Friday, November 20, 2009

Rockin' Out: Metallica/Lamb Of God/Volbeat @ Madison Square Garden 11/15/09

As you can see, having an elevated vantage point at Madison Square Garden did not help me take better pictures. One of these days I will remember to bring my actual digital camera to the show with me.

This past Sunday night was Round 2 with Metallica at Madison Square Garden. I was hoping it would be an improvement on Saturday night's show which was not bad, but certainly not great and fortunately my hopes would be fulfilled.

The first difference between this night and the prior night was that we were seated in a lower level section off the floor which allowed a much better view of the entire stage and would also prove to offer significantly better sound quality. The second difference was that we got to the venue in time to see show openers Volbeat. I already discussed my history with Volbeat and subsequent reversal of opinion upon seeing them live in an earlier post, so I'll just simply reiterate that this is a great live band that is well worth checking out.

Next up was Lamb Of God who had felt a little lackluster the night before, but with the improved sound of our new seats they came across as much more lively and energetic as I have come to expect from their live performances. I have to say that they didn't exactly look comfortable on a stage that large and I certainly don't see them as being the heir apparent to Metallica's arena filling throne [Slipknot is really the only metal band of the next generation that is in the running for that title which is unfortunate because the genre desperately needs some more bands to get in that queue, but that is a discussion for another day], but there is no denying that they have some great songs and can play well live. I was happy to hear personal (and apparently crowd) favorites like "Now You've Got Something To Die For", "Walk With Me In Hell", "Laid To Rest" and "Redneck". I do love LOG and look forward to seeing them again in the future, but perhaps in a more appropriate sized venue.

Feeling pretty happy with Volbeat and Lamb Of God's performances, I was getting a gut feeling that the evening was headed in the right direction. Earlier in the day I had mentioned to some friends that the concert would be ideal if Metallica played "Dyers Eve", "Fade To Black" and their cover of Killing Joke's "The Wait". In the land of Metallica fandom, hearing "Dyers Eve" live is considered to be a real rare treat, so my hopes were minimal that I would actually get to hear that or "The Wait" although I did have a pretty good feeling that "Fade To Black" was a at least a better than average possibility. Metallica stormed the stage and just like the night before opened with "That Was Just Your Life" and "The End Of The Line" from Death Magnetic. They then proceeded to absolutely level the place with "Creeping Death", "The Shortest Straw" and "Fade To Black". Those three songs in a row already placed this evening's show far above the night before, but Metallica wasn't done yet. After four more songs from Death Magnetic (including the excellent "My Apocalypse" and "The Judas Kiss" neither of which had been played the night before) and set list standards "Sad But True" and "One", they delivered the killer one-two punch of "Master Of Puppets" into "Dyers Eve". I was two out of three on my wish list and couldn't be happier. Next up was two more standards in "Nothing Else Matters" and "Enter Sandman" and then the band exited the stage to prepare for the encore. On this tour, Metallica always plays a cover song as the first song in their encore, so I was anxiously awaiting to see if my luck was good enough to get "The Wait". I didn't get it, but I did get the always awesome Misfits' cover "Last Caress" before they went into "Trapped Under Ice" from Ride The Lightning. Like "Dyers Eve", this was the first time I was ever getting to see the band play it live and I was absolutely floored. The night closed with another standard in "Seek And Destroy" and Kirk Hammett was doused with what appeared to be whip cream pies in celebration of his birthday at the end of the song by road crew and members of the opening bands.

All in all, it was an amazing weekend of live metal music courtesy of Metallica and further proof that they are more than deserving to be one of the biggest bands in the world.

Volbeat "The Garden's Tale"

Lamb Of God "Laid To Rest"

Metallica "Fade To Black"

Metallica "Dyers Eve"

Metallica "The Shortest Straw"

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Def Conversation With My Mom

Excerpts from an email conversation I had with my mom yesterday:

Mom: Weird, I was just wondering what DEF means in rock terms and then saw the album cover (there are DEFs other than Leppard, if I'm not mistaken - Deftones, etc.). Do you know?

Me: Yes, Deftones are another "Def" band. No others on my radar.

Mom: Isn't there a Def somebody in hip-hop?

Me: Ah yes, Mos Def.

Mom: See, I'm right on top of this shit!

Me: Ha, yes you are!


Me: Def can be slang for "definitely" and in hip hop it usually means for lack of a better term "awesome". Def Leppard was just mimicking Led Zeppelin and intentionally misspelled the word.

Mom: As in Awesome Leopard?

Me: No, this was before it was popularized by hip hop culture. They were trying to do something like Led Zeppelin....lead zeppelin...Def Leppard...deaf leopard.

Mom: Gotcha - that's kind of what I thought, but then the hip-hop thing confuses it.

Def Leppard "Rock Of Ages"

Deftones "Back To School"

Mos Def "Life In Marvelous Times"

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Rockin' Out: Metallica/Lamb Of God @ Madison Square Garden 11/14/09

So much for my Blackberry camera improvements. One step forward and two steps back.

Metallica descended upon Madison Square Garden for the first of two nights this past Saturday. They had Lamb Of God and Volbeat in tow as openers and as I was ready for a night of fun. We opted to have a beer or two after dinner instead of watching Volbeat (which I would find out the next night was a bad call) and enjoyed a few rousing Metallica sing alongs with the rest of the faithful at the bar. Texts started to come in that Lamb Of God was going on at 7:45, so we rushed across the street to get inside The Garden for the show. That night we were going to be standing on the floor and watching Metallica perform on an "in the round" stage as they have been doing for quite a while now. After being redirected to a different entrance, we made our way to the floor a song or two into Lamb Of God's set. I have seen Lamb Of God live enough times that I don't remember exactly how many times I've seen them now, but I do know that they are usually quite good. A friend that was with us had never seen them live was ready to be blown away after the talking up myself and a few others had given the band. Unfortunately, we were proved mightily wrong as they sounded terrible. Not like they weren't playing well, but more QUIET. We would later come to find that the particular spot we were standing in was to blame for the poor sound quality and not the band or their sound guy. Anyway, interest was lost quickly and we spent most of the set talking and not paying attention.

After LOG finished up, everyone began to prepare for the main event. I've seen Metallica a bunch of times since the early '90s and they are one of the premiere live rock bands of not only their generation, but I'd dare say of all-time. Having already seen them on this tour twice back in January/February, I knew to expect a bunch of songs from Death Magnetic mixed in with older material. My fingers were crossed that they would again ignore Reload and St. Anger and mercifully my prayers were answered (they also ignored Load, but I don't mind that album, so would have been OK with a song or two from that album). After their intro music, they hit the stage and cranked out "That Was Just Your Life" and "The End Of The Line" from Death Magnetic. Again, the sound was a little off and a few songs later my friend would discover that a new spot to stand in was all that was needed to hear the band better (I'm assuming this had something to do with the positioning of the speakers above the stage). Once that issue had been settled we were treated to classics like "Fight Fire With Fire", "Master Of Puppets", "One", the Bob Seger cover "Turn The Page" as well as the Diamond Head cover "Helpless" and show closer "Seek And Destroy". That being said, I wasn't wild about the night's set list (which you can see in it's entirety here), but even on a night where the set list may not be what you hoped for, Metallica is still better than most bands out there in the live setting.

We left MSG happy, but not blown away. Thankfully, the next night would prove to be a completely different story......

Lamb Of God "Black Label"

Metallica "Fight Fire With Fire"

Metallica "Broken, Beat & Scarred"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Turbo Lover

The past two weeks I have been on a major Judas Priest kick. As a teenager, Judas Priest was on my radar, but I wasn't as into them as their peers Iron Maiden and Motorhead. I don't have a really detailed answer as to why I wasn't as into them as other bands of their stature...I just wasn't. Hits like "Breaking The Law", "Living After Midnight", "You Got Another Thing Coming", "Painkiller" and so on and so forth were always fun to hear or see the videos for, but I never went out of my way to check out Judas Priest.

As time marches on and my love for metal grows and my musical palate continues to become more refined, I've gone back and discovered and rediscovered many older metal bands that I skipped over when I was first exploring the genre. Judas Priest is one of those bands I've rediscovered. I will admit to kicking myself a bit for letting them pass me by on the first go round, but thankfully they are still out there touring and putting on quality live shows (not unlike the aforementioned Iron Maiden and Motorhead) and the recorded music is still a fantastic snapshot of where they were back then.

There seems to be a general consensus on what Halford-era Priest albums are the best of the bunch (British Steel, Screaming For Vengeance and Painkiller among others) and which albums are stinkers (Turbo and Ram It Down). On a recent episode of VH1 Classic's "That Metal Show", Slayer's Kerry King and Dave Lombardo talked about how terrible they think Turbo is. Again, the awfulness of Turbo seems to be an across the board opinion among Priest fans, but this left me I the only person who likes this album? Honestly, I really don't think it is that bad at all. Perhaps it is a product of me not being that into the band back in the 80's and therefore not feeling that this was a "sellout" record. Sure, maybe they were trying to fit in with the hookier synth sound that was happening at the time, but at least they did a good job with it. I'd rather listen to it than anything Bon Jovi was doing at the time.

Does it measure up to just about anything else they did up to and including Painkiller? Not at all, but it is hardly the pile of steaming dog crap most people make it out to be. I think "Turbo Lover" is one of the catchier Priest songs ever written.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Heavy Metal Social Distortion

Social Distortion is a cool band. I am not a mega fan, but the self-titled and Somewhere Between Heaven And Hell albums are definitely fun listens. So why am I talking about Social Distortion?

Last night, I saw a band called Volbeat open up for Metallica and Lamb Of God at Madison Square Garden. A few months ago I had heard one of their songs on Sirius, thought it sounded pretty interesting and went to their Myspace page to hear some more. I remember not being particularly impressed and subsequently forgot about them. When I heard they were opening for Metallica, it didn't even cross my mind to get to the show early and check them out; however, the folks I was headed to the show with did want to see them, so I tagged along and went in with low expectations. One of the better feelings one can have in life is when expectations are not only exceeded, but blown out of the water.

Volbeat struck me as a metallized version of Social Distortion (both bands share an obvious and proud affinity for Johnny Cash) or like Sweden's Transport League with a rockabilly influence. The fact that they covered a Cash song and a Misfits song in the same set, have a song called "Mr. & Mrs. Ness" (which I assume is a nod to Social Distortion main man Mike Ness) are opening for Metallica and are from Denmark about says it all. I was truly impressed with their brief 30 minute much so, that as soon as I got home I went on Amazon and purchased their album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood and listened to it right away. I was relieved to find that the album held up to the power of the live show. I guess when I listened to them the first time around I just wasn't in the mood for their style of music (and let's face it, listening to music on Myspace is a terrible way to first experience a band). I'm curious to see them perform in a smaller venue and with a longer set, so here's hoping they continue to tour in the States next year.

"Radio Girl"

"Mary Ann's Place"


"The Garden's Tale"

"Sad Man's Tongue"

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back In The Day: Death Metal Album Covers

These days most of us are acquiring our music digitally through either legal or illegal channels. I think it is great that music is more widely available than ever before, at much lower costs and that catalog once thought hopelessly impossible to find is now just a few keystrokes away, but one thing I do miss is the experience of going to the record store and looking at album artwork. I can't recollect how many albums I bought growing up without ever hearing a single note just because the album cover looked awesome. On the one hand, it is great that we can sample anything before we purchase it, but on the other, there was a great deal of fun involved in diving into the unknown based purely on the visuals accompanying the packaged music.

When I was a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Washington DC, one of my favorite Saturday activities was to go to Tower Records and dig through the CD racks (and cassette racks for a while) and listening booths to find new albums to buy. Much to my delight, 0ne of the Tower Records locations I frequented had a section dedicated to metal. I was never the biggest death metal guy in the world and only listened to a handful of bands (who I still love and listen to today), but I did get a huge kick out of looking at the album covers while sifting through all those metal CDs. I recently ordered a copy of Death's Leprosy online. That is one of the death metal album covers from my youth that really sticks out in my memory and it got me thinking about what other covers really grabbed my eye back in the day. Not all of the bands below are considered death metal, but they were at a minimum considered part of the extreme metal scene at the time.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

List Mania

I cannot believe that 2009 is almost over. This has got to be one of the fastest moving years of my life. Anyway, as 2010 approaches, I am preparing to make my year end list of favorite records. I tend to alternate the number of albums on the list every year, but this year is looking like it will be a Top 25. I don't know exactly how many new albums came out this year (although I'm sure it is an outrageously high number), but my list will be based on the 98 albums I acquired over the course of the year, all of which are listed below in alphabetical order:
  1. AFI – Crash Love
  2. Against Me! – The Original Cowboy
  3. Agoraphobic Nosebleed – Agorapocalypse
  4. Alice In Chains – Black Gives Way To Blue
  5. …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – Century Of Self
  6. Animals As Leaders – s/t
  7. Baroness – The Blue Album
  8. Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend
  9. Between The Buried And Me – The Great Misdirect
  10. The Big Pink – A Brief History Of Love
  11. Billy Talent – Billy Talent III
  12. Black Lips – 200 Million Thousand
  13. Brand New – Daisy
  14. Brutal Truth – Evolution Through Revolution
  15. Built To Spill – There Is No Enemy
  16. Burnt By The Sun – Heart Of Darkness
  17. Cannibal Corpse – Evisceration Plague
  18. Celeste – Misanthrope(s)
  19. Chairlift – Does You Inspire You
  20. City Of Ships – Look What God Did To Us
  21. Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West
  22. Coalesce – Ox
  23. Coalesce – OX EP
  24. The Company Band – s/t
  25. Converge – Axe To Fall
  26. Crooked Fingers – Forfeit/Fortune
  27. Dead Weather – Horehound
  28. Deer Tick – Born On Flag Day
  29. The Devin Townsend Project – Addicted
  30. Dinosaur Jr. – Farm
  31. Dredg – The Pariah, The Parrot, The Delusion
  32. Drive-By Truckers – The Fine Print (A Collection Of Oddities and Rarities 2003 – 2008)
  33. Dysrhythmia – Psychic Maps
  34. Steve Earle – Townes
  35. Eminem – Relapse
  36. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
  37. Flight Of The Conchords – I Told You I Was Freaky
  38. Future Of The Left – Travels With Myself And Another
  39. Gallows – Grey Britain
  40. Goes Cube – Another Day Has Passed
  41. Green Day – 21st Century Breakdown
  42. Greymachine – Disconnected
  43. PJ Harvey – A Woman A Man Walked By
  44. Heartless Bastards – The Mountain
  45. Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know
  46. Patterson Hood – Murdering Oscar (And Other Love Songs)
  47. L’Homme Puma - On Remplace Les Yeux Cass├ęs
  48. Howl – Howl
  49. Katatonia – Night Is The New Day
  50. If These Trees Could Talk – Above The Earth, Below The Sky
  51. Iron Age – The Sleeping Eye
  52. Isis – Wavering Radiant
  53. Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit – s/t
  54. Jay–Z – The Blueprint 3
  55. Jesu – Infinity
  56. Jesu – Opiate Sun
  57. Killswitch Engage – Killswitch Engage
  58. Kreator – Hordes of Chaos
  59. Kylesa – Static Tensions
  60. Lamb Of God – Wrath
  61. Lucero – 1372 Overton Park
  62. The Manchester Orchestra – Mean Everything To Nothing
  63. Marcy Playground – Leaving Wonderland…In A Fit Of Rage
  64. Mastodon – Crack The Skye
  65. Matt and Kim – Grand
  66. Megadeth – Endgame
  67. Mono – Hymn To The Immortal Wind
  68. Mount Eerie – Wind’s Poem
  69. Muse – The Resistance
  70. MUTEMATH – Armistice
  71. Napalm Death – Time Waits For No Slave
  72. NOFX – Coaster
  73. Noisettes – Wild Young Heart
  74. Obscura – Cosmogenesis
  75. Pelican – Ephemeral
  76. Pelican – What We All Come To Need
  77. A Place To Bury Strangers – Exploding Head
  78. Poison The Well – The Tropic Rot
  79. Portugal. The Man – The Satanic Satanist
  80. Revocation – Existence Is Futile
  81. Russian Circles – Geneva
  82. Scale The Summit – Carving Desert Canyons
  83. Shadows Fall – Retribution
  84. Shrinebuilder – s/t
  85. Silversun Pickups – Swoon
  86. Skeletonwitch – Breathing The Fire
  87. Slayer – World Painted Blood
  88. Sonic Youth – The Eternal
  89. Telekinesis – Telekinesis!
  90. Them Crooked Vultures – s/t
  91. Tombs – Winter Hours
  92. U2 – No Line On The Horizon
  93. Weezer – Raditude
  94. Where The Wild Things Are – Soundtrack (Karen O. and The Kids)
  95. White Lies – To Lose My Life
  96. Wolfmother – Cosmic Egg
  97. Wolves In The Throne Room – Black Cascade
  98. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz

One Dream That Won't Come True

Last night I had a dream that I had traveled to Atlantic City to see a Metallica concert and upon arrival discovered that Phil Collins had been announced as a special guest opener. In the dream, I watched both Phil Collins and Metallica perform and was ecstatic. However, when I woke up the next morning (still part of the dream) I was upset because I had drank too much and didn't remember their performances clearly, but was happy when I remembered that I would be seeing them again that evening. The dream went on a little big longer and then I eventually woke up in the real world and realized that I am actually seeing Metallica twice this weekend, but Lamb Of God will be the opener and not Phil Collins.

A couple of hours later I put the following update on my Facebook: had a dream last night that he went to see Metallica in Atlantic City and Phil Collins was announced as the surprise opener. Maybe Lamb Of God will do a Genesis cover this weekend and my dream will come partly true.

A friend commented on the update and mentioned (sarcastically) Disturbed's "Land of Confusion" cover. I don't like Disturbed, but I don't hate them either (in all honestly, I can actually enjoy Down With The Sickness every once in a while). The comment did get me thinking about Phil Collins/Genesis covers out there and one is actually hard pressed to find a really spectacular one. Phil Collins as a solo artist and as a member of Genesis has generated a more than respectable amount of hits and quality music (someday I will write a blog about the roots of my fondness for Phil Collins), so it is a bit surprising that (at least to my knowledge) he hasn't been covered more often. I know there was a Phil Collins hip-hop/R&B tribute album called Urban Renewal and along with Disturbed, Nonpoint, The Postal Service and Mariah Carey have had some mildy popular covers, but nothing really of particular note.

Anyway, I compiled a few covers of various Phil Collins and Genesis songs that I found on YouTube. Some are good, some are bad and some are completely misinformed and are just further proof that best way to enjoy Phil Collins and Genesis is by listening to the originals.

Disturbed "Land Of Confusion"

Nonpoint "In The Air Tonight"

Patterson Hood "In The Air Tonight"

The Postal Service "Against All Odds"

Bone Thugs-n-Harmony "Home"

Mariah Carey "Against All Odds"

Keane "That's All"

Ol' Dirty Bastard "Sussudio"

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

School Is A Job, But You Don't Get Paid

I never got into hardcore with the exception of Sick Of It All's Scratch The Surface and everything Snapcase did from Progression Through Unlearning on, but some of the crossover acts definitely appealed to my metal sensibilities. D.R.I. was one of the more well known crossover bands and my metal friends and I definitely dug 'em. This morning while out for a run with my iPod's newly created 90's metal playlist on shuffle (I did a smart playlist that pulled together all releases between '89 - '99 in the metal genre), the song "Beneath The Wheel" from D.R.I.'s Thrash Zone came up. I haven't listened to this album in a long time, but remember this particular song being somewhat of an anthem in high school (for me at least) because of the lyric "Run! Make the grade, School's a job, but you don't get paid". While Dirty Rotten LP and Dealing With It are usually considered their greatest albums, Thrash Zone has always been my personal favorite and hearing the great "single" Beneath The Wheel this morning has me fired up to listen to not only Thrash Zone, but some other crossover acts like Suicidal Tendencies and Corrosion Of Conformity (both were considered crossover before they turned into full-on metal bands and thank God they went the metal route because they put out absolutely amazing albums after their transformations...two of my all-time favorites!).

D.R.I. "Beneath The Wheel"

Suicidal Tendencies "How Will I Laugh Tomorrow"

Corrosion Of Conformity "Intervention"

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Rockin' Out: Wolfmother/The Heartless Bastards @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 11/09/09

Not great pictures, but not the usual blurred mess that my Blackberry camera normally produces. Three cheers for progress!

Wolfmother and Heartless Bastards rolled into the hipster capital of the East Coast on Monday night to play The Music Hall of Williamsburg. I'd never seen Wolfmother live before, but was curious to see them since I am a big fan of their self-titled debut album (and this year's release Cosmic Egg is pretty good too) and having seen The Heartless Bastards twice already this year, I knew they could be counted on for a good show. Originally, this tour was only going to play the dreadful Terminal 5 in Manhattan, but much to my delight they added a second date at at the smaller and far superior (sound wise) Music Hall. The trek to Brooklyn to laugh at a few hipsters and take in a good show was a no brainer.

The Heartless Bastards first came to my attention after I saw them them open for The Black Keys back in February and subsequently picked up this year's The Mountain. I don't love all alt-country, but there are certainly a few bands that are masters of that genre and I now count the Heartless Bastards as part of that crowd. Singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom has one of those beautiful whiskey soaked throaty voices (she was actually drinking a Jack and ginger out of a coffee cup on stage...or so she claimed after an audience member admonished her for drinking coffee) that is probably the envy of many of her male counterparts. The band is tight and the songs are rockin' affairs informed by a country influence. They worked through a few technical difficulties like pros and didn't allow lulls in the action. If you are a fan of Lucero, The Black Keys, Drive-By Truckers, etc., then this is the band for you without a doubt.

When we were entering the venue, an extremely intoxicated college aged looking guy was getting denied entrance at the door. I didn't catch all of what was going on, but he was protesting about his ticket while the bouncer explained to him he was being turned away because he was too drunk. Bummer bro. That did make me realize that I had never really considered what a Wolfmother audience was going to look like. As it turned out, it looked a lot like the drunk college kid I saw outside, but mixed in with a few older rock dude types and was probably a 60/40 split between men and women. When Wolfmother came out and started playing the crowd was extremely fired up (as is usually expected when the headliner hits the stage), but what I didn't see coming was a mosh pit during the hit from their first album "Woman". Maybe this is me being a music snob or being older and a bit jaded or both, but the whole scene just struck me as so Woodstock ' know, a bunch of idiots moshing to music just for the sake of being aggressive. More than once, one of said idiots got on the stage and almost disturbed the ebb and flow of the set by flailing around a little too close to the band, but were promptly thrown off stage by security. That kind of stuff is just fine at a punk rock or hardcore show, but this was a rock n roll performance....audience participation is meant to be kept in the actual audience. One dufus actually knocked the mic off the stand and spent what felt like an eternity, but was more like 30 seconds, drunkenly fumbling with it to get it back on. Hey, at least he had some manners. That being said, even a bunch of drunk dipshits couldn't ruin what was a surprisingly spectacular set by Wolfmother.

Wolfmother only has singer/guitarist Andrew Stockdale remaining from the line-up that recorded their self-titled debut and as evidenced by the latest album Cosmic Egg and last night's performance, Wolfmother is really his vehicle. Original founding members, bassist/keyboardist Chris Ross and drummer Myles Heskett quit the band over the ever popular "irreconcilable personal and musical differences" and have been replaced my more than competent players as well as a second guitarist. I did notice during the set that Stockdale gave more than a few disapproving glances at his new keyboardist/bassist when their were slight imperfections in the playing/sound, so maybe the guy is a bit of a tyrant and hard to get along with, but who knows. Anyway, the simplest (and probably most accurate) way to describe Wolfmother is that they are a throwback to the more jammy 70's hard rock ala Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, Mountain, etc., but without being so derivative that it gets boring or screams "retro" too loudly. They came out, turned it up to 11 and rocked it out. There were no bathroom break songs (which was unfortunate because Stella can go right through you) and Stockdale showed that the new (and improved?) Wolfmother is a force to be reckoned with.

Heartless Bastards "Out To Sea"

Heartless Bastards "The Mountain"

Wolfmother "Mind's Eye"

Wolfmother "Joker And The Thief"

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Fear Factory Sounds Like Old Fear Factory, But...

not quite as awesome. The first three Fear Factory albums, Soul Of A New Machine, Demanufacture and Obsolete, are personal favorites of mine, but on their fourth release, Digimortal, they lost me. To be fair, I haven't revisited that album since it came out in 2001 and there is a possibility that I might like it now, but at the time it came out, I thought it sounded like a failed attempt by Fear Factory to catch up with the nu-metal bands that were currently enjoying radio airplay and favorable record sales at the time. There was also well documented rumors of internal strife in the band between guitarist Dino Cazares and singer Burton C. Bell at the time that may (or may not) have contributed to the album not fulfilling the promise that was shown on earlier material. The band "broke up" after Digimortal and then got back together sans Dino and recorded two more albums. I did like the title track off of the first of those two albums, Archetype, but never felt the urge to check out the entire album or even bother with the second one.

Recently, Dino and Burton apparently made amends and decided to reform Fear Factory. The catch is that original drummer Raymond Herrera and long time bassist/guitarist Christian Olde Wolbers (he played guitar on the two releases Dino wasn't on) weren't invited to the party. I believe there were/are some legal disputes happening over the name between the two parties, but ultimately, for the fans, Fear Factory isn't Fear Factory without Burton's vocals and Dino's guitar playing. Byron Stroud and Gene Hoglan of Strapping Young Lad fame have been added on bass and drums respectively to make what sounds like, on paper at least, a pretty damn fine line-up. I don't know much about Stroud besides his work in SYL, but Hoglan is a monster of a metal drummer with a great resume including the aforementioned SYL as well as Dark Angel, Testament and Death among others.

A new track from this latest incarnation of Fear Factory has been "leaked". It sounds good and definitely has my curiosity piqued as to what the rest of the album will sound like. I don't expect to be floored like I was by their earlier material, but if they at least come close, then I'll be happy.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Whatever Happened To....

The Flys and Sponge? Actually, I don't care what happened to them at all. Like so many bands of the 90s, they each had one amazing song on an album that was otherwise terrible. And record executives wondered why people started flocking like crazy to the the internet to get their music for free....paying $18.99 for a CD with ONE good song on it is not even in the ballpark of a bargain. You screw people over, then eventually you are going to get screwed back. (Hops off soapbox) Anyway, the word "hit" is used in the phrase one hit wonder for a reason...both these songs are great:

The Flys "Got You (Where I Want You)"

Sponge "Plowed"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Long Island...The 51st State?

Last night I journeyed to Long Island for a show and had an absolute blast people watching. From the dude in the TapouT t-shirt and the other dude in the Affliction t-shirt (still can't believe I didn't see one Ed Hardy shirt) to the 40 something rocker chicks still dressing like it was the 80's to the 250 pound 15 year old teenagers in ill-fitting death metal t-shirts it was all quite a sight to behold.

Long Island is a locale that is often teased about its stereotypes and some of its residents make those stereotypes difficult to refute (just like any other city, state or geographical region that is saddled with stereotypes) and last night on the ride home as my snobby Manhattan friends and I (that was sarcasm) joked about the Long Island locals, it reminded me of a piece The Daily Show did a few months back about Long Island wanting to secede from New York and become it's own state. This being The Daily Show, obviously this is not something that is really a true news issue, but the piece they put together is absolutely hilarious. Even if you have no concept of some of the Long Island stereotypes, the poor idiots they suckered into appearing for this piece will still have you howling with laughter.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Long Island Wants to Secede

Rockin' Out: The Black Dahlia Murder/Skeletonwitch/Toxic Holocaust/Trap Them @ The Crazy Donkey 11/03/09

Seriously, what the hell is up with my Blackberry camera. I was about 4 or 5 rows back for Skeletonwitch and it still took blurry pictures that make it look like I was a mile away. God damn.

Last Friday night a friend of mine mentioned that he was headed out to The Crazy Donkey in Long Island, NY to see The Black Dahlia Murder, Skeletonwitch, Toxic Holocaust and Trap Them this week. Having been really impressed with Skeletonwitch the one and only time I saw a live performance of theirs, I was very curious to check them out again. I was also curious about Trap Them as I had heard good things and having seen The Black Dahlia Murder and Toxic Holocaust live before, I knew they were at least somewhat fun live bands (even though I'm not really into either band's music).

First up was Trap Them. For some reason I was under the impression that these guys were deathcore, but was pleasantly surprised to see they are more heavy, faster, droney with elements of grind kind of sounding stuff (got that?). A couple of my buddies I was there with are huge Trap Them friends and told me that this particular live show wasn't doing them justice and that I needed to hear some studio stuff to truly appreciate them. I'm sold. Definitley going to check out their last release at some point in the near future.

Next was Toxic Holocaust. I've seen these guys live twice before and both times wandered off to another part of the venue after two or three songs. They love Venom and Slayer and it shows in their sound, but unfortunately it shows a little too much. It is one thing to wear your influences on your sleeve, but another to sound like a cover band. People seem to love these guys though for whatever reason. I don't hate it, but I don't much care for all.

Now it was time for the main event (for me at least) as Skeletonwitch hit the stage. These guys look like a cross between full on 80's thrash metal dudes and bikers from the show Sons Of Anarchy playing thrash mixed with black metal or black metal thrash metal style....however you want to say it. The singer is one of the best frontmen to emerge in the newest class of metal bands....he does all the cheesy "Satan" "Metal" "Beer" ranting between songs, but he is completely taking the piss out of it. Don't get me wrong, these guys are metal to the core, but they are also just having fun playing music and not taking the imagery too seriously. I love Skeletonwitch's albums Beyond The Permafrost and Breathing The Fire, but they do not capture how powerful the band is live. Hopefully on their next album they will find a producer that can translate their live performances into a studio recording properly. On another note, I always know I really liked a band's performance when I head over to the merch booth after their set and buy a shirt and that is exactly what I did after Skeletonwitch's performance last night. Two thumbs way up.

Closing the night was The Black Dahlia Murder and that is clearly who the majority of the crowd was there to see. I'm not particularly into this band, but they put on a fun show. The singer usually takes his shirt off at some point during the show to reveal his substantial beer gut with the word "HEARTBURN" tattooed across it and then storms around the stage like a mad man. Like Skeletonwitch, these guys are just taking the piss out of it and having fun, but the music isn't really my cup of tea. It's pretty much average death metal and in death metal, average simply doesn't cut it, but the kids seem to love 'em, so God bless.

After all that metal and still facing the drive back to the city from Long Island, we made a group decision to give ourselves our own internal "HEARTBURN" tattoos and hit up Taco Bell before the drive home:All in all, a fun night of metal, people watching (Long Island is like it's own country, but more on that in a separate post) and delicious fast food.

Trap Them "Flesh And Below"

Toxic Holocaust "Nuke The Cross"

Skeletonwitch "Repulsive Salvation"

The Black Dahlia Murder "Funeral Thirst"

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Happy Slayer Day

I've never met a Slayer album I didn't like...some are just better than others. Most Slayer fans would agree that the three albums released between 1986 and 1990, Reign In Blood, South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss are the bands best with most picking Reign In Blood as the ultimate Slayer album. While I do love Reign In Blood, I've always leaned towards South Of Heaven and Seasons In The Abyss in a tie for #1 as my favorite Slayer. Today, Slayer released World Painted Blood, their 10th studio album (11th if you count the covers record Undisputed Attitude) and as I've come to expect with this band, it is awesome. There is no real descriptive review I can write of the band's sound because it simply sounds like Slayer and either you love that sound or you don't (and shame on you if you don't).

What I can say about World Painted Blood is that it is the best Slayer album since 1998's Diabolus In Musica. That isn't a dig on God Hates Us All or Christ Illusion (the two albums released between Diabolus and WPB) as they are both great, but this one is the first in a while to strike a healthy balance between fast, heavy Slayer and more "melodic" Slayer which is a recipe that worked nothing short of perfectly on Seasons In The Abyss. The album is excellent from start to finish, but my early favorites are "Beauty Through Order", "Playing With Dolls" and "Snuff".

I will also say that (and this might be a reflection of my age) the new Slayer is also better than a large majority of albums put out this year by newer metal bands. It is good to know that the "old guys" still have some tricks (and chops and licks) up their sleeves and that along with their peers in The Big Four Metallica (Death Magnetic) and Megadeth (Endgame) they can still put out great records (although Slayer has never had horribly misguided journeys in new directions in their sound like those two). Now if only Anthrax would get it together.....

"Playing With Dolls"


"Beauty Through Order"

World Painted Blood Digital Press Release

Monday, November 2, 2009

Drunk Ewoks Equal Ratings Bonanza

I am not The Today Show's target audience by a long shot (at least for their sake I hope I'm not because they are failing miserably at getting me to watch if that is the case), but perhaps if they had more segments like this, then I'd tune in more regularly because nothing says male, 18-35 demo more than drunken Ewoks humping Al Roker's leg, doing the moonwalk and grabbing vodka martinis. To his credit, Al Roker is cracking up and thinks it is hilarious (I've heard him on Howard Stern before and he actually seems like a pretty chill guy), but the female anchors (and guest) get visibly annoyed. Supposedly, midgets were hired to wear the Ewok costumes and imbibed before they went on camera. If that is true, then god bless them because this is internet video entertainment that the whole family can enjoy.

It starts off slow, but right around the 2:00 mark things start getting pee your pants funny:

Rockin' Out: Mastodon/Converge @ Hammerstein Ballroom 10/30/09

More terrible Blackberry camera pictures to go along with a fantastic show.

I've seen both Mastodon and Converge live multiple times (and once before on the same bill), so I knew that I was in a for a good evening of live metal music. High On Fire was opening the show, but their 6:30pm start time interfered with pre-show drink and food plans and Dethklok was the headliner, but to quote a guy I overheard talking to his buddy in the bathroom line "I can watch cartoons at home.", so this show was all about the meat in the middle of the sandwich if you will.

Converge's live performances, not unlike their recorded albums, are a chaotic the most beautiful way possible. Singer Jacob Bannon's unintelligible vocal style would be dismissed by non-metalheads as simple screaming, but for those of us who appreciate harsher vocal styles, he is one of the premiere singers in the metal world. There is such passion and fury behind not only his vocal style, but the playing of guitarist Kurt Ballou, bassist Nate Newton and drummer Ben Koller as well that it is hard not to pump your fist in the air and bang your head when they bulldoze through their sets. Underneath all the noise and chaos is very intelligent songwriting, playing, melodies and grooves. It was also cool to hear songs from Converge's recently released opus Axe To Fall (which will definitely be in my Top 5 albums of the year). That album has a healthy amount of guest musicians, but they still pulled the songs off as a four piece with ease and lost none of the recorded versions power and fury.

Mastodon's new album Crack The Skye has been growing on me more and more as the year goes on. Not that I didn't like it at first, but it did take me a little time to warm up to it. Good thing because the band opened up their set by playing the album in it's entirety complete with a screen showing a "movie" behind them to accompany the songs. [My friend and I were discussing whether they pulled old movie clips or whether the band had had this stuff filmed specifically for them. I could probably Google that and answer my own question, but ultimately I don't really care that much. It looked cool and that is what matters.] But what's more important than a fancy stage set is good songs played well live and Mastodon delivers in spades. Mastodon has been getting a larger and more expansive audience over the course of their four albums and seeing them on a larger stage with a more sophisticated sound and light show, it is really easy to understand why. It is cool to see a band that is rooted in extreme metal have the mainstream starting to come to them (not in droves, but hey, you gotta convert one person at a time). The cherry on the top of the metal sundae was that they closed with a cover of "Emerald" by Thin Lizzy with Nate Newton from Converge on vocals.

Converge "No Heroes"

Converge "The Broken Vow"

Mastodon "Oblivion"

Mastodon "Divinations"