Tuesday, July 22, 2014
I'm just going to get right to the point. This is my favorite album, ever. Out of all the albums I've ever listened to and could choose from, this is it. I'm not saying this is the best album of all time or making any grand declaration like that. Just that if you want to make me really happy, put this album on. It will do the trick, no matter the mood, no matter the occasion.
This was probably Living Colour at their absolute commercial peak. Their first album had the crushing hit “Cult of Personality”, and they never wrote another song that captured the public like that one. But that first album wasn't that great. Good enough to get people's attention, but nothing compared to this one. And let's just address the elephant in the room. This band got a lot of attention and press because they were an all black band playing music that was not traditionally played by an all black band. I think this also caused a lot of problems for them, because the music industry, in the late 80's and early 90's, with MTV in full flight, HAD to have a way to pigeon hole a band and make them fit into nice, neat categories. This is a band of amazing jazz musicians who came together to play this amazing blend of rock, funk, soul, jazz, pretty much anything they wanted to throw into the mix, because that's how good they are.
There is some absolutely mind blowing music on this album. “Love Rears Its Ugly Head” is a love song, but not in the usual sense. It's probably the best summation of what it feels like to be a guy when you find that first woman that you really fall for as an adult. No mushy high school romance, but as a young adult and you find that woman that really makes you ponder what it could be like to spend the rest of your life with someone. The fact that its a funky little jam with a nice sense of humor makes it all the better.
“Elvis Is Dead” is my favorite track on this album. The song is a little dated, but if you were alive in 1990 when this album was released, there was almost a hysteria among Elvis fans that he just couldn't be dead, and the tabloids had a field day with reports of Elvis sightings, theories on how he was still alive and hiding out, etc. I have to honest. I have always despised Elvis. I have never found any redeeming qualities in his music. I have never understood the hype. And if today, you despise the Justin Biebers of the world, you can thank Elvis. He was the first manufactured pop idol. All manner of pop culture was “borrowed” from to create the Elvis persona. A lot of his moves, style of singing, and stage manner was taken from black artists. To have a black band write a song like this, taking back their own, stating openly that they were fed up with the Elvis worship, was an awesome thing. This song captures it all and tells it like it is. Also, it might be another thing that kept this band from being as big as they should have been.
There is a ton of great music on this album. The other song I will mention specifically is “Solace of You”. It's a beautiful song, a meditation almost on how we can have a person in our lives who is our home, in whom we can find solace no matter what else is going on in our lives or in the world around us. It is a wonderful dialing back of the power of this band, which has blazed on through track after track for about 45 minutes at this point. It's a great opportunity to catch your breath and to see another side of a band that just could do no wrong on this album.
You've probably gotten the point that to me this is a monster of an album. This is a fantastic concoction of 4 musicians who are masters of their instruments, who are at the height of their powers as a band, and who just open up and let it roar. They tackle social issues of the time and if you really care about what is going on in society it is not an easy listen. As powerful as the music itself is, the lyrics are just as powerful and they are worth a listen. It's worth it to sit down with this CD booklet and follow along with the lyrics. Corey Glover is a gifted singer and lyricist and he has a lot to say.
If you heard these guys back in the day but just thought of them as some novelty act, you really need to listen to this again. If you were a fan but haven't heard this music in a long time, you need to listen to this again. And if you've never heard this band, you need to listen to this. This is what music should be about. No easy genre definitions, no fear as to topics being addressed, 4 guys letting it absolutely rip and daring us all to keep up. Grab on and hold on tight. It's well worth it. Start with this album and check out the rest of their catalog. You will be much better for it.
Monday, July 21, 2014
For the lazy: Clawing Into Black Sun is a "covers-type" album by a doom/black metal band. Think Graveyard Classics-type records done by Nachtmystium, except... Wolvhammer are good enough songwriters to make this seemingly-"covers" album an original work. This is a covers album done by a band from an extreme metal genre who are actually great songwriters.
Opener, "The Silver Key," nice intro, and nice dynamics-- gives the blast beats time to work and time for the listener to heal.
"Lethe," track two, ambient sounds effects, not unlike Salome's only record, brief, then "Death Division," the most straightforward, "rock"-ish track here, a bit like something off Wolverine Blues. Borderline catchy, like Sisters of Mercy on Quaaludes. Sounds like a less-indulgent Nachtmystium. Played acoustically, you'd probably never notice this was metal. It might come off as more morbid alt-country, something like Sturgill Simpson.
Arvo Pärt's doomy black metal. Doom rock? Death and roll?
"Slaves to the grime," "The Desanctification," are, to put it mildly, quite rocking tunes....
"In Reverence" rageful, ends hauntingly
This is not black metal, it's too crude and slow: black stone, not black rock-- black monolith?
All the songs are fairly long; "Death rock" works as a descriptor; almost like an emo, 120 minutes-type of band that's too angry and despairing to write music that won't scare off their intended audience. They're too intense to pull off emo. Heehee. Nachtmystium-like. Jeff Wilson, guitarist, is ex-Nachtmystium. So, figures.
"A light that doesn't yield." Thin, abstract, flatted-third type chords that sound like Jack Johnson warped through a Absinthe-stained glass. Builds and builds and seems to progress, but inevitable doesn't. A good thing: highlights the despair of the underlying emotions. Trapped. Claustrophobic. Gregorian blackened death rock. Listen with earphones, and your skull will resound with these hymns like a mausoleum echoing with the hymns of mourners long departed the overgrown sepulcher. Jesus Christ that was poetic.
The building chants at the end of the song should be awesome live.
"When the edge of the razor is what you need." The adaptable, ever-evolving dirge.
"Clawing into black sun." Simple, stone chords (not metal) over a r-tard-played primal beat. For when you wake up in a new place and realize it's hell. And there's been no mistake; you're supposed to be there. Sounds like something off Assassins.
"Black! Black! Black! Black!" nice. Like the 1954 Richard Matheson short story, "Dance of the dead," e.g., "To flesh insensate!" etc. Like that generation's plaints of despair, of agony, of redemption. Prayers.
Black, ashen prayers. And Clawing Into Black Sun knows how to end. It just stops. No ambiance, no echoes, just... done.
It's a consistent sound: the baleful cries of your very tissues when they're infected, or burning, or cancerous; when, if you're being honest with yourself, you realize that you were poorly designed for life.
Music that teaches you how to die.
Jesus Christ. I'm gonna go watch Good Luck Charlie on Netflix now for some ear bleach.
Sunday, July 20, 2014
When I switched to vinyl in 2013, I gave a lot of thought to what my first purchase would be. I spent many hours scouring over heavy music on Bandcamp, Youtube and Soundcloud, and ultimately I landed on the freshly released Vol. II by Spelljammer from STB Records. The long, monolithic songs beckoned to me and I was excited to finally get that first vinyl into the collection.
Little did I know, the Spelljammer was a hard sell out and I would have to wait nearly three months to find a copy. I ended up snagging the All Them Witches debut, Our Mother Electricity as my first wax, but I remained deeply interested in the stoner/doom/sludge DIY scene and the amazing quality that is available from small labels like STB.
Flash forward a year, and STB is still at it. Now, with eight releases under their belt, and a determined commitment to feed profits into future releases, the label is better than ever, and so is the music.
Recently, I got a chance to spin a pre-release vinyl of the forthcoming Psychache from Hamden, Connecticut trio Curse The Son and I was thrilled to crack it open and see a beautiful tri-colored vinyl inside the creepy, black and white cover art. I plopped it down onto the trusty Pro-ject and what poured forth was a delectable slurry of shuddersome, majestic doom. Atmospheric, macabre and wonderfully menacing doom.
The album is filled with droning, heavy tracks highlighted with alluring tempo changes, bludgeoning riffs and revenant-esque vocals. Indeed, the entire production has an eerie revenant feel to it, and formidable tracks such as Spider Stole The Weed and Goodbye Henry Anslinger will have you reaching for your best bong and begging the incorporeal vibe to wash over you like a thick cemetery fog.
STB Records is releasing this vinyl in three distinctive versions, including the sexy tri-color black/white/grey version I reviewed limited to 125 copies, a clear, blood splattered with OBI version limited to 100 and a diehard edition with custom patch sporting a creamy bone and black blood splatter limited to 75. Each goes on sale promptly at 12pm EST, Saturday, July 26th.
While Psychache is surely no concept album, it gives the listener the same feeling that souls of the newly deceased must have experienced as Charon ferried them across the fabled river Styx. Climb into the blackened craft of madness and let them steer you along your own dreadful journey, my friends. It's a frothy ride of pure hedonistic pleasure.
I was 16. It was July. My dad was making me get things for our 4th of July party from town. My buddy, Jamie, was riding with me. A kid at school had recently burned me a copy of The Gorillaz "Demon Days." I put it in the stereo for the first time. It was one of my first introductions to a modern concept album. Damn it was good.
It hardly seems like nearly a decade has gone by since this album was released. I always listen to it around this time of year; not because of nostalgia or anything, it's just one of my "Summer Spins". Albums like Nada Surf's "High/Low" (Review here: http://ripplemusic.blogspot.com/2014/02/nada-surf-highlow.html) and Radiohead's "Pablo Honey" also make it in there. Maybe those are strange choices for summer, but they just sound like the season to me.
Anyway, maybe I'm biased, but this record really hasn't aged at all. Maybe that's because it's just that good, maybe it's because music hasn't progressed much in the last 9 years. I think the argument could be made either way, but, really, the music on this album is just that good.
I think it was the first record that showed me you could do more with all these new styles of music than what was being done. And there aren't many popular modern styles which aren't represented somewhere, somehow, in these songs. Even down to specific bands (does anyone else hear heavy influences from The Vines in O Green World?)
I just wanted to write a quick little blurb about this, but it's July 4, so I'm going to go eat some catfish, drink some beer, and play with fire.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Before we get into Big Sky, Black Horse I feel obligated to admit Bennington Triangle Blues was the first album on vinyl that I ever owned and purchased solely on my own. Now that may come as a shocker to some, but truth be told my parents weren't music freaks like me. I wasn't exposed to records nor did I care to purchase a piece of plastic, or wax I guess it is, to play on a record player, or turntable I suppose they call them, that I never owned. I've always been drawn to music since a young age, too young for a record player to be the most practical device to use. I grew up on tapes, then CDs, and later digital. I'm a huge advocate of digital, always have and always will be. It wasn't until early this year (2014) that I decided to immerse myself into the world of vinyl junkyism.
Whether it was coincidence, divine intervention, or just me being my normal cheap ass self I saw the sale price at the Heavy Ripples big cartel store and was inspired to purchase the record. My copy of Bennington Triangle Blues will soon be joined by its latest brethren Big Sky, Black Horse and has since been reunited with Monobrow's self-titled on wax as well. All that rambling be told, let it be said, Big Sky, Black Horse absolutely destroys and I'm going to have trouble finding room on my shelf for it. After only half a year my collection is nearing 100 records of mostly all new bands and albums of many different styles that I absolutely love.
(Side note, there are several package deals on bandcamp for ordering multiple Monorbrow vinyl releases at a discounted rate including the new one linked with the self titled, and the self-titled with Bennington Triangle Blues)
I'm the first to admit that I'm not opposed to instrumental music. I just don't prefer it. That said, when an album like this comes around, and a few including King Dead, Brunt, and the latest Tumbleweed Dealer already have this year, I am all ears. In fact why ruin a good thing with sub-par vocals when you can put that added energy back into the real instruments to enhance the core of the heavy rock? Monobrow push the envelope with an invigorating blend of heavy riffs, catchy hooks, classic melodies and flawless transitions.
Cicada opens the record with a driving upbeat tune straight out of the classic rock handbook. It takes me directly back to the 70's, which is difficult because I was born in '81, yet I can feel the spirit of the 70's pumping through me like bell bottoms flapping in the wind. The song wastes no time showing the band’s diversity and the theme of the entire record. It transitions around a tripped out tribal drumbeat with a soft haunting riff that fades in and out for the remainder of the song reminding you that you are not alone.
These Mountains Don't Want Us Here, but they surely coax us with their canyons echoing with gusty melodic riffs. Like realizing your worst nightmare is only a dream and waking up to the reality that supersedes your nightmare. The grinding riff at the 5:10 mark swallows you limb by limb, slowly churning away it's groove into your cavity for the remainder of the song before spitting you out onto the battlefield of the next song like a storm cloud spews heavy flakes of frozen tundra.
There's a weighty essence of doom metal throughout keeping the record accessible to the heavy hearted doom crowd, yet the record has enough psychotic breaks and pauses to enlist the above average progrock nerd as well. Stoner love is a given as Monobrow is covered with a light fuzz, especially connecting the surface above and around the upper eye socket.
As the record plays on, the excitement soars and the riffs march on. Even acoustics shine as in the short lullaby Hamartia which leads into the title track. Big Sky, Black Horse not only lives up to its name in terms of natural brute force, but it adequately portrays the detailed cover art in an organic fashion. Creeping in at the 11:43 mark, the title track almost doubles the average length of the rest of the songs. Shear doom madness spews all over the speakers within the first 2:00 of the track, oozing towards a faster paced rock n roll ballad by 2:30. The riffs reek of the doomiest odor as they linger amongst their crushing volume and catchy tone. The song builds and builds, like you wish every instrumental song should, towards a finale of rhythmic ecstasy.
In short, Monobrow have unleashed a beast of an album which deserves your utmost attention. From the superbly tenacious white horse struggling through black tar on the cover to the heroic melodies tracking its sound, Big Sky, Black Horse serves as an inspirational instrumental relic representing modern stoner/doom metal.
Friday, July 18, 2014
First of all, I must take my hat off to Neil Daniels for tackling the morass that is the early years of one of metal's most legendary bands, Iron Maiden. With the "one day here, next day gone" band line-ups and seemingly random personnel changes, it's certainly not the easiest period of rock history to write about. Combine that with the fact that no records were kept of what the band was doing back then and no one really seems to remember all the band's permutations, and it truly was a labor of love for Daniels to try and make sense of it all.
And in that regard, he succeeds admirably. As a massive fan of the early Maiden (yes, I'm much more Di'Anno than Dickinson) I've always wanted to understand the early years of the band. Particularly, I never had a clear understanding of why the band parted with Di'Anno and why they kicked out Dennis Stratton. I also knew next to nothing about the infamous Thunderstick years. Now I have a much better glimpse and it all makes perfect sense. Once I fully realized Harris' fearless dedication to his vision, it all made perfect sense.
Daniels does a great job of delineating Steve Harris' undying drive and commitment to Maiden, his relentless passion for the band and music, and the intricate line-up changes that are the history of these legends. He does a stellar job of really outlining what each new (or outgoing) member brought to the band culminating in the now classic line-up of Harris, Dickinson, McBrain, Smith and Murray. He also does and admirable job of following the musical growth of the band from those original, raw Soundhouse Tapes, through the first four classic albums. Daniels' own love and admiration for the band comes through loud and clear, making this more a fan's retelling of legendary history than a dispassionate critic's looks at the past. And the book is better for it. Daniels' love of Maiden bleeds through every sentence and it adds to the passion of the book.
I also enjoyed the contributions of my buddy Ray Van Horn Jr, who always has something interesting to say about metal, rock, and comic books for that matter.
Having said all that, I gotta say, this is a hard book to recommend to anyone but the most fervent of Maiden fans (such as myself). The book doesn't have any real fascinating or diabolical rock n roll stories, no rampaging chaos on the road or groupie tales, and it doesn't offer any hilarious Spinal Tap moments that would appeal to any reader of rock and metal books. It also doesn't really offer any new, lost photos, vignettes, or great new interviews with band members, past or present. Most of the interviews and first person accounts are recalled from published interviews elsewhere. The new interviews we have are fairly standard and non-illuminating.
Further, a vast amount of the book is spent detailing many early gigs and debating on which date, "so and so" show took place or at what show "so and so" first played guitar. ("Better luck at The Swan in Hammersmith perhaps? Marginally. The date of this gig has been the subject of some debate - possibly 5 or 6 July has been postulated, but, in actual fact, it was almost certainly 12 July, because said gig was "last Thursday." The paper went on sale on Thursday 19 July (two days before cover date) so "last Thursday" would have been the 12th." -- page 36). Examples like this litter the book, and in fact the above quote was found by simply opening to a random page. Since nobody really kept records, it's unclear when a lot of shows actually happened, and in reality, it's not very important or interesting to know the exact dates. Even less interesting to read about someone debating back and forth as to when those dates occurred.
So, in reality, the book reads more like a fan's research paper on the band, a historical thesis if you will, rather than a rampaging story of an early band struggling to make it big.
Which is fine in and of itself. Die-hard fans of bands gobble this stuff up. Like comic book fans, they debate dates and line-ups and facts, and guitars used, and string tunings, etc. So, that's all fine if that's what interests you.
But what's not fine are other issues.
Daniels has a bad habit of repeating himself way too much. Much of this is done by using previously published quotes that touch on the same subject, but it ends up being very repetitive. For example, I must've read 6 times in just a few pages that "Dianno was too punk" for Maiden or many more times how much Harris hated punk. Cool. That's good to know and it does explain a lot. But really, you don't need to tell me over and over. It simply becomes repetitive. Also, for a book that seems to be so painstakingly researched, when a mistake is made it stands out worse than glitter eyeliner on a pig.
The biggest error I came across that I just couldn't get past was:
"Manager Rod Smallwood had a significant amount of input into Iron Maiden's growing fanbase, having got them signed to EMI when other British metal bands were on much smaller labels such as Arista or Chrysalis, or even more obscure labels such as Neat, Shadow Kingdom, Buried by Time and Dust, High Roller and Steel Legacy."
Come on, Neil. Buried by Time and Dust is a reissue label run by a couple of brothers who were both in grade school when Iron Maiden signed to EMI. They certainly weren't a label "other British metal bands" signed to in 1979. Likewise, Shadow Kingdom started in 2004 and the label didn't exist until 2007, High Roller has a similar history as a reissue label which is based in Germany actually, not UK. And Steel Legacy (as the name implies) is a reissue label also started in 2004 and based in Greece. I can guarantee, no NWOBHM bands were ever signed to these labels in 1979.
There were tons of very small labels that were started or issued NWOBHM releases like Rondolet, Ebony, Killerwat, and of course Neat. And Smallwood did do an excellent job getting Maiden signed to EMI rather than one of these smaller labels. I don't want to belabor this point, but when the book exists to be a more "scholarly"history of an early period in the band's history, minor errors like this are remarkably glaring. In the end, these types of errors and the repetitiveness are nothing that a good editor couldn't have fixed.
Overall, I like the book and I'll not soon be parting with my copy. If you are a diehard fan of the band and love to debate minutia with your friends or ever once carried your own cardboard "air" guitar to an early NWOBHM gig, you may find a lot to enjoy here. As a casual fan of Maiden or someone simply wanting to read about a rags-to-riches rock and roll success story, or debauchery on the road, you be be better served elsewhere.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
When I first heard about Zaum from Canada, all I had was some video/audio snippets. It was enough to pique my interest toward the release of their album, 'Oracles'. At the same time, I was slightly leery since I had only heard bits and pieces and no full songs but all my worries were unfounded. Zaum has created a masterpiece, a truly one-of-a-kind album of the highest order full of amazing visions and suggestive sounds. What's even more impressive is that 'Oracles' is Zaum's debut which promises so much for the future.
For a band that is just over a year old, this duo must have had a very clear distinction on what they wanted to do from the get-go. What I mean is Kyle Alexander McDonald and Chris Lewis' performance and song writing skills are second to none. To me, they knew exactly what to do and how. If I'm wrong, which I have been many times in the past, and they conjured their magic through jam sessions only, then holy fuck I want to be a fly on the wall in their rehearsal space!
Taking the trippy Middle Eastern Mantra Doom to heights unknown, the four songs featured on 'Oracles' are hypnotic, transcendental, heavy, punishing and other-wordly. Synth soundscapes blend into the pulse of bass guitar and drums with a sitar bringing suggestive Middle Eastern tones. Never really going beyond a slow pace adds to the mystique, and hallucinatory effects create visions I have never seen before. This is so magical and soothing yet there is a dark feel lurking in the background waiting to pounce at any minute.
Long, minimalistic and droning passages will induce you into a trance. And the very moment you lose yourself, Zaum alters the tempo enough for you to catapult into worlds unknown. Let it envelop you and let go. What you will experience is cleansing and total enlightenment while being exposed to a musical revelation. I have heard many bands working within the same sphere as Zaum but no one gets close to what these Canadians are doing. 'Oracles' is that rare release where a band is doing something totally new. Musical influences are there but there is no way of pin-pointing them or even really hearing them. And that's another beautiful thing about this duo.
What is left to say about Zaum? Go buy a copy of their debut. It is a must-have in any music collection. Multi-intrumentalist and singer Kyle Alexander - bass guitar, sitar, synth and textures - and his partner in crime, drummer Chris Lewis, have tapped into a well of strange and beautiful music that, if nurtured right, can be endless and amazing. Truly one of 2014's best releases....check it out, you hear!
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
To start off, I’m not what you would call an uber doomster. I do believe the species exist. I’ve came across them on the internet salivating over the heaviest, slowest, ploddiest DOOM metal possible which for the most part I could never quite understand. Hell if you smoked enough weed, anything and everything sounds amazing, right? That said, I do enjoy my fair share of doom metal in the right variations of course. Landskap bridge the gap of being super-mega-uber-doom, but with enough living, breathing ambition to maintain the attention of a non-die-hard uber-doomster, such as myself.
When grabbing the promo for this the other day something seemed familiar about the band and it wasn’t until just a few seconds ago that I went to their facebook page and saw a bunch of my “friends” already “liked” the band, which in turn took some of the thunder away from what I was thinking was a brand new top secret share I’d have for everybody. You know that feeling right? No not you, you over there! I’ve been listening to this frequently in the past week and figured it had what it took for me to do a little write up. Then I decided I’d see if they had a bandcamp page after the fact, and low and behold, of course they do and it’s been in my “wishlist” for ages and with different artwork than what was shown on the promo. It was released digitally back in January on bandcamp and it is now offered up in physical format through Iron Bonehead Productions, of which the promo album was sent. It’s offered for name your price on bandcamp, so I’m guilty of letting this one slip away for too long myself.
Landskap is comprised of members from the bands such as SerpentCult / Thee Plague Of Gentlemen, Fen, Pantheist, Dead Existence, Father Sun, and Skaldic Curs, of which I have no clue about except for Fen, whom could be either the black metal band Fen or the progressive metal band Fen. I think there is at least 2 Fens, but I could be tripping. Landskap constructs a weighty little 4-song debut LP running over 30 minutes in length in the spirit of true doom, yet with a mood set for a psychedelic trip into the unknown.
A Nameless Fool shovels its way towards the depths of its own demise with an eerie satanic intro with church bells ringing behind a slow burning riff. Moaning vocals spew fitting lyrics amongst the evil riffage coated with progressively tripped out guitar solos. “So carry on you nameless fool, The hole you dig it waits for you…..”
My Cabin in the Woods cools down the blistering heat generated with the opening 11+ minute doom oeuvre with a hazy 2 minute instrumental lullaby followed immediately by yet another magnum opus of a doom treat Fallen So Far. It’s an accessibly doomy and irresistibly soothing form of otherwise filthy and downright depressing doom metal. The guitars ascend throughout the precarious lyrical storyline, like Beauty awaiting the Beast while shackled to the bedpost. “Shadows play across the sky, gnashing teeth that feed you lies, Never trust another soul, we don't know what we think we know…..”
Closing out the album, To Harvest the Storm succeeds in captivating the senses with a mesmerizing relay of hallucinogenic solos commencing much like a magic mushroom trip. Starting off mellow and relaxing and twitching towards a climax of ecstatic delusion.
The album is paired perfectly as Side A mirrors Side B with one short, one long, one lyrical, one instrumental song on each side. The album is borderline conceptual as it totally plays out in sequence and flows perfectly from start to finish. I would recommend this to uber-doomsters, but even more so to standard stoner rock fans looking for a good trip, or to fans of music like myself who don’t “smoke drugs” anymore and aren’t necessarily on team Heavierdoomthanthou. Extremely cohesive effort that maintains a powerful hook and brands a stamp of approval within this music addicts diminishing memory. At least now I planted the album on my bandcamp collection page and will be able to play it on the go whenever I want beneath the cyber sun. You are now obligated to listen. Do it.
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Formed in 1988 by guitarist Jake E. Lee, after he got fired from Ozzy Osbourne's band, together with singer Ray Gillen and drummer Eric Singer after they met a similar fate in Black Sabbath. The line-up was quickly completed by bassist Greg Chaisson. In May 1989, a year following their formation, the self-titled debut was released. As a fan of both Ozzy and Black Sabbath as well as Gary Moore whom Eric Singer toured with during the 'Wild Frontier' tour, I remember being more than piqued when I first heard about this band and their upcoming debut release. Despite being shocked at what I heard once I got a copy of 'Badlands', it wasn't negative shock. Rather, I was swept off of my feet by the awesome hard-edge bluesy rock they played. Guess I automatically assumed and expected something more akin to these cats' previous excursions but I couldn't have been further off the mark.
I think it only took two seconds before opener 'High Wire' had me hooked. That opening riff is vicious and when Gillen starts to belt out over the thunderous backline of Singer and Chaisson, how the hell can you not get hooked? Fast, blistering and a pure joy to hear. The somewhat slower but hook-laden 'Dreams In The Dark' follows and is organic and earthy in feel. Don't know if anyone, before or after this album, has ever captured the feel of a season as well as Badlands. The duo of the acoustic instrumental 'Jade's Song' which leads into 'Winter's Call' always brings out the beauty of the dying embers of Fall and the approach of Winter. Have no idea how they did it but this duo of songs are absolutely amazing. A much darker tone seeps through 'Dancing On The Edge'. It's faster and heavier and the blues is gone in place of metal. Well, as close to metal as Badlands ever went. 'Streets Cry Freedom' is the most diverse track on display. Heavily soaked in blues, it moves freely and elegantly between tempos and styles. Sounds confusing? Well, it's not, in fact it works perfectly.
'Hard Driver' follows and never has Gillen sounded as much like David Coverdale as he does here. I mean that in a positive way and it pushes this Whitesnake-esque rocker to great heights. Next up, Badlands takes us down into the heartland of delta blues with 'Rumblin' Train'. The band is in top form and Jake plays a blistering solo. Bringing back the seasonal feel 'Devil's Stomp' has me fooled. About 1.45 into the song, the band switches from the acoustic beauty and throw caution to the wind and simply annihilates. Awesome stuff! Mainly slow but with bursts of stomping rock, 'Seasons' is a dark brooding affair with a lot of hints of Led Zeppelin. The vinyl version ends with this song while the cd version includes 'Ball & Chain'. A mid-paced blues rocker where the band eventually go full tilt with the heaviness.
Overall, 'Badlands' is steeped in heavy power blues with a strong presence of roots rock mixed with Led Zeppelin and early Whitesnake. Listen closely and you hear how Gillen is phrasing his singing like Robert Plant and David Coverdale, but he is more of a screamer than these two legends. Musically, it is the same especially in the song structure. I'm not saying this a copy-cat recording, on the contrary Badlands nurtures their influences very well and blend them excellently with their own stuff. Being the anorak or the trainspotter that I am, I was expecting Jake's guitar playing to sound just like it does when he played for Ozzy but it doesn't. I guess he embraced the freedom of this new band to the fullest and did his own thing. However, there are brief moments here and there where snippets of 'Bark At The Moon' and 'The Ultimate Sin' shines through.
In my opinion 'Badlands' was a great debut by a band with so much potential. But too much internal bickering lead to their down-fall. Saleswise the album apparently sold 400,000 copies and what record label wouldn't want that? However, Atlantic wanted to streamline Badlands in time for their sophomore albums, 'Voodoo Highway', which the band refused. Simultaneously, Gillen and Lee started to fight and became bitter enemies which naturally curtailed what could have become something absolutely fantastic.
Monday, July 14, 2014
What do you call a band that just gets better and better? I call them Goatwhore. I mean, are you kidding me with this new album? They made some comments about getting back to harder, more crushing stuff, and I wondered what they were talking about. They've never pussied out like Metallica or anything. They've always been plenty heavy, plenty evil and plenty brutal for my tastes. Yeah, I'm a fanboy, I've got, like, 3 Goatwhore hoodies and probably 6 t-shirts, but tell me I'm wrong about this. The great thing to me about this band is that they have literally slogged it out earning one fan at a time. They put out great albums and then they tour relentlessly and just destroy every stage they ever appear on. What more can you ask?
This new album just crushes from the first note of the first song. They have this black/death/thrash hybrid that they have been refining for years and it sounds phenomenal. Erik Rutan has recorded them once again and it is a very fruitful partnership. This was recorded mostly in analog and you can hear the warmth of it in every note. The band lineup has been steady for a few years now and you can always tell when a band plays together a lot. There is nothing like hearing a band that is completely in sync and seems to know what they are all going to play before they even play it. That is exactly what they sound like on this album.
There are certain tracks on the album that I really enjoy. “Baring Teeth For Revolt” starts out sounding almost like a straight up rock song, but quickly moves off into much heavier territory. Its the kind of song that makes you want to move, as in the pit, as in going nuts while the band is tearing it up on stage. “Cold Earth Consumed In Dying Flesh” is about as much of a changeup as you'll get from this band. A little slower of tempo with an actual atmospheric sounding intro, it is a little more black metal leaning than anything else they've done in a while and shows off their versatility. It's also one of the longest songs I can remember them doing. “FBS” is another one that just kicks it into high gear from the outset, almost sounding like Motorhead on speed (oh wait) and just thrashing away beautifully.
It's great to see a band work hard and be rewarded, especially in the musical climate in which we live in 2014. I love that these guys keep raising the bar, keep putting out great music and most definitely keep taking the stage and leaving a smoking crater behind. I truly pity any band that has to follow these guys. In a time when many metal bands rely so much on technology that they can't really pull of a decent live show, it is truly refreshing to see a band like Goatwhore. They have worked their asses off and I salute them for their efforts. In my book they are one of the great metal bands out there right now and they deserve all the success and accolades that come their way.