous is arguably Slayer’s slowest record, yet it still has its share of fast parts, but they come in spurts. There are some songs like “Love to Hate” and “Scream at The Sky” that do steer a little too much towards Groove metal/Nu Metal territory. I’m not the biggest fan of either song but both of them are STILL better than “Here Comes The Pain” of God Hates Us All. “Stain of Mind” comes dangerously close to being a dumb hardcore song but it does groove. “Death’s Head” has a similar hardcore vibe as Stain but it’s staccato rhythm and doom breakdown at the end give the song some extra flavor. What I like most about Diabolous is that it’s a dark where Slayer would normally be violent. Like “Perversions of Pain” and “Desire” which picks up the dark serial killer vibe of (previous Slayer record) Divine
Intervention songs “Serenity in Murder” and “213” and expands on it.  I think Diabolus is better than many people give it credit for. It’s also leagues better than the new Slayer album Repentless.  Repentless was ‘listenable’ but still Slayer’s weakest record.

9.Warrant: Belly to Belly
Many of the Pop Metal bands from the 80’s tried to go ‘Alternative,’ but none of them took that shit as far as Warrant singer Jani Lane.  I suspect Belly to Belly was the end result of  Jani Lane attentively listening to ‘Alternative’ radio and watching video programs like Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes on MTV with a SERIOUS chip on his shoulder. Determined to prove that ‘The Cherry Pie Guy’ who wore a white leather outfit on that “Heaven” video can do a better ‘Alternative’ record than these dumb ‘Alternative bands’. Lane’s attention to the mechanics behind writing ‘alternative rock’ songs is evident on songs like “Feels Good.” “Feels Good” had the potential to be a hit if Alternative Radio was willing to take a chance on a ‘hair band’ like Warrant. “AYM” openly mocks the popular Alternative Rock singers of the era such as Eddie Vedder and Scott Weiland yet “AYM” could pass for a decent Stone Temple Pilots song. As silly and contrived as the idea of an ‘Alternative Warrant’ record might look on paper their is some genuine angst on Belly to Belly. It’s as if Jani Lane intensely hated the fact that he feels the need to make an ‘Alternative Warrant’ record yet was 100% committed to the project.

 

10.Arcade

Ratt were one of the first Metal bands from the 80’s Sunset Strip scene to have a major hit record. They were also one of the first to burn out and go on hiatus. Ratt singer Stephen Pearcy wasted little time getting together a new band Arcade with Cinderella drummer Fred Coury and other veterans of the 80’s Glam Metal movement. In a way, the groundwork for Arcade was laid down (that was almost a pun) on the last single Ratt released before their first hiatus: “Nobody Rides For Free.” Which is not only one of my favorite Ratt songs but an attempt by to go for a slightly ‘mature’ sound. Arcade seemed to make a conscious effort to dial down the silly cliches people associate with 80’s Glam Metal and give people some quality, high energy Rock N Roll. Arcade’s debut record sounds to me like The Cult during the Sonic Temple era cult trying to channel 70’s Aerosmith. The record didn’t have much in common with what was popular in 1993 but it didn’t sound like a dated 80’s Metal rehash either. Except for the ballads “Cry No More” and “So Good So Bad” which were pretty dreadful.  Arcade released a second (heavier, rawer) record A2 before disbanding. In the years since, Pearcy has been in and out of Ratt but in between Ratt reunions he has done his share of other projects such as industrial metal project Vertex, Vicious Delite.

Chester Bennington: Man Of The Year

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

I am not a fan of Chester Bennington’s work. Linkin Park might have written catchy hits but I found their music too bland and middle of the road for me to get into. Chester had a decent singing voice but it was a bit wimpy for my liking. Sure he wrote about things ‘crawling’ in his skin, becoming ‘numb,’ ‘breaking habits’ or ‘how in the end it doesn’t really matter.’  Lyrics meant to give insight into the author’s psyche but most of those lyrics were so wide reaching and vague that it could have been about anything. Or nothing.

 

I ESPECIALLY didn’t like when Chester was singing for Stone Temple Pilots. I tried to give it a chance but I love STP about as much as I hate Linkin Park. It was difficult to sit through an entire song. I can’t go for that (no can do). When Chester ditched his regular guy clothes and started trying to look and act like (STP singer) Scott Weiland it got on my fucking nerves. All the sudden, Chester was dying his hair pink, wearing vinyl pants and or fancy suits with funny hats. Chester was not content with copying Weiland’s style, he even nicked  Weiland’s stage moves. It was like watching Jennifer Jason Leigh in Single White Female. Even after Chester Bennington ended his ‘affair’ with STP and went back to his Linkin Wife permanently, he took with him his fancy new threads and pseudo Weiland moves. So his sudden death isn’t going to change the way I feel about the guy’s music.

Regardless of how I feel about his music I was still shocked when I got the news of  Chester’s death. I feel bad for the six kids he left behind and the people who loved him and shit. My younger self would have made fun of their misfortune but my older (slightly) more mature self considers that a dick move. This situation reminds me of a song. “Man Of The Year” by Alice Cooper.

“Man Of The Year” tells the story of a man who on the surface, appears to have shit figured out. Somebody who is loved by his family and respected by his peers. As the song progresses you learn that the protagonist in the song plays golf with the President, was made a knight, a saint and even made Madonna faint. Sounds like a guy that has an enviable life right? Then, all the sudden, the song switches gears when Alice sings:”So why am I so lonely/Depressed and in despair/If I pull this trigger in my mouth/ will anybody care?” Those words are followed by a dramatic pause and a drumbeat that simulates a gunshot which leads into the final verse: “It was the greatest funeral, I laid in perfect state/And later I will meet the lord, I bet he just can`t wait/To meet the man of the year.”

That’s the thing, you think someone like Chester Bennington ‘had it made’ because he is success and the ability to live the type of life us peasants only dream of ; but you don’t know if that person is truly ‘happy.’ You don’t know what they’ve been through and how they deal with shit. I’m sure whatever drove Mr. Bennington to make the choice that he did must have really fucking sucked. I never liked your music Chester but I’m sorry you went out the way you did. This one’s for you Son!!!

Still Rotting Slowly.

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on June 27, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

The fact that Obituary covered a Celtic Frost (Circle of The Tyrants) in one of their most popular records (Cause Of Death) is indicative of the influence Frost has on the band. While their Tampa Death Metal peers were too busy competing to be the fastest, growliest band in the land Obituary wanted no part of that race. Instead Obituary fixated on the primitive groove of the first two Celtic Frost records and built their sound around that. A sound that consisted of raw, dirty, Death Metally that you could (slam) dance to.

Somewhere around the thirty(!) year mark in their career, Obituary decided to release a self titled record. Usually when a band does such a thing it’s either on their debut (Iron Maiden, Kiss, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Korn etc) or indicative of a new musical direction (Metallica, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Korn). I wouldn’t go as far as to say Obituary’s 2017 self titled record is a drastic musical departure but the guys do shake things up a little bit.

The new album opens with two of the fastest songs on Obituary’s repertoire (Brave and Sentence Day). But for Obituary ‘fast’ is more along the lines of punk rock fast which compared to some of them super (duper) ultra Technical Death Metal Bands the songs mind as well be mid tempo. It still is a little surprising to hear Obituary  come out swinging at full speed. The third song, “A Lesson in Vengeance” is becoming one of my favorite Obituary songs. “Lesson” is built around a mid-tempo Doom riff that recalls Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” and wouldn’t be out of place in a (Pepper Keenan era) Corrosion of Conformity record. The next song “End It Now” sounds like an old school Heavy Metal song that was given an Obituary makeover. “Kneel Before Me” has a Black Metal-ish riff that is played at mid tempo. By the time the record reaches its second half, Obituary settles into familiar musical territory with “It Lives,” but they’re not done shaking things up. “Betrayed” does have a little bit of a New York hardcore kind of groove and recalls mid 90’s (World Demise, Back from the Dead) Obituary. I also love the guitar solo on “Straight to Hell” it sounds very creepy and evil and shit.

Death Metal might not be as ‘extreme’ as it was when Obituary started, but for Obituary that type of shit don’t matter. Obituary is the type of band that does what they do regardless of what is going on around them. What DOES matter is that these guys are still making quality music thirty one years after they released their first demos. Because their new self titled album isn’t just an alright by Death Metal record by a bunch of old farts. This new record is an excellent, honest to Satan HEAVY FUCKING METAL record.

A Salute To Rise Above Records

Posted in Music, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 17, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

Within seven years Ghost went from hip underground band to Rock Radio Act. They have won a Grammy, headlined large theaters in the U.S. and are opening for Iron Maiden on their current tour. Despite their bump in popularity Ghost has still managed to retain the essence of their sound intact. I’m o.k. with sharing a band I like with the masses. Even if it feels as if the masses don’t GET the band the way I do. I’m just glad to hear some new music on the radio that isn’t as dreadful as fucking Five Finger Death Punch. But, for every fair weather fan who only wants to hear the hits, there is always a handful of new people that ‘get it.’ New people who will use a band like Ghost as a catalyst to go deeper underground in search of similar tasting strange fruit. In the spirit of musical exploration, I give you the record label that helped Ghost haunt its way into the mainstream: Rise Above records.


Rise Above Records was started by former Napalm Death singer Lee Dorian. Mr. Dorian named the record after one of the songs on the last ep he did with Napalm Death. Intially, the goal of the label was to released a few 7 inch singles of Napalm Death as well as other grindcore and hardcore acts.

After leaving Napal Death, Dorian formed Cathedral, a Doom Metal band with Death Metal vocals. Their first record, Forest of Equilibrium SOUNDS miserable. As if the band was forced to watch their pets die while they were recording it.

On their second record, The Ethereal Mirror, Cathedral decided to have some fun. The music is still Doomy and Metal but with a 90’s version of a 70’s rock groove. Lee dorian’s voice went from the growling of the Napalm Death days to something along the lines of Lemmy Kilmister meets The muppets. The band looked as if they blew a chunk of their label’s money hunting for the grooviest 70’s clothes they could find. The video for the song “Midnight Mountain” had the band DISCO DANCING in a room full of people dressed like extras from some 60’s Vincent Price movie. This change in sound coincided with their label at the time, Earache Records making a distribution deal with major label Columbia. The potential was there for Cathedral to reach a wider audience. The videos for “Midnight Mountain” and “Ride” got some decent airplay on MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball (which is where I discovered them). Sadly for Cathedral, the potential was not met . Cathedral went back to the indies in the mid 90’s and continued making records until they quietly disbanded in 2012.


The move Dorian made from from the grindcore of napalm death to Doom Metal with cathedral was reflected with the acts on his label. In a way, the band’s on the label are an extention of Dorian’s work with Cathedral. It took some twenty years but the mainstream rock audience that didn’t know what to think of Cathedral in the 90’s are all about Ghost now. Hopefully serves as some form of vindication.

Electric Wizard

Electric Wizard are one of Rise Above’s early successes. They started out as a conventional Doom Metal band but then something CLICKED. Starting with their second album ‘Come My Fanatics,’ Electric Wizard embarked on a quest to write the sludgiest, heaviest music they could come up with. This is a band that has no problem stretching a slow crawling guitar riff into an eleven minute song. Song titles like “Dopethrone,” “Satanic Rites of Dracula,” “Legalize Drugs and Murder” and “We Hate You” speak for themselves. Electric Wizard’s music requires patience on behalf of the listener in order to get its full effect. But if you let it do its thing it will fuck with your head…in a good way.

Rise Above Relics

Rise Above has a subsidiary label called Rise Above Relics. Relics specialices on reissues from obscure artists from the early days of Heavy Metal. Artists who didn’t get the recognition of bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Oyster Cult. Bands like Horse whose album For ‘Twisted Minds Only’ was previously avbailable only as a poor quality but still expensive bootleg. Horse’s early 70’s Metal sound blends in nicely with the current acts on the label’s roster. The difference being that Horse is an actual 70’s band instead of merely sounding ‘retro’.


The Oath/Lucifer

The Oath consists of vocalist Johanna Sadonis and guitarist Linnea Olsson. They made an album that owes just as much to the (not so) New Wave of British Heavy Metal as it does to the first six Black Sabbath records. The Oath seemed poised to become the next breakout band from Rise Above but they disbanded before the record was released. A most unfortunate event since the one record they made was pretty good.

Not one to dwell on what could have been, Vocalist Johanna Sadonis quickly formed Lucifer with former Cathedral guitarist Gaz Jennings. Their sound is a little more gloomy than doomy but Lucifer has managed to stay together long enough to tour and work on an upcoming second record with Nickie Andersson from the Hellacopters/Entombed on drums and Robin Tiderbrink replacing Gaz Jennings on guitar.


Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats

Uncle Acid remind me a little bit of Electric Wizard. Both bands have that sludgy doom sound with vocals that are buried under mountains of reverb. I bet both bands love a lot of the same 70’s exploitation movies. To me, the difference between the two is that Electric Wizard seems more about ‘The Sound’ where Uncle Acid’s is more song driven. Uncle Acid’s singer songwriter sensibilities does make their music a little more relatable to people who aren’t strictly fans of Sludgy Stoner Doom Metal. As ‘reletable’ as a band that writes a concept album about a mysterious serial killer can be… Creepy concepts aside, these guys do write some catchy jams like “Melody Lane” and vocalist Kevin Starrs sounds a little like John Lennon. If Lennon got his ass dumped by Yoko for refusing to go “Cold Turkey.”

Not That Kind Of Band

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 10, 2017 by A handfull of napalm

It’s tempting to dismiss Stryper as some sort 80’s Hair Band joke. The yellow and black outfits, the bible throwing shtick, the fact that singer Michael Sweet looked more feminine than the majority of his Glam Metal peers in the 80’s  WITHOUT MAKEUP, that “Honestly” song… There reasons to not take these guys seriously are legion. YET there is some truth in what Stryper does. Their music is driven by that same conflict that has driven Rock N Roll (and the Blues before it) for over a century: How to remain good Christian Men while playing ‘The Devil’s Music.’

This dilemma was front row and center on Stryper’s 1990 album Against The Law. After becoming the most successful Christian Metal band of the 80’s and going as commercial as they want to be on 1988’s In God We Trust, Stryper decided it was time to shake things up. On Against The Law, Stryper ditches the yellow and black outfits, tones down the glam look and Christian rhetoric while cranking up the guitars. Their lead single was a cover of Earth Wind And Fire’s “Shinning Star.” I’m guessing this was Stryper’s attempt to release a single with commercial appeal and a positive message that without coming off preachy. The song could have also provided an opportunity for Stryper to musically show off. Saying to MTV land: ‘Look at us!!! We are doing a Hard Rock version of a 70’s R&B song! Aren’t we great?!’

The song on Against The Law that to me best captures Stryper’s struggle between their Christian Faith and primal Rock instincts is “Not That Kind of Guy.” Musically, the song is a blatant Van Halen knockoff; but it’s a really good Van Halen knockoff. The kind that wouldn’t be out of place in Van Halen I. This is the work of a band who not only loved Van Halen when they were kids but STUDIED THAT SHIT. Spent countless hours dissecting them old VH records trying to figure out how to play them songs.

Where the song gets interesting is in the lyrics. Normally, during this kind of song, Diamond David Lee Roth (and his countless imitators) would boast about being ‘the one you love’ or wanting to see Yankee Rose’s ‘bright lights and city lights (all right);’ but that sort of sexually aggressive talk would isn’t very Christian. Instead Michael Sweet comes up with some story about an attractive Woman that is checking him out and wanting to do more than hold hands and study the Bible. But since sex before marriage is a sin and Mr. Sweet is not the type of guy to answer that booty call. If that wasn’t odd enough, Mr. Sweet sings his little tale with every bit of celibate swagger that a God fearing Rock N Roll singer can muster. As if he’s trying to convince people that: CELIBACY ROCKS! The way he wails and shouts his way through the song he mind as well be singing about all the flavors he has that are guranteieieieieieieieieied…to satisfy.

%d bloggers like this: