Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Acid Bath - When the Kite Strings Pop



Well, "heavy" can be the most subjective of terms. With regard to what we're hearing, any Slayer record can prove to be the most violently riff-gasmic, while Sleep's Dopesmoker can boast the title of tightest bong-packed buzz. And lyrically, track your most obscure wrist-cutter who managed enough strength to pen his final words and you could probably spin them into the heaviest lyrics ever strung to vocal.

As a total sludge-o-phile, I can attest that any release from Buzzov*en or EYEHATEGOD could garner my nod. My perspective quickly slivers and bleeds out the stoners and thrashers, leaving me with a muddled mouth of metal's filthiest offering. The heaviest of albums would need to surpass all else both sonically and thematically.

Acid Bath's metal amalgam of thrash, sludge, noise, and misanthropy cements "When The Kite String Pops" as my hands-down heaviest. Let's be serious, this was a sweaty, southern Dax Riggs undercarriage dragged through shit and quartered in the sun. Every gasp is laced with opiates and every note reeks of rusty death-rattle. Louisiana's murkiest bayous can't contend with the sticky sweetness offered on this album.

Pairing the mood with the metal is only half the scope. Sure, the double kick drum of "Dope Fiend" is immediately detectable and the slow acoustic moments introducing "The Bones of Baby Dolls" may turn away the mulletheads. But fusing thrash, black metal, and stoner-sludge dejection undoubtedly places Acid Bath atop my list of seminal, influential metal bands.

Bottom line: This record scared the fucking shit out of me. I've never forgotten it, and anyone who ever got through the first warbled moments of "The Blue" feels the same. Shifting tempos combine with a definitive metal bouillabaisse that's unmatched to this day, nineteen years later. Relevance is fleeting, heaviness is subjective, and influence is arguable. Here, Acid Bath transcend everything and dent your mind. Heavy in both style and substance, "When The Kite String Pops" is impossible to ignore on any level, be it influential or contemporary.

--Seth


The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Neil Young - Tonight's The Night



I had just said hasta luego to my raging skullet and burly beard.  No biggie, it was my best friends big day and he wanted some wedding pictures in a hip little barbershop in my hometown that does straight razor cuts.  The Bearded Brethren would understand. I was on my third PBR (courtesy of the barbershop) and I hadn’t quite been up for 2 hours yet.  I felt fine.  No hang over, just a larger than usual dose of amused cynicism...probably because I was trying to kick an unexpectedly acquired smoking habit cold turkey and I was feeling sorry for myself.  It happens.  I’m ok with my working, in-betweener, social status.  It’s just that I start feeling like a play on the character of Nick Carraway in Fitzgerald’s Gatsby, especially when eating and drinking on the tab and rubbing elbows with my friend’s old-school Long Island relatives and his bride’s staunch French family.  They are nice folks, really, but  the previous night of fine dining and discussing my dead end pursuit of a music career and pretending like everything was going great (...*and don’t forget to smille...) with people I more or less didn’t know over gin and tonics had worn me into a smooth groove.  This wasn’t my day.  I was the support staff.  I just needed to suit up and be charming.  The record being broadcast over the hi-fi (I did say hip barbershop) had come to an end and I saw a shining moment to tip the scales in favor or me having a good attitude before I helped ship my mejor amigo into the married life.  What a trip.

There was a deep stack of Buck Owens, Roy Buchanan, Linda Ronstadt and the like.  I just wasn’t in the mood to get down on some Merle.  This was not Sunday Morning Coming Down...this was a day I needed a real grin on my face.  Then there it was... Tonight’s The Night.   That black and white record cover will stand out like a sore thumb with any collection, especially this one.  It was time to rock and roll. 

With cuff links in place and patent leather kicks tied, I sat down to finish off my ever so hip brew and stare off into the un-opened bottle of W.H. Harrison (Hoosier) bourbon that was homies best man’s gift.  The eerie opening piano cadence that preludes the snarled “Bruce Berry was a working man, he used to load that Econoline van” was picking up steam in the ol’ noggin.  I heard this record before.  I read about this record before.  I guess I was listening this time.  It was kind of a tough pill to swallow.  A heavy one none the less. This wasn’t like when I staid up all night on trucker speed grade diet pills and blasted 101 Proof Live into my skull via my Discman’s headphones or when I was glued to the couch in my basement and the lava lamp would surge and bulge colorfully in time with Echoes, expanding and contracting like the Universe.  This was somewhere in the middle of that, but out of order.  Weird timing abounds.  And then it hit me, goddamn it, I’m older.  Once moment life is good cover of Cinnamon Girl and the next it’s Cowgirl In The Sand on the jukebox in your favorite smoke filled house of sin with your buddies.  Those days are passed and it’s more like Roll Another Number (For The Road).  The shit is hitting the fan and I'm paranoid about the mess.  What are we doing here?    A little late to turnaround.   Apparently I didn’t have enough to think about that day and the great subconscious being the bitch she is thought I needed to think about mortality a little more.

Maybe you know the story, maybe you don’t.   Disenchanted with CSN and already reeling against the success of his mellow, countrified classic, Harvest, Shakey had already started in on a self-destructive musical tangent with the gritty Time Fades Away album that was comprised of recording made while playing to audiences who wanted to hear Harvest.  You can listen for yourself.  The band seems REALLY laid back. Totally.  It was like Neil was personally delivering the message...fuck you hippies,  I’m calling the tunes now.  You can fuck off.  He did it by exorcising some demons with an electric guitar audibly getting the shit beat out of it through a cranked amplifier, iced off with that crystal clear howl that will can raise a chill on a whim.  More grass, tequila, more coke.  The time was starting to weigh a ton.  Let’s party. 

Charlie Manson and his crew had cut a gash in the charmed life of Hollywood’s young prince and princes.  Hendrix, Janis, and Morrison had all checked out.  David Bowie and Lou Reed androgynous, artsy, heroin driven rock stylings were appealing to those who had not quite gone over to the punk rock anarchy of The Sex Pistols.  Love and peace were over.  The nihilistic cocaine driven death trip had begun.  Oh yeah, and that whole Vietnam bullshit. That was happening.  By ’73, the swan song of the love-in-the-sun hippie daydream that Neil was skeptically participating in was put to pasture for good with the overdose of Danny Whitten, rhythm guitarist of Crazy Horse.  Seven month’s later, the aforementioned Bruce Berry, one of CSN&Y’s entourage and roadie, died of an overdose as well.  Fuck Woodstock and the VW’s they drove in on.  Welcome to the 70’s, man.

The whole band was broken up pretty bad.  Not quite of their 20’s they watched Bruce and Danny, especially, wither under the affliction of drug addiction.  What the fuck is a twenty something musician making millions of dollars playing rock and roll music to teenagers supposed to know about dealing with losing big time?  Little league sportsmanship takes you so far, you know?  There really isn’t a play book for these things and Neil’s posse was growing a little jittery. 

So what do you do when you are disgustingly depressed and have all of the time and money the world?  You ask the rehearsal studio (owned by Bruce Berry’s brother) if you can knock a whole in the wall with a sledge hammer and run some cables in. Naturally, duh.  Then, you get fucked up.  Like real good.  Beyond awesome....cosmic.  They would say they would glow.  After they were done shooting pool and whatever else....then it was time to jam.  They had set up a stage (which is convenient if you are jamming at an equipment rental store) and they kind of just stumble up there when the mood was right.  This my friends, is how you throw a wake when you are a rock star.  Fuck it.  Roll tape.  Play....whatever feels right.  What was captured wasn’t necessarily music.  It wasn’t necessarily for anyone else.  Sometimes you just need to play some shit really loud...or something really sad...or just get fucked up...  or whatever, tonight’s the night.

Now I realize that’s a lot to think about in during the last few gulps of a warming PBR, but in that moment of self pity and elation that I was experiencing in the fuzzy glow of a fantastic rock record, I realized that Tonight’s The Night was as heavy as any record I had ever heard.  I just couldn’t shake it. Short of head trauma, I had a new memory to attach to a hard lesson in rock and roll.  So as I was making mental notes on what I might possibly have to pull out of my ass for an impromptu dual best man speech, it was like I heard the ghost of my childhood, reminding me that it doesn’t get easier and the only thing to do when you don’t know what to do is to do what you would have done anyway.  You could die young, man.... except, you know...Neil Young howling it at me front row.  I could smell the hangover already.


--The Grime


The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Vorov - Vorov EP



When the Ripple Writers decided to take on the task of picking the heaviest album they could think of and reviewing it… I had a momentary quandary.

How do you define heavy?
I’ve been down this road before in my own personal thoughts on music.  I’ve also had plenty of discussions with fellow music-lovers who almost unanimously consider heavy music to be some form of metal.  I’m not so sure.  While traditionally, I’d agree, I had to consider alternatives. 

For instance, there is lyrical heaviness…. the type that sits on your soul and weighs you down with the power of them.  Thrice’s Artist in the Ambulance and Vhiessu will always hit my right in the heart.  Then, there are albums that hit you with deep mood and darkness. 

However, I chose a newer band, which strips away all pretenses and just plays music that I call heavy.
I mean TRULY heavy. 

This newer band is called Vorov, and yes, they are a metal/punk band in the vein of Converge or Every Time I Die.  With these guys though, they have one goal… to shatter your mind and leave you breathless. 

With their debut three-song self-titled EP, Vorov assaults the senses with a battery of incredibly brutal guitar, destructive vocals, hammering drums, and chunky bass.   This band is made of some of my favorite musicians of all time. 

John Vail, formerly of the technical metal band Wretched, is one of the best guitar players alive. When I spoke to him about his new project, he said he wanted to go simple and just go out and have a great time playing truly heavy music. 

I have news for you, John.  You failed. 

This stuff isn’t simple.

He shows off his chops in a variety of ways.  While he has dropped the technical aspect of metal that we’ve grown to love with his music, he makes up for that by using an almost catchy style of heavy punk styling that just stick in your mind.  He’s one of the best song-writers alive.  This is dirty, nasty, and gritty music that has a brain. 

The rhythm section is the great Isaac Stone on bass and Chris Shirah of Burns Out Bright fills out the songs with incredible drive and intense riffs.  Isaac is an incredibly strong bassist who has massive amounts of tone and skills to keep up with Vail.  Shirah destroys the drums.  He absolutely nails the style and the substance. 

The musicality in the brutal band is top notch. 

Peyton Costill rounds out the band as the vocalist, and he does a great job of screaming his way through the album in a way that doesn’t sound forced.  This is a man who obviously knows how to convey a certain emotional tone through his screaming. 

In other words, he’s not screaming to be “scene”.  He’s not screaming to be a part of the “metal crowd”.  He’s screaming because he’s angry, and you feel that. 

Just the overall feeling I get when listening to Vorov is that of pure, unadulterated, primal emotion. 
This brings me to another point as to why I love this band. 

I LOVE METAL. The Ocean, Between the Buried and Me, Dillinger Escape Plan, Wretched... I love my local metal scene (in South Carolina) with bands like Islander, SHAOKAHN, Remembrance, Images, Carolyn, and MANY others being absolutely incredible.  These bands are not only brutal... but intricate and AMAZINGLY TALENTED and HARD WORKING MUSICIANS!

But I hate... HATE what some forms of metal is becoming. I just watched a music video featuring kids just loudly hitting one note in a rhythmic way with screaming over the top. Then, I looked at the comments talking about how this is "REAL BROOTAL METAL \m/ lol omg heavy like Emmure".
John, Isaac, Chris, and Peyton all have one thing in common.  They are gifted and supremely hard working guys who understand the value of their instruments and song writing.  They are heavy because they write it that way… not because they just expect the loud noises to make a crowd move.

LEARN HOW TO BE A MUSICIAN! Take pride in your craft! Or else the old fogeys like me will be left asking... "Do you even metal, bro?"

--The Professor

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ORANGE GOBLIN To Return To North America This Autumn





Britain's premier stoner metal band ORANGE GOBLIN will return to perform at venues throughout North America this Autumn. Following the band’s huge success earlier this year as main support for Clutch on their Earth Rocker North American tour, the Brits return for a full headlining run. Kicking off in New Orleans on September 27, the band will visit 38 cities around the United States and Canada before concluding in Nashville on November 9. Support on the tour will come from Holy Grail and Lazer/Wulf.

The trek finds ORANGE GOBLIN continuing a year-long commitment to performances in support of their latest studio album, A Eulogy For the Damned (2012), and first live CD/DVD released earlier this year. This rigorous schedule has seen them perform in over 25 countries across the globe, ensuring that the band is firing on all cylinders and maintaining their reputation as one of the fiercest and most exciting live acts on the planet! In fact, Clutch's own Neil Fallon was recently seen on That Metal Show wearing an ORANGE GOBLIN shirt and proclaiming them to be one of his favorite bands!

Released March 12, A Eulogy For The Fans/Orange Goblin Live 2012 includes ORANGE GOBLIN’s complete performances from England ’s Bloodstock Open Air and France’s Hellfest. The package’s DVD includes the official Tom Cronin directed videos for “Red Tide Rising” and “Acid Trial,” the latter courtesy of Scion A/V. It further includes the Matt Chance directed “Red Tide Rising” documentary and Gaetan Chataigner directed “Highway to Hellfest” documentary. Art and design was provided by Jimbob Isaac under the direction of vocalist Ben Ward. The live album follows the release of A Eulogy For The Damned, now ORANGE GOBLIN’s highest selling album in North America. Produced by Jamie Dodd and mastered by two-time Grammy-nominated engineer Andy Jackson (Pink Floyd), the album entered the UK charts at position 96 and for the US landed on Billboard Magazine’s Heat Seekers chart at position 38.Tickets for the tour are set to go on sale via all appropriate ticket agencies and venue box offices next week. Confirmed dates are below.

ORANGE GOBLIN
w/ Holy Grail, Lazer/Wulf
09/27/2013 One Eyed Jacks - New Orleans, LA
09/28/2013 Red 7 – Austin, TX
09/29/2013 Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
09/30/2013 Club Dada – Dallas, TX  
10/01/2013 Sister Bar – Albuquerque, NM
10/02/2013 Yucca Tap Room – Tempe, AZ
10/04/2013 The Catalyst - Santa Cruz, CA
10/05/2013 The Satellite - Los Angeles, CA
10/06/2013 Soda Bar - San Diego, CA
10/08/2013 The Observatory - Santa Ana, CA
10/09/2013 Oakland Opera House – Oakland, CA
10/10/2013 Oak Street Speakeasy – Eugene, OR
10/11/2013 Fall Into Darkness Festival – Portland, OR
10/12/2013 The Highline – Seattle, WA
10/13/2013 Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC
10/15/2013 The Palomino – Calgary, AB
10/17/2013 The Pawn Shop – Edmonton, AB
10/18/2013 Amigos – Saskatoon, SK
10/19/2013 Windsor Hotel – Winnipeg, MB
10/20/2013 The Aquarium – Fargo, ND
10/21/2013 Triple Rock – Minneapolis, MN
10/22/2013 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
10/23/2013 Pyramid Scheme - Grand Rapids, MI
10/24/2013 Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH
10/25/2013 Rockstar Arena – Dayton, OH
10/26/2013 Rex Theater – Pittsburgh, PA
10/27/2013 London Music Hall – London, ON
10/28/2013 The Opera House – Toronto, ON
10/29/2013 Mavericks – Ottawa, ON
10/30/2013 Foufounes Electriques – Montrea, QC
11/01/2013 Empire – Springfield, VA
11/02/2013 Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY
11/03/2013 The Note - West Chester, PA
11/05/2013 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
11/06/2013 Tremont Music Hall – Charlotte, NC
11/07/2013 Broadway’s – Asheville, NC
11/08/2013 The Earl – Atlanta, GA
11/09/2013 Exit/In – Nashville, TN

ORANGE GOBLIN is vocalist Ben Ward, guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, and drummer Chris Turner. The band is endorsed by Fender Guitars, Marshall Amps, Meinl Cymbals, Vater Sticks, Lace Pick Ups, Orange Amps, Natal Drums, Rotosound, and Jagermeister.

The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Neurosis - The Word As Law



Great albums change your life. Great albums can also play the soundtrack to your life’s biggest changes. The music you listened to when you were a teen, and if you are like me you listened to it voraciously, has the ability to shape who you are today. When I was sixteen, I went to my grandparents in a small college town in the midwest. I picked up Neurosis’s Pain Of Mind (released in 1987, Alchemy Records) on tape. Before that we were really just punks. My band at the time was a Flipper wanna-be band because we couldn’t play. I took that tape back to my suburban town and me and my friend’s minds were collectively  blown. We knew that the times they were a-changing. The intensity of that album, it’s raw passion and virulent head crushing trauma, it turned us around. Crossover had finally arrived.

As great as Pain Of Mind is it’s obviously an early attempt by very talented youth, to forge a new and heavier sound. The sound only got heavier on The Aberration seven inch (released 1989, Lookout! Records). By the time they got to recording The Word As Law (1990, Lookout! Records) they were a massive force and the wave was felt all over the country. The crust kids were well aware at least. They played often in the Bay Area with acts like Paxton Quigley, Filth and Spitboy. I think The Word As Law is the heaviest album of the early nineties at the very least, on the Lookout! label. There was a lot of competition for a Heaviest Album Of All Time and in the end I picked it because as a compact album, with only eight tracks originally, it brought epic and dark d-beat to the top of the mountain. Similarly Bolt Thrower managed to do this a couple years earlier with In Battle There Is No Law! but, while that was reaching the grind core set, The Word As Law pushed a generation of punk rockers into metal.

From the minor note that starts the album Double Edged Sword kicks in low and dirty while the bass moves quickly and deliberately. The lyrics already hint to future landscape the band would inhabit "endless war". On The Choice, Neurosis is still in their roots but hint at even darker and punctuated anger maybe due to the addition of Steve Von Till. but the echoes of a younger band invade this track and contains one of their best choruses; "sacrifice your security".

On Obsequious Obsolescence The band shifts gears into the sludge territory that the East Bay famously revels in. The guitar play is quick and tight though. Reminiscent of Rudimentary Peni's early output. Similarly, both bands came untethered from their original sound, and somewhat untethered in general. The anti-television lyrics of the song aren't nearly as important as the way the vocals of the singers play against each other. Loud and screaming in one ear, low and spoken in the other, like the dissonant voices in the head of the modern man, schizoid, alone and afraid.

To What End? has Neurosis stretching into the six minute mark with more apocalyptic visions. Human as chattel, a grinding machine that turns the world into a wasteland. A flaming gas well in everyone's backyard an industrial hellscape. To the question “are we alone”, in the end it might not make a difference if the planet is uninhabitable. The track is all around dynamic, with quiet parts that build and build and actually explode with strength that the younger band could muster. Though the crescendo of anything after Word is a massive beast of another kind.

On Tomorrow’s Reality we spiral further into neurotic split-brain fear the kind you get by letting the scales fall from your eyes, the realization that it’s as bad as it seems. The destruction to the environment won’t be fixed by negative think though and naval gazing; “tonight’s nightmare is tomorrow’s reality, you look for betterness in everything you see, but poison all hopes of what might be” . The wheel’s of progress inch forward crushing those who are unable to keep up. All set to a soundtrack of charred carbon black. 

What comes next is one of the more interesting oddities. Clocking in at forty four seconds, Neurosis really cuts the crap on Insensitivity. A stand-alone song it gives nod to the first wave British crust that played such a great influence on Pain Of Mind. Short and sharp it cleans the aural pallet for the epic closer Blisters. It is seven minutes and a new breath for the band. There is a seething build, spiraling structure yet spacious tone, punctuated with guitar leads that are very close to classic rock. More dystopian lyrics, a heart rending cry against consumerism gone mad. The suffocating feeling of never having lived, wasting inside a factory.

The Word As Law shook the punk community, it finally took the music seriously, it crossed into territory originally reserved for metal, it mixed the scarred-earth, blackened crust of bands like Amebix or Antisect and added sludge. The walking bass lines that front the album give it hooks and listenability and is a relic of the nineties that I miss quite a bit. This album played on repeat for a couple years and bonded a community of fans of heavy music. Some would hear Souls At Zero and try to listen to it in many different ways. Place it beside what they had created before and eventually reconcile the change and follow it to the end, celebrating one of the heaviest bands of all time. I’m going to be listening to, and marveling at, this strange heavy, heavy album for the rest of my life.


--Plague Rat




The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Thou - Tyrant






So I have been asked by my good friends at The Ripple Effect to write an article about the heaviest album I have ever heard. Well that is a tough one. What I define as heavy could be classed as heavy as Justin Bieber by somebody else.

I spent a long time thinking of suitable albums I have heard over the years. Usual suspects started to appear mainly the legendary Thrash/Death/Grind Metal bands I used to listen to in my youth. Well I say youth I didn't start fully appreciating metal till I was 18 years old as I am ashamed to say I was more into Dance/Rave culture back then. But thank fuck I snapped out of that one or Sludgelord Blog could have been something else entirely.

I am going to choose the album that got me back into the whole Sludge Metal genre in a big way back in 2007. I stopped listening to Sludge in a big way back in 2006. I got a bit fed up with the scene. I stopped listening to Sludge, Stoner and Doom Metal altogether and went back to Thrash, Death and Grind Metal for about 18 months or so.

Until I heard the début full length by a Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal Band by the name of THOU from Baton Rouge, Louisiana And that album was their brilliant début  – Tyrant.

Tyrant is still one of the heaviest records I have heard to date. The amount of power this band has in their music is undeniably vast and anything unlike I had heard before. The opening riffs of Tyrant still gives me goosebumps almost 6 years I have heard this record. Then Bryan's vocals kick in and you know your going to get seriously fucked up for the next 59 mins or so.

This album is drenched in thick sludge. It oozes violent raptures of sheer brutality. This is Sludge Metal at its most raw. THOU lay everything on the line here. You can feel their pain right from the start.

I knew from the very song that Tyrant would be a very special album indeed. Thou include some haunting beautiful melodic riffs amongst the carnage. THOU are a band who captured the very real essence of NOLA based music like I had not heard at the time in 2007.

2nd track -  I Was Ignored.  And Judged.  And Cast Down – carries on the sheer brutality that Thou laid down with Tyrant. Playing epic riffs matched with brutal vocals that can change your entire beliefs.

THOU continue playing huge epic slabs of Sludge Metal mixed with Drone and Doom Metal that many bands cannot match. Some have tried but many have failed. Tyrant is one of the most powerful albums that Sludge Metal has to offer. It's a thought provoking masterpiece into the darkness that mankind has lurking away. It's just THOU can see this better than most people and they have to tell the viewer what is actually going on.

Check out the brilliant album titles as even they can cause a negative reaction in people.

With a Cold, Life Extinguishing Elegance
Fucking Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean

These tracks aren't exactly uplifting bundles of joy. They are songs full of despairing nightmarish lyrics and brutal riffs to match. And I wouldn't have it any other way.

THOU may have gone heavier with each and every release they have committed to the world so far. And there is a lot of them. 3 full lengths and a huge number of EP's showcasing that THOU are one of the hardest working bands in Sludge Metal today.
People might say – “Well Steve. Yeah it's heavy. But I have heard heavier.” Well that maybe. Primitive Man's début album Scorn is a heavy as fuck masterpiece as well. And they have a lot in common with THOU.

But this album got me back into Sludge Metal in a big way. I just had to hear more. I discovered a lot more great bands as well. I started writing for other blogs and webzines. Mainly starting the build-up for Sludgelord blog.

So THOU rekindled my love affair with Sludge Metal once again. And it has never gone away. Am still doing Sludgelord almost two and a half years later. Though I had to include this album as well mainly because of one track. Acceptance.

Acceptance is possibly my all time fave THOU track and one of my all time fave instrumental tracks. It shows THOU at their most endearing and most creative. It's an epic tale told through the power of riffs. Even there are no vocals it still packs an almighty punch. It's so powerful it can bring tears to your eyes. Though it's a style of music that THOU haven't touched upon since. I hope they will do one day as it shows they do have a caring melodic side to them.

Well I have gone on long enough. My reasons why Tyrant is one of the heaviest albums I have ever heard. If you haven't heard this masterpiece then hunt it down now. THOU have it up for free download on their excellent website along with some of their other brilliant extensive back catalogue.

Written by Steve Howe aka Sludgelord

Check THOU from links below


The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Borracho - Splitting Sky



Recently the powers that be at Ripple tasked everyone with writing about the heaviest album we've heard. In my youth I always considered anything labeled heavy metal as heavy, even without ever hearing it. Once I discovered Metallica I thought that was heavy. Then I heard Megadeth. Then a small little "metal" band from Texas called Pantera hit the scene. I thought it couldn't get any heavier. Then I started to open my mind to more music and quickly discovered doom metal.

Right away I was exposed to a plethora of heavy bands. Bands such as Eyehategod and Sunn O))) would pound the hell out of my speakers. I would have to turn off my subwoofer to keep from disturbing the rest of the family. Neither of those bands really held my attention for very long though. One band that did manage to perk and keep my interest though is an East Coast band by the name of Borracho.

It was mid 2011, I had gotten their upcoming album Splitting Sky as a submission for review to The Soda Shop. Right away I was blown away. The album was released to critical acclaim throughout the blogosphere. Blogs such as Heavy Planet, The Obelisk and of course, The Soda Shop were salivating over it. While its not the most heaviest album ever produced in the history of music, it was one of the most heaviest to hold my attention through out the rest of 2011 and continues to do so today. At times it's heavy doom metal infused with some heavy riffs that would make Tommy Iommi blush. Insert a dash of classic rock into the mix and you have yourself an instant classic. Splitting Sky is an album that I'm proud to say gets more play time from me over any album the Black Sabbath ever recorded. Yes, more than Paranoid or Master of Reality.

Since the release of Splitting Sky, Borracho has released 3 7" albums that make great companion pieces to an already great album. If you haven't heard the album yet, fire up the Bandcamp player below. You'll be glad you did. Own a record player? Seek out a vinyl copy. If you like what you hear, the band is working on a follow up which can't get here soon enough.



--Soda Bill



Monday, July 29, 2013

Heaviest Album I've Ever Heard - Bob Mould - Workbook

                                       
       

                                               In an act like Jesus Christ
                                                    stare into the sun
                                               You don't see eye to eye with
                                                            anyone

Alienation.  Betrayal.  Catharsis.

When the idea of a theme week was first broached with the topic being "The Heaviest Album You've Ever Heard," Bob Mould's stark portrait of soul searching, anger and desolation drove into my brain like a spike slicing into my grey matter.  Or more appropriately, a dagger speared into my heart.

For some, this may seem like a strange choice for heaviest album.  First of all, Bob Mould is no stranger to heavy.  As a former member of seminal Minneapolis hardcore band, Husker Du, Mould and his mates redefined heavy for an entire generation of American punkers.  Any Husker Du album would seem to be a heavier choice than "Workbook."   But that's not the way I hear it.

Nor did I want to choose "Black Sheets of Rain" an album so heavy with guitar distortion and feedback that it's nearly impenetrable.  That's not the direction I wanted to go.  That's not an album that resonates with me emotionally.

To me, heavy isn't just volume or noise or cacophony of descending walls of aural chaos.  Heavy is mood.  Intent.  An introspective journey.  Emotions strewn and dispersed upon an intense wasteland of frayed nerve endings.  Anger so intent that it drips from raw-gutted pores.  A soul stripped of every last vestige of protection, laid bare and open, as if to be scavenged by ravens and crows.  Self-hatred, loneliness and isolation flowing within the blood dripping from the yawning wounds of a ravaged heart.

That's what I hear in "Workbook."

After several acrimonious years in Husker Du, the band finally split in a nuclear burst of condemnation and venom amid members' drug abuse, personal problems, disputes over songwriting credits, musical direction, and the suicide of the band's manager, David Savoy. The rift between Mould and Grant Hart, the band's other songwriter and vocalist, was so severe that the two still take jabs at each other in the press.  After the dissolution of Hüsker Dü, Mould sequestered himself in a remote farmhouse in Pine City, Minnesota,  He'd been battling demons like drinking, drugs, and coming to terms with his own sexuality, but at that time he'd quit the drinking and the drugs.  Armed with a guitar, he hid away, cut open a self-reflective vein and let it all pour out.

And it's in that light that this album must be understood.  One man.  Guitar.  Alone.  Withdrawn in an isolated cabin.  Time to cut open the wounds and let them bleed.

A shade of light opens the album with the beautiful acoustic sketch, "Sunspots. " Delicate runs of guitar so subtle that they bring chills.  Then begins the catharsis.  "

                                           Wishing well runs wet and dry
                                            I wish for things I never had.                    
                                         Surrounds and wells up in my eyes,
                                              the screaming voice, it lies.

All good music plays against a contrast of shades, the light, the dark. The heavy and the pristine. This song is a perfect example.  Nearly pop-like in it's flavor, the acoustic guitar is paradoxically light-hearted as it strums the verse.  Listen closely, there's cellos.   But the light is only the barest of covers for the brooding darkness beneath.   Anger lies hidden in the explosion of guitar that decimates the calm half way through.  Notes shred and boil with intensity and passion as it all builds to a massive crescendo.  Most telling of all though is Mould's voice.  Anguish laces his vocal chords.  Words come out in spits of poison.  Lyrics rush by in huffs of fury.

Where is he in this song?   I have no frame of reference, but given where he was in his life my guess is a longing for peace, particularly with his sexuality.  "There's a price to pay for a wish to come true.  Trade a small piece of your life," seems to speak of the backlash he expects if he were to fully embrace his identity as a gay man. That struggle, and any other struggle he may have been engaging are clear.  The pain is palpable. 

"Heartbreak a Stranger," features one of Mould's best vocal performances on the album, his voice creating a dance of mood and nuance.  Despite the composition being entirely acoustic, the oppression never lifts.  I hear this and am flooded with an overbearing weight of loneliness.  At the darkest moments of my life, I've felt the stark alienation that fuels the song.  When nerves are so wounded and raw that words even from a stranger can cut deeply, throwing open that chasm of self-loathing.

"See a Little Light," as the title suggests, is a reflection of hope.  A searching across the horizon of a dying relationship for the beacon that represents a new day.  Whether this song speaks to a former lover or the break up of his old band isn't clear, but it takes me both places.

And then there's "Poison Years", the centerpiece of emotional darkness.  The sound of that lonely man, locked in his isolated cabin, releasing a lifetime's worth of demons.  What could only have been written about his former bandmate Grant Hart, Mould tears open his soul, admonishing the pain of those years with him.  The poison years.  We've all been there, one relationship or another, where we just needed to scream and spit into the face of the heavens to release the poison we've ingested.  Rip open our chests to release that soul-crushing vileness of a toxic relationship.  The screaming need to throw aside the numbness and self-doubt and feel something real again.  "Posion Years" is that screaming. That catharsis.  That unbridled need for freedom and the casting aside of mental/emotional shackles.

I almost physically crawl into Mould's voice in this song, drawn in by the bile and the anguish that drapes his vocal chords.  The song is all about Mould's voice.  Even the lyrics when seen aren't all that stunning.  They're simple and direct.  But it's that combination of the directed arrows of his words with the liberating cleansing of the emotional toxin that drives the song deep into my man-child midbrain. Back to the place where each moment of that pain is real and suppressed.

Mould's guitar work here is brilliant. From the deceptively simple  acoustic riff to the mid-song explosion of fury.  His notes sound like screams.  Feed back wails like dying souls.

And the album goes on from there.  A purging.  An emotional eradicator.

My heavy album of the week.

--Racer




Sunday, July 28, 2013

In Memory of JJ Cale - The Yang to Hard Rock's Yin



The other day we lost an American treasure.  Tulsa native JJ Cale was a one of the pioneers of the genre that we now classify as Singer/Songwriter.  He wrote such classics as “They Call Me The Breeze”, “Cocaine”, and “After Midnight”.  He was 74.

Normally I’m writing about bands and musicians that push their amps to ridiculous volumes and levels of distortion.  I usually write about this style with  tongue-in-cheek humor, but I have a good reason.  Lurking out there, waiting to be discovered by the younger generation of record collectors and musicians are JJ Cale’s records.  A master of subtlety and understatement, JJ’s sound is the Yang to Hard Rock’s Yin.   For as much as stoner rock writers and musicians talk about zoning out or tuning in or getting set into a meditative trance by modern psychedelic hard and heavy rock bands, save for Brant Bjork, I have still to hear someone yet to get close to settling into the deep, laid back groove that is JJ’s trademark sound.  For those of you who don’t know, JJ Cale’s name is usually directly followed by the words “laid back”.  That’s a hell of a compliment if you ask me.

For me, discovering JJ’s music was a breath of fresh air.  I had been deep in the rut of drugged out psychedelic jams...stoner rock, if you will.   But I’m lucky.  I have a friend who has mentored me through several of my big musical phases and he has a knack of playing the right record at the right time.  Once it was Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky.  I didn’t think that I could find a better record for chilling out than Dark Side of the Moon before then.  So naturally, I was looking for the next record to settle my blues with musical contentment.  After Red Headed Stranger, I was really lost on where to go next. The answer was under my nose.  This is how it usually goes for me.  A big part of developing as an artist is letting go of that pesky little ego that easily develops as your chops and knowledge of your medium do as well.  You see, I knew about him.  I had read about him.   I am ashamed to admit I already had my two favorite JJ Cale records on my Ipod.  I just ignored him.  It was the drum machine in “They Call Me The Breeze”.  I was a snob.  I was a jerk.  I was an idiot.  It was a hard lesson in rock and roll.  Check your ego at the door. But, I had heard Clapton’s takes on “After Midnight”  and “Cocaine”.  “They Call Me The Breeze” was far and away from my favorite Skynyrd tracks.  I honestly thought they sucked.  I was right.  When you hear JJ’s recordings, drum machine and all, it is like reading a favorite book again, new for the first time...and they aren’t even the best songs on the records.  Those dudes didn’t even really get close.  No ever will. 

Often imitated and never duplicated.  A true original.  These are words often reserved for Willie Nelson.  It was fitting that I was studying both men’s career at the same time.   There are some definite parallels, but with two different outcomes.  Both men were from the same part of the country.  Both men had a hard time finding their groove with a career as a solo musician while writing songs that were turned into massive hits by more famous acts.  Both men have an instantly recognizable, mellow sound.  Willy broke through and turned into a mega superstar.  JJ humbly continued making music somewhat in the shadow of obscurity.  Eventually, after Eric Clapton finally made the point of showcasing JJ by splitting a record with him did the media really pay attention to him. He was in his 60s.  Like Willie, JJ’s music is a classic blend of what is now called Americana.  His particular way of stirring that melting pot of styles leaves listeners with a sense of serene calmness that is a result of experimental dynamics that few musicians or producers venture towards.  Personally, I find that with his prolific songwriting skills, crystal clearly executed tones, and understanding of how a recording studio works in conjunction with the music puts him among the better known greats Les Paul and Chet Atkins.  Those are big shoes to fill, but hopefully with the attention that his death will garner from those who worked with him or covered his songs, the rest of the musical community will come to understand my sentiment as well.  For those skeptics reading this, I will leave you with his 1976 recording of “Cherry” and you should easily understand where I’m coming from.  Try not to get carried away to far.


--The Grime





The Heaviest Album I've Heard - The Trashmen - Surfin' Bird





Year......1978.  I just had gotten my first record player for my eighth birthday.  It was one of those box record players that had a hinged cover and a internal speaker......and it was orange.   I got some crappy K-Tel record also.....but was not very impressed except for "The Rubberband Man" track by The Spinners for some reason. 

Not Long after my mother arrived home from spending a morning going to yard sales and  brought me home a stack of records.   What caught my eye was these guys in blue suits with their instruments (and a broom and shovel) posing behind a truck.  A crazy red font across the top "Surfin' Bird".  This had to be played right away.  At the time I did not know this album was made up of mostly covers....but this did not matter to me.  First track......"Surfin' Bird".   I drop the needle......BAAAAAMMMMM.  Something punched through my chest grabbed my heart and started moving my body to the heavy beat, low bass line of this crazy ass song.  I am listening to this track right now and I get the same feeling.  I can not help but move around in my desk chair with my head moving around.  This was it......this is where I fell in love with music and that song alone has had the HEAVIEST impact on me.  Let us not stop there kids.  I do have to say the rest of side A was not very interesting to me......but still had that nice driving beat and wonderful and typical surf guitar work.  Side B......Whaaaammmm........."King of the Surf", "My Woody", "Bird Bath" (another weird ass song) and another favorite "The Sleeper".  A few of these songs were stories like "The Sleeper" and had sound effects that really keeps the interest of an eight year old better than say........a Dylan song. 

Overall this album has steady hard hitting beats and the bass line was on that low end that made the speakers just throw that bass that feels like your heart is reverberating to.  There is no other way to call anything heavier when the bass and beat of a group of songs feel like the are physically pushing down on and through your chest and making your body uncontrollably move around.  Then add in the great surf guitar, story telling lyrics, weird vocals and sound effects.......what the hell else can you ask for as an eight year old??  Kiss "Rock and Roll Over" I got a few weeks later.......but that is another story and still did not have the heaviest impact.  So.....My pick for Heaviest Album ever for me is The Trashmen - "Surfin' Bird". 


--Daniel "ChemoMonk" Ellcey
DJ/Producer of the eclectic internet radio show "Buddha Stole My Turntable" on PoDunk Radio.com (Weekly Thursday Nights 800pm EST to 10pm EST). 
Procrastinator, Heretic and deifier of Clean Living.  

The Heaviest Album I've Heard - Deep Purple – In Rock



We were given the topic to write about, our personal heaviest album.  For someone like me, who listens to a shit ton of metal all the time, this was a little difficult.  I mean, I listen to stuff that crushes my skull on a regular basis.  It wasn't a problem in that I didn't have anything heavy to check out, it was that I had too much heaviness.

So I started thinking back on my musical journey and how I really got interested in heavy music.  I was very fortunate growing up; my father was into pretty heavy stuff, so I heard a lot of Black Sabbath, Ten Years After, Jimi Hendrix, Grand Funk in their early years, and of course this band, Deep Purple.  You young metal heads may look at this list and think, “That isn't heavy at all”, but these bands wrote the blueprints for all the heavy and extreme bands that we know and love now.  And chalk it up to my personal tastes, but Deep Purple was really the heaviest band to me.

There is something simply titanic about the grooves on this album, especially when Jon Lord on keys, Roger Glover on bass, and Ritchie Blackmore on guitar lock into the same groove at the same time.  The sound is just massive.  “Speed King”, the album opener, is considered by some to be the very first speed metal song, a genre that gave rise to all the wonderful thrash we have enjoyed over the years.  “Child In Time” is an absolute epic, and maybe the first truly epic song that graced metal music.  It shows subtlety in playing, great dynamics, fantastic tempo changes and sheer virtuosity all the way through.  This studio version is killer, but if you really want to see what these guys can go, check out ANY live version of “Child In Time”.  It will leave you spent.

You want some crushing grooves?  Give a listen to “Flight Of The Rat” and “Black Night”.  “Bloodsucker” crushes as well.  These three songs really show how a band can be heavy as fuck and still make you move to the music, and what a legacy that is to music.  How many bands do we listen to today who follow this style, all these bands we know and love?  Here is the genesis of the heavy groove.  These tracks also really bring to the fore how heavy it can be when every instrument in the band locks in to the same groove and lets it rip.  Every bit as skull crushingly heavy as any current metal band you choose to name.

If you want to hear some really illuminating stuff, check out the anniversary version of this CD that came out in England a few years back.  There are additional tracks, demo versions and studio workouts that show just how heavy this band was.  I listened to this album, “Machine Head”, and “Made In Japan”, over and over again.  It got me juiced for heavier stuff, and in time I found Iron Maiden, Motorhead, and Saxon, and then the fun really began.  But if it weren't for “In Rock”, my appetites for heavier things would never have grown and wouldn't have led me down the left hand path.  This album was my gateway drug and I couldn't be happier.  I still listen to it often and still get new things from it.  So in my humble opinion, it is the heaviest album, certainly in my world.

- ODIN




Saturday, July 27, 2013

BRUTUS - Behind The Mountain



A five man band made up of three bearded Swedes and two Norwegians who play rock music like the late '60s and early '70s never went away. If you like groovy and psychedelic hard rock, bring forth your bellbottoms and wide lapels because these guys are exactly what Hyde from That '70s Show would have been listening to.

That's right kids, break out the bong, grab a gatefold album and start rolling them because this is a throwback to those heady and crazy days of your parents and possibly your youth if you are of an older persuasion that is. The songs are thick with GRAND FUNK riffs, heavy bass and a groove to shake your feathered hair to. This sounds exactly like I remember the basement of my house sounded like when my brother and his friends were over and I can still smell that fragrant aroma that hung in the air, trying to be covered by incense. As you can see, not at all like the TV show at all.

The band plays a very rocking set of songs that lay on the heavy grooves that will get stuck in your head and they also have some really awesome guitar playing going on that will get the air guitars going. The throbbing bass really give the songs that nice bottom heavy feel and really add depth to the songs. The band really seems to be having a great time playing and it's so infectious that you will definitely feel it and get a smile on your face.

This is a great album that is full of incredible riffs, thick beats and mostly the memories of my youth that in conjures up for me. I will be playing this as much as possible and will force everyone that I know to listen to it and groove on with me.



--HarleyTexas










Friday, July 26, 2013

THE FUZZ DRIVERS Signs Worldwide Deal With Ripple Music





   
RIPPLE MUSIC is proud to announce the signing of acclaimed, hard-hitting Portugese retro-heavy rockers, The FUZZ DRIVERS to their ever-expanding roster!

Southern Rock from a Portuguese rock band? That would be CORRECT! The Fuzz Drivers are a blasting new sound formed in Lisbon, who are claiming fast fame in Portugal. The talents of Marcelo Vieira (vocals), Sergio "Mad Mag" (guitar), João Lopes (bass) and Duarte Carvalho (drums) packed a powerhouse of sound into their self-titled debut album, and now the band plans to do the same with Ripple Music.

Influences from music of the past four decades rages to the forefront of The Fuzz Drivers sound creating a definite Southern Rock vibe that is then blended through the hard rock cannon of Soundgarden and Led Zeppelin. Plowing the same massively heavy fields of 70's/80's classic hard rock that fueled their self-titled debut, The Fuzz Drivers aim to build upon the crushing success of that first release and take their rocking brand of heaviness to a new level with their Ripple Music debut which will be released world-wide in 2014. The band plans to follow up with a full-scale European tour and hit all the major heavy rock festivals.

Fuzz Drivers commented yesterday upon the new alliance; "Joining the Ripple Music family opens up a whole new exciting chapter for The Fuzz Drivers. Not only we are deeply honoured and humbled to join a roster of amazing bands, but we are thrilled to work with a label with people who love Heavy Rock and pour their hearts into what they do in a way that is rarely seen these days! With all that energy, love and rock'n'roll combined, we know that amazing things are bound to happen!"

For the growing legions of Ripple fans, known as the Waveriders, The Fuzz Drivers will be another must-hear addition to the ranks of bands that already include such heavy rockers as Mos Generator, Devil to Pay, Mothership, Trucker Diablo and Ape Machine. You can bet that the combination of The Fuzz Drivers and Ripple Music will be a combustible mixture!

Read a full review of The Fuzz Drivers' debut album at this location

In September, The Fuzz Drivers will hit the road with King Lizard and The Scams. Dates are as follows:

September 11th - UK - Grimsby, Yardbirds
September 12th - SCO - Edinburgh, Bannerman's
September 13th - UK - Bradford, Gasworks
September 14th - UK - Southampton, ROXX
September 15th - UK - London, The Underworld
September 16th - B - Tongeren, Club Sodom
September 18th - GER - Hamburg, Rock Café St. Pauli
September 19th - GER - Cologne, MTC
September 20th - GER - Hamminkeln, KuBa 


"Rock and roll, that's what it's all about on this excellent debut album from Portuguese band The Fuzz Drivers - old-school, rollicking, joyfully played rock n' roll that isn't trying for over-processed, sterile perfection, but rather wants to rock your heart, and rock your soul, and rock your body, and make you feel something (maybe even think something). The Fuzz Drivers succeed on all counts." - Hard Rock Nights

"When Danny Vaughn introduces you to a band, you stand up and take notice. The Fuzz Drivers are a Portuguese based band with an undying love for old school rock n' roll. Think Rival Sons meets The Burning Crows. The album is a blistering success that will get you in the mood for the summer sun as well as the mud soaked fields of the UK festival circuit"- Phil Weller & Edward Laing, Rock Fusion

"Rock and Roll will never die! That is what I think when I hear a band like The Fuzz Drivers for the first time. Classic rock has inspired bands all over the globe, and The Fuzz Drivers are dishing out the best 70s style rock and roll I have ever heard from Portugal."  - Hard Rock Hideout

"Welcome to The Fuzz Drivers. They mean business ladies and gentlemen. This debut album proves that these guys could blow some minds." - Rockulus Maximus

The Fuzz Drivers are:

Marcelo (vocals)
Duarte (drums)
João (bass)
Sérgio (guitar)

 

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