Sunday, June 29, 2014

Zoetrope's A Life of Crime, Holocross' Holocross and CJSS' Praise The Loud


So-- let me tell you a story....

A story of a teenage metalhead, and this-- of some many, many years ago.

My family lived in, we'll say, Location X. My dad's family, however, was from Location Y. Periodically, about once a year, we'd go to visit his parents in Y.

It was a long drive. To pass the time (especially as I hit 12 and/or 13 and got really into metal), I brought a Walkman (look it up, kids) and a pseudo-leather case that held 10 cassettes for said Sony device.

During the trip, there was an obvious halfway point-- said point contained a Jerry's restaurant, and a video game arcade that had both Space Harrier and Dragon's Lair.
One one trip, probably around 1987, I brought my pseudo-leather cassette holder with my Walkman into said arcade (after having slaughtered a Jerry's hamburger, two orders of french fries and two desert orders-- I was a fat kid); I played Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man, and finally Dragon's Lair (which was insanely hard, ending faster than fast), coupled with Space Harrier.

I ended up tired. We were nearly 100 miles away (in the family Taurus station wagon, you see), when I actually noticed that I'd left behind my cassettes.

By the time we got back to said spot, the cassettes were long long LONG gone.

Over the next few years, I managed to get 7 of the 10 cassettes back (often in CD or MP3)-- but three eluded me. Three held my interest as nearly mythical albums that I'd failed to find.

Three that were, in retrospect, the personification of the metal god, whatever his name, in cassette/ CD form (you know how you exaggerate your memories).

Three that were missing-- up 'til recently [Over 20 Goddamned years!]

God bless the internet.

God bless piracy.

The long-missing trio were, obvies by now, Cincinnati's CJSS and their Praise the Loud, Chicago's Zoetrope and A Life of Crime, and Ohio's Holocross and their self-titled work.
CJSS' Praise the Loud is actually now on iTunes, but both Holocross and Zoetrope's master works are only available when pirated, e.g., via Mediafire.com.

I'm not suggesting you do anything; I'm not advocating a course of action for you-- I'm  just saying.

Highlights here: "Out of Control," "Land of the Free," and "Praise the Loud," though pretty much any track on here works-- CJSS was the combination of musician's last names
Chastain, Jenkins, Skimmerhorn, and Sharpe-- the "Chastain" being one David T. Chastain, a lesser-known guitar hero of some repute. Proof that you can actually write good songs that are based on very-difficult-to-play main riffs.

Regarding Zoetrope (pronounced zoey-trope or, if you're wicked into phonetics: ˈzəʊɪˌtrəʊp )

I saw their drummer/ vocalist, Barry Stern, live in 1991-- when he was playing drums for Trouble (who were opening for Savatage) and their Rick Rubin-produced masterpiece. He was truly great.

Zoetrope, meanwhile, was his neglected baby. A Life of Crime came out on Combat records and cassettes (remember Combat?)-- and it was Punk speed and attitude + metal fury and detuned power. It equalled pure awesome.

Opener "Detention" sports a main riff that was, weirdly, the same first riff-ever that I "wrote" back in the '80s-- and there's not a bad track on here (although the lyrics from "Promiscuity" are pretty laughable)-- highlights are "Unbridled Energy," and "Hard to Survive."

Holocross, on Holocross, sound like Repulsion playing Raven or Anvil. I'm actually a little surprised that this one has held up as well as it did-- I remember thinking, as a teenager, that this one seemed a little over the top. And yet it seems absolutely understated, listening to it now (minus the super-high Halford yelps that periodically pop up). Also, the guitar tone is sick (very, very '80s: "scooped" with all the mids gone, and just the highs and the lows present). Highlights: "Warpath," and "Ptomaine."

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