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Monday, March 31, 2008

Book Review: Reckless Road: Guns 'n Roses and the Making of Appetite For Destruction

Reckless Road: Guns 'n Roses and the Making of Appetite For Destruction
Marc Canter with Jason Porath and extra photography by Jack Lue
2007 Shoot Hip Press

I'd like to start with a personal commentary leading into this examination of Marc Canter's astounding retrospective Reckless Road: Guns 'n Roses and the Making of Appetite For Destruction.

The Guns 'n Roses nationwide phenomenon--at least from the point-of-view from a late blooming east coast--began at the tail end of crossover, that moment in time when metalheads and punk rockers buried their hatchets and changed the face of underground rock in the eighties. Despite the fact certain punk bands switched allegiances and turned thrash, it was Guns 'n Roses who largely kept the treaty intact, so to speak. Like SOD beforehand, it was a punk rocker who turned a friend of mine onto GNR when Appetite For Destruction was first released by Geffen Records. Keep in mind it still hadn't caught on across the country yet. Said friend adamantly suggested I listen at once, citing a Hanoi Rocks base but much heavier. Indeed he was right; there was a lingering snaggletooth snarl that attracted the punks and the thrashers before Guns 'n Roses became worldwide rock icons.

Suffice it to say, I was blown to Kingdom Come (not the band, they'd blown it at Monsters of Rock) upon greeting with Appetite, as undoubtedly the entire world was the first time they sat down with what has become the Led Zeppelin II or Dark Side of the Moon of the eighties. Of course, what that meant was Guns 'n Roses, like Metallica and Van Halen, was being plundered out of our overprotective, refuse-to-share arms by the mainstream. In hindsight when you realize how long Guns 'n Roses bashed out the songs that would comprise Appetite in the famous bars of the Sunset Strip, the accusation could easily be made that we'd stolen GNR from Los Angeles. That's pretty damned sobering when you put it into perspective.

Oversaturation from radio and MTV for me took the joy out of "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child O' Mine," and when I was a hockey analyst, I soon grew to detest "Welcome to the Jungle" since Slash's jagged intro notes used to tweak the PA systems (and my nerves) at every puck drop. When the average NHL game can have over 50 faceoffs, well, let's just say I'd rather have listened to "Disco Duck" as punishment instead.

When I think of the cash hits of Appetite, I don't dwell upon the songs themselves; in fact, I think of The Rolling Stones' "Good Times, Bad Times," because while this explosive, mass-appealing chunk of rock 'n roll gave me much happiness for a number of months, they also unfortunately get the no-fault stigma as being soundtrack to some days I'd rather not dwell upon, in addition to people of my past that have no place other than in the late eighties where they belong. I'm sad to say "Sweet Child 'O Mine" and Appetite For Destruction is painful for me to listen to, and I feel robbed in a way, particularly when I think how much I used to back up (on cassette, which was always a chore until they learned how to put stop gaps at the openings of songs) "My Michelle," "Nighttrain" and "It's So Easy." Yes, I also played the piss out of "Welcome to the Jungle" the summer I was introduced to Appetite, so I have a strange relationship with this album and Guns 'n Roses, so much that I opt to take comfort in "November Rain" from Use Your Illusion I as what I believe to be one of the finest recorded songs of all-time. When it comes to one of rock's undeniable best, you just do what you have to.

The reason for this slightly unprofessional personal introduction is to give you my mindframe as I approached Marc Canter and company's Reckless Road: Guns 'n Roses and the Making of Appetite For Destruction. As a journalist, it's my responsibility to be as unbiased as possible, which is occasionally hard when you love the band you're discussing or interviewing. Frankly, it's essential to avoid being a band geek. Well, after reading this book, I realize sometimes it's not so bad to be a band geek, particularly if said geek was there to chronicle the ascension of scene-altering titans like Guns 'n Roses.

Reckless Road, folks, is about as crucial a rock documentary as you will find on the market, and the authority behind it is unquestionable, considering the primary organizer of this project happens to be the best friend of everyone's favorite top-hatted shaghead, Slash. Marc Canter was there, front and center (and stage right frequently to capture his pal in action) snapping off photos of Guns 'n Roses in their formative years, so much we're treated to a Prince-mimicking Axl Rose wearing chaps and thong, as we are a hatless Slash, not to mention Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Adler, all on their glam-flirting way to superstardom.

Reckless Road is like a lost video archive played before your eyes in still shots, but these photos move and gyrate as if you're there real-time. This may sound cliche, but it's true. Marc Canter, along with well-known eighties rock photgropher Jack Lue and a handful of guest contributors, fling their zoom lenses at Guns 'n Roses playing joints everyone into rock 'n roll music is familiar with: The Roxy, The Whisky, Gazzarri's and the Troubadour. Very seldom are you going to find a compendium filled with such comprehension as Marc Canter has assembled from attending the majority of Guns 'n Roses' shows from their pre-signing days.

His presence is validated by the inclusion of all five original members, who lend testimony to Reckless Road, citing Canter as friend and financier as Guns 'n Roses skulked Sunset in survival mode like their peers and already-made-its before them. Canter interjects random memories of growing up with Slash from their days as bike tricksters to the moment Slash found a guitar in his hand and quickly learned ten chords to begin his path as a rock 'n roll master. In turn, Canter, the band and various characters such as managers, roadies and the strippers who literally nursed Guns 'n Roses with food, sex, shelter and smack weave a tale of ambition and debauchery that was perceived by themselves as innocence, all in the creation of a legend.

As much as the photos breathe, so too do the words of the band and those who cared for them on their rise up the ladder. Reckless Road sees Axl Rose ducking in his stripper girlfriend's apartment on the run from the fuzz after a false accusation. It sees Vicky Hamilton, Guns 'n Roses' first official manager, burrowing herself in her bedroom while her charges party in her living room all night and ultimately trash the joint in a fused brawl. Reckless Road introduces us to Adriana Smith, Desi Craft and Pamela Jackson, ladies of the skin trade who never whored themselves out after stripping on-the-job. They saved themselves for Guns 'n Roses and perhaps one had to be there to understand how they gave themselves with freewill to the band, whether it be dancing onstage to covers of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" or simply keeping the bellies of their men full and their bodies warm.

We take the journey with Guns 'n Roses as they defy club-after-club to extend their short sets (obviously knowing they're going to headline and rule the world soon), and we learn more about the repulsive practice of pay-to-play in an already fiercely competitive business sector. We can visualize fists flying on the streets in the well-known flier wars and we can hear the gibes and the insults as each member of Guns 'n Roses takes potshots at the scrutinizing press, rival bands (Poison being a huge one) and even an arms-crossed Cali audience that was historically known as apathetic while GNR bashed out "Move to the City," "Think About You," "My Michelle," "Anything Goes," "Back Off Bitch," "Don't Cry" and signature covers of Aerosmith's "Mama Kin."

All of this leading to the band's signing with Tom Zutaut and Geffen Records, which begins a sequence of self-worth and unfortunate cockiness and as much effort as it took for Guns 'n Roses, who were more into the live aspect of their being than worrying about recording a magnum opus of hard rock, to focus and engineer what would become Appetite For Destruction, makes the entire saga truly a Behind-the-Music two-hour special or the possible inspiration for one hell of a rock movie--so long as Oliver Stone keeps out of it.

Though the text of Reckless Road could use some major editing, it hardly matters because you're sucked into this thing and quite likely you'll drift from cover-to-cover in fascination. This is the story of passion, love, craziness, betrayal, heartache and pomposity but at the heart is a story of five guys who hopscotched from band-to-band (including the once-popular LA Guns) to find one another, and as their car breaks down on their first road jaunt to Seattle (dubbed jokingly as the "Hell Tour"), we get a truly humanized examination of figurehead rockers who made it to the big time with a previously-unrecognized supporting cast supplementing the story.

The deplorable facet to the Guns 'n Roses lore is that they worked so goddamned hard to make it yet internal combustion split them apart, perhaps way ahead of their time. You now have Velvet Revolver, who may not be the commercial equivalent of Guns 'n Roses, but in a sales-drained music scene as we have today, they're representative of the big leagues from which Guns 'n Roses clawed through and briefly prospered in. Though their fortunes were pissed and tooted away, the burning embers of this band is unfortunately left in the hands of the reclusive Axl Rose, who brings an occasional ensemble to a theater or two as Guns 'n Roses and though Sebastian Bach will attest that Chinese Democracy is more out of Axl's hands and in those of record bureaucrats, who's to say if that and Guns 'n Roses in a proper form will ever surface.

Bringing this full circle, I'm happy to have confronted the demons that plague me regarding Appetite For Destruction. Though it took the Ramones to sweep all of that horridness of a past life away, I can feel empathy for Marc Canter to the extent that I've come to know a lot of bands who I think have a shot. I may not have Canter's time and resources that he was able to invest into an up-and-coming Guns 'n Roses, but I understand his excitement and intrinsic need to document all of it. I'm so moved by it I'm possibly willing to drag Appetite from the shelf after a very long layoff. One day when the Guns guys are much older, they will be able to crack this book open and look at the men they were and wonder how they made it through, much less to the promised land. Perhaps then they'll learn the patience they breathily professed on record and MTV and hopefully settle their differences...

Link: Reckless Road website

Sunday, March 30, 2008

CD Review: Heidevolk - Walhalla Wacht

Heidevolk - Walhalla Wacht
2008 Napalm Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One thing about heavy metal music; its appeal has never been centralized to one vicinity or a mere handful of locations. The sound is never territorial and it courses through the veins of the infected from all walks of life and all countries. In the eighties, to reach transcontinental shores to experience what others were listening to was done through time-exhaustive international snail mail, or the scant few (as relates to the grand perspective) bands that won solid recording deals to have their albums distributed through other countries.

Nowadays we've become a more global society at-large, and the metal community itself has grown exponentially so that we're all in touch with one another courtesy of the internet and expedited overseas shipping. What this means is that in North America we're being exposed to more and more metal that has already been firmly entrenched in Europe, South America and Asia in addition to more recent additions and what seems to be a highly "in" thing, particularly in Euro and Scandinavian metal right now is what gets sub-sanctioned into press-tailored categories such as "Nordic Metal," "Celtic Metal," "Pagan Metal," "Epic Fantasy Metal," "Viking Metal," "Folk Death Metal," or "Forest Rape ala The Evil Dead Metal," if you like. Perhaps we ought to lump it altogether under one banner called "Heritage Metal" because the sound of triumphant odes inspired by ancient folklore, helmed by the assistance of power metal drives, occasional thrash and a lot of earthbound folk-oriented instruments has become a literal rage through widely-varied and differently versed bands such as Tyr, Korpiklaani, Fintroll, Leaves Eyes, Falkenbach, Ensiferum and of course, Nightwish.

Whereas the original New Wave of British Heavy Metal was at-heart a celebration of Medieval times and a post-Elizabethean England supreme, today's "Heritage Metal" practitioners have drifted further back in the history books to find their relative afflation. Bands such as Gelderland, Netherland's Heidevolk can be seen dressed in time period garb as say, Battlelore prior to their Evernight album, and in some ways, we've entered a Renaissance Fair subculture in metal, one where it's not just fun to drift around a replicated, dusty period of time with mead from your local microbrewery in a replica horn flask in one hand, a turkey leg in the other, and a recently-purchased dagger and leather sheath strapped to your kilt. The daydream effect of Old Europe has caught on so much that a band like Heidevolk runs like hell with the entire precipice through hammering power metal grooves and a pair of vocalists singing in native tongue that is like Saxon reinterpreted through more primeval schools of folklore.

Though Heidevolk hasn't exactly written the folk-rooted equivalent to Wheels of Steel, there's an undeniable NWOBHM stamp atop their third release Walhalla Wacht that gives these Dutch metallers all the platform they need to croon and wail stoically through songs like "Saksenland," "Koning Radboud," "Opstand Der Bataven" and "Het Wilde Heer," the latter of which rips forth with rapid guitar strums and traditional fiddles that set up the song's fist-pounding choruses.

Heidevolk utilizes a duo of clean vocalists and frequently they jockey amongst themselves like a pair of pub rousers while attempting to carry forth loud and proud Germanic and pagan odes, stripping things down to an acoustic gang rabbling on the practically inebriated "Naar De Hal Der Gevallenen." Pass 'em an ale and pass this writer a stout...

The random dynamics of Heidevolk exhibits comes courtesy of a mix of blasting black metal tempos and power crunches on "Zwaarden Geheven," then tempered immediately thereafter by an organic, reed-flavored finale, "Dageraad." In this respect, Walhalla Wacht is a fun (if occasionally choppy) album that will undoubtedly have you sharpening your battle axes and oiling your swords inside the fantastical netherworld of your hero conqueror's imagination...

Rating: ***1/2

Introducing Ireland's Chosen

Chosen is an Irish three-piece prog-death-crunch band that has evolved over the course of a series of three EPs collectively entitled Fragment. With a steadfast approach that hails influences from Voivod to Botch to Scandinavian death metal, Chosen has currently tracked 14 songs for future use, and frankly, if they sound this potent in demo form, stand prepared for the polished material because these guys have the potential to blow you sky high.

Consisting of Paul Shields on guitar, David McCann on drums and Matt Gaynor on bass, Chosen has been looking to expand from an instrumental band to a full-fledged unit featuring a vocalist. As a result, the band has relocated to Vancouver, Canada in search of their elusive lead.

To sample Chosen's music, visit their MySpace page: Chosen MySpace page

Access the band's main website here: Chosen website

Also, check out this sick rehearsal footage video of Chosen:

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Alice Cooper - "Welcome to My Nightmare" on The Muppet Show

More Muppets mayhem...

Underappreciated Slabs Saturday: Voivod - The Outer Limits

Out of all the selections for Underappreciated Slabs Saturday thus far, this is one of the few I feel is less of a hard sell since the death of Denis "Piggy" D'Amour has done more wonders for the overall credibility factor of Voivod in the eyes of the metal community now than when Killing Technology, Dimension Hatross and Nothingface ripped the scene a new one throughout the eighties.

To know me is to know that Voivod is one of the bands most closest to my heart, so much that I would offend half of the rock world by saying they destroyed the shit out of Soundgarden and Faith No More, who opened for Voivod on one of the greatest tour packages ever assembled. This is saying something considering that Faith No More put on one of the most memorable sets I've ever seen (so much Mike Patton climbed into the rafters of the now-dead DC club The Bayou and laid himself out in them) and Soundgarden was positively electric (not to mention the fact that Chris Cornell, still wearing his long Jesus locks, inadvertently strangled me in the front row with his guitar cord when jumping into the crowd, Bob Vinyl being my savior that evening). Still, it was the headliners Voivod (improbable headliners I'm sure to some jaded rock historians) who not only blew the club apart with cybernetic prog thrash, but they created one of the most hypnotic and psychedelic backdrops with which to flail at top speed and thus creating the ultimate communion between band and audience.

This was 1990 and during Voivod's flirtation with the big leagues from their pivotal album Nothingface. Unfortunately, all the hype and the promotional pushing from Mechanic Records, not to mention Voivod's stout reputation onstage still failed to give Voivod their due. The sheer effort these Quebecois cyberpunks exerted in support of Nothingface had to have exhausted them, and even though their stellar cover of Pink Floyd's "Astronomy Domine" gave them class mark honors, there was still denial to metal's promised land, even to the upper tiers of thrash with Megadeth, Testament and Anthrax where Voivod assuredly deserved to hang. In actuality, Voivod at their best was twice those bands (no disrespect intended in any way, shape or form), and there had to have been a lingering frustration in Voivod that they were kept back from the rightful place of honor. The follow-up album to Voivod's masterpiece Nothingface was the left-of-center Angel Rat, an album that holds up fairly well when you listen to it now, but at the time, if you were a Voivod fan, there was cause for alarm.

An undeniable funk and fugue lingers over Angel Rat, so much that even bassist Jean-Yves "Blacky" Theriault abandoned ship after laying down the studio tracks. It might even be said that Blacky's departure, along with the downward drug spiral Denis "Snake" Belanger briefly succumbed to sent Voivod into a land of confusion, so much they opted later on to go back to the outrageous speed and sonic distortion (minus Snake on top of it) of their War and Pain and Rrroooaaarrr... days with 1997's screechy Phobos.

At least in 1993, though still pared down to a trio and dependent upon the reliance of studio bassist Pierre St. Jean, there was still some magic lurking in Voivod, the one still in the mindframe of Dimension Hatross and Nothingface at least in terms of forward-thinking progression. Not that The Outer Limits is a blazingly fast album as its predecessors, but it certainly is a beautifully-conceived opus of prog metal that, if you're studying today's scene closely, has had an enormous impact on younger practitioners.

In 1993 it seemed as if thrash bands at-large were serving sentence for punitive damages to a scene that was largely unprepared for them. Thrash literally crashed and thrust itself upon heavy metal, and for their collective belligerence, the figureheads of the movement were forced to cool their jets and slow down, or else lose their record contracts. Look at all of the key thrash bands at this point in time and you'll notice each and every one of them toned their act down. The sick joke was that only a year later the majority of them were forced into exile because metal had been voted out of favor.

It is this reason most likely that The Outer Limits isn't as fast as it could be, but at the same time, when Voivod steps it up on "We Are Not Alone" and in spurts on their mindmelding epic "Jack Luminous," you know damned well Voivod can play at whatever speed they choose and feel comfortable in their own skins.

At the same time, the songwriting on The Outer Limits is so vast, even with a stripped, soul-bared feel to it that brute velocity is wholly unnecessary for it to deliver an impact. Undeniably The Outer Limits is Piggy's show and it is one of his legacies as a scene-altering guitarist, much less a mathematic song sculptor. The 17-minute odyssey of "Jack Luminous" could possibly stand, along with "Tribal Convictions" from Dimension Hatross as the definitive embodiment of what Voivod represents to metal music. "Jack Luminous" is one of the most gloriously confusing and complex metal epics ever pieced together, because it is like one song after another in a metal medley that ranges from grandiose and wondrous to surgically massive and without a doubt Piggy brought his entire arsenal to this tune. Sensory overload? You betcha, but seldom are you going to be submitted to something this daedalian and not scream bloody murder and accuse it of convolution.

"Jack Luminous" could've been released on its own as an EP and be considered a hallmark of Voivod's catalog, because the other songs on The Outer Limits are strictly independent of it and it's not that they lack the artistic integrity of "Jack Luminous," but the way this heat-seeking epic captivatingly sweeps you to another plane of music appreciation gives you an entirely singular experience unto itself.

At least The Outer Limits has a streetwise savviness to simply rock on songs like "Fix My Heart," "Wrong-Way Street," "Time Warp" and "Moonbeam Rider" while drowning in calculated and spacey quadrophonics with "Le Pont Noir" and "The Lost Machine."

Even when "Time Warp" opts to deliver its verses in heavy stomps, Voivod doesn't forget to insert complicated note and beat sequences on the bridges to give us the proper Voivod feel and allow Piggy to shut his eyes and impose us to close our own and swim in his hypnotic, tapestried note pulls before switching gears on us again as Voivod is most famous for. In fact, consider Voivod the master innovators of time signature swaps in heavy metal, so much when they suck you in with the brisk effervesence of "Moonbeam Rider" and let you ride along at a tap-tap pace and a sonically vibrant soundscape, they agitate the song with interwoven heavier crunches and dreamy hallucinogenics from Piggy's guitars, creating a truly cosmic listening experience.

Of course, Voivod goes for another Pink Floyd cover on The Outer Limits with "The Nile Song" and of course they do an admirable job, but if I hear one more person talk about this album as being the one with "The Nile Song" instead of the one with "Time Warp," "We Are Not Alone" and the spellbinding "Jack Luminous," I'm gonna make 'em sit in an all-day Voivod listening session so they hear the evolution (and a rare misfire or two) of one of heavy metal's true titans that finally started getting some genuine love when Jason Newsted joined ranks and then sadly issued their crown after one of their lords fell.

At the very least remember The Outer Limits as the mark of a band responding to crisis by giving all they had to give at that certain point, which included the ultra-rad 3-D artwork in the liner notes from band scribbler/drummer Michel "Away" Langevin. If you're a late bloomer to Voivod, get yourself connected into their matrix at once... The posthumously-released Katorz is a nice dedication piece to acquainted with, but if you want to hear why Voivod is one of the greatest bands of any genre, hook up with The Outer Limits and then drift backwards in time with these guys. You won't ever forget the trip...

CD Review: Funeral Crashers - La Fin Absolue Du Monde

Funeral Crashers - La Fin Absolue Du Monde
2007 Funeral Crashers
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Being a horror fan, I instantly fell curious about this album, not just because of the schway punk name Funeral Crashers, but because anybody with the immediate chutzpah to name their album after John Carpenter's Masters of Horror episode "Cigarette Burns" in which an alleged snuff film called "La Fin Absolue Du Monde" causes homicidal impulses from its viewers...well hell, sign my inquisitve ass up at once!

What was unexpected, however, from Funeral Crashers' La Fin Absolue Du Monde was a muddy and murky play on horror punk utilizing Bauhaus, Joy Division, early Psychedelic Furs and even Modern English as a guiding force to their chum bucket grime punk. Seriously, this is one raunchy (not in the sexual connotation) bit of unhinged Goth rock that throws in random surprises (such as subtle shades of Buzzcocks, The Stranglers, Killing Joke, GBH and The Vibrators) outside the sometimes just-wrong delivery from this band that includes wallowing vocals from Philip H. Lovecraft (if you're a horror aficianado, how can you not appreciate this cheeky alter ego?), drumming that both throbs and strays off-course and an overall sense of gutter sloppiness that makes La Fin Absolue Du Monde occasionally hard to digest.

On the other hand, there's something appreciable to Funeral Crashers' trash and gloom savante that gets compensated the more you grow accustomed to it. Think about the first time you heard Ian Curtis' oy-vey gurgling...if you say it was an instant love affair, you lie! Still, the more you submitted yourself to Curtis and Joy Division, the more it grew on you, and there's not a punk, Goth or althead alive (including a mass ranks of headbangers like this writer) that doesn't own at least one Joy Division album. This methodology seems to be where Funeral Crashers are coming from, at least in one respect. If The Misfits went purely Goth, they might've gone into the twisted pastures Funeral Crashers plays in, and most certainly songs like "Faithless Songs," "Disconnected" and "A Personal Vendetta" throb like 120 Minutes shoulda-made-its, while "Mystery Hand" steps on the gas and rolls out the jams and slams.

If anything, Funeral Crashers tread into as many territories as they can, even drifting towards hypnotic trance alt as on "Malediction" and "Whisper." It's the guitars of Edward Raison, who has probably spent enough time consuming David J and Johnny Marr that gives his band some pretty inspired tonal qualities and honestly, spin this album a few times and Raison's cohesive glue keeps dragging you back. Check out his beautiful opening to "Blackout Days," huh? With a spit of more polish, Funeral Crashers can turn into something awesome, but for their fans right now, assuredly this band's intentional quirkiness is something probably they're unwilling to sacrifice. Call it a potential niche.

Rating: ***1/2

CD Review: Isis - "Holy Tears" CD single

Isis - "Holy Tears" maxi-single
2007-08 Ipecac Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Any excuse to talk about Isis at The Metal Minute is most certainly welcome, and though it may seem strange that a CD single of "Holy Tears" from Isis' late 2006 masterpiece In the Absence of Truth would surface so late after-the-fact (a feat rarely seen since The Big 80s when a slew of singles could carry an album by Def Leppard, The Police or Janet Jackson for well over a year), apparently some distro problems needed to be overcome before this package could see the light of day. Hence we have Isis' first unintentional crack at the mainstream with their monstrous song "Holy Tears," given the single treatment with a few bonus items including the video for the song, a live cut recorded at the Continental Airlines Arena in New Jersey and a remix of Isis' "Not in Rivers, But in Drops" from In the Absence of Truth done by none other than the godfathers of drone rock, The Melvins.

For purchase value to Isis loyalists already on board with (in this writer's opinion) the best metal album of 2006, it's The Melvins' remix that's going to be the most intriguing. The resonance of the song is stripped almost to an echo that gives the illusion it is being performed live, that is, until you hear the various tweaks in the climactic parts of the epic track, such as clattery industrial beat dubs, a funky breakdown part, and the spiking of Aaron Turner's bloodthirsty growls overtop the rest of the mix that is highly confrontational the second they rip into your ears. In some ways, this mix gets played somewhat straight as if in a wind tunnel before The Melvins and Lustmord literally use the song as their plaything. The remix is intentionally disjointed and appropriate for Isis' purposes if you gauge the Oceanic remixes discs.

The most striking aspect to the live cut of "Holy Tears" is hearing Isis stretch themselves to accommodate the boundless acoustics of an arena on their recent tour with Tool and frankly, it's not until the prog sequences of "Holy Tears" where Isis sounds like they're at-home. In the raging opening choruses, they strain a bit as the arena plays their foil, bouncing their heaviness back at them in occasionally off-putting moments, whereas in smaller venues (such as the one-off date in Baltimore on their Tool tour this writer was privileged to attend) Isis possesses the capacity to blow you right out of your socks. The good thing about this particular "Holy Tears" live version is that Isis seizes the opportunity to seek out trippier interpretations of the more lucid lines of the song to compensate the villainous acoustic-bounce so it's not a total wipe-out.

If Isis has made this much of an effort to get new product into the hands of their quickly-expanding fan base, then here's hoping after the next Red Sparowes run that we'll soon be talking about a new Isis studio release.

Rating: ***1/2

Friday, March 28, 2008

CD Review: Darsombra - Eternal Jewel

Darsombra - Eternal Jewel
2008 Public Guilt
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Baltimore's Brian Daniloski might be considered a Renaissance man of underground metal and atmospheric dirge. When he's not going absolutely berserk with his brother Jason in the schizophrenic noise art band Meatjack (though the band is currently dormant, they're considered local fringe icons along with the recently disbanded Swarm of the Lotus) or working with Chuck Collins in the mathematic instrumental band Trephine, Daniloski is creating some heavy-handed doomscapes in a one-man-show ala Thrones in his expressive metal and electronic venue, Darsombra.

On past efforts such as Ecdysis and the Deliriums and Death EP, Daniloski has demonstrated an inventive flair for using textured dubs and an integration of bass, guitar and synths to sometimes extend what Fantomas hints at in surgical, quick-strike dashes while at other times, Darsombra's ethereal compositions get lost in themselves, so much you can fathom them being Daniloski's personal ohms of darkness.

On Eternal Jewel, Darsombra issues a five-track electronic-laden fugue fest that often sounds like the score to a late seventies-early eighties horror flick, anything ranging from Phantasm to Demons. Moreover, if John Carpenter's synth spook henchman Alan Howarth was left to dwell on his own, he and Brian Daniloski might be found traveling on the same tenebrous path. Both have the knack to play on your nerves and still maintain your attention, even when setting a high note sequence on loop to instigate emotions of paranoia while plucking stabilized notes beneath to keep the listener from going over the edge as Daniloski does with "Drops of Sorrow" on Eternal Jewel. It's quite a mind rape, particularly after Daniloski starts Eternal Jewel with the wonderfully creepy "Auguries" before setting off on an audile endurance trip immediately thereafter.

Daniloski is a sheer rube on his 17-minute "Night's Black Agents," which gives us more fake outros than even Sleep's Jerusalem or Green Carnation's Light of Day, Day of Darkness. This thing continues on its steadily unnerving pace in three long stanzas where Daniloski utilizes a steady electro thrum (think classic Goblins) that nearly desensitizes the listener before he's weaving shrill, quivering guitar lines that triggers a hyperactive sense of agitation the more assured this numbing odyssey becomes of itself.

Daniloski then hypothetically reprises his opening instrumental on "Lamentings/Auguries" with a more harrowing blend of vibrating keys and a beautifully layered set of varying melody lines to canvas as many colors of melancholy as he can harmoniously mesh together. He abruptly ceases his composium of madness in preparation for Eternal Jewel's offsetting effervescent finale, "Sncarnadine," a six-minute tonal tapestry that would be at home in a feature anime film.

Never is Darsombra's music for the weak, but the more affirmed Brian Daniloski becomes of himself in this venture, the stronger his material gets and he's within striking distance of film scoring should that ever be his desire. Already Daniloski's sense of aesthetic is enviable, so much you see where he was coming from when he opted to perform Darsombra's creations in a Baltimore church. The acoustics are merely one facet, but you have to admire the chutzpah to play dark ambient fugue inside a church body. Then again, if you grew up hard-nosed Catholic, then the paralells between the booming organs you were flogged with every Sunday kind of puts you into Daniloski's mindframe...

Rating: ****

Thursday, March 27, 2008

CD Review: Zodiak - Sermons

Zodiak - Sermons
2008 Translation Loss Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

By now it's probably safe to say that the coined "post metal" practitioners have established themselves collectively as a clique. This is perhaps the most supportive and intrinsically protected bunch of any genre, so much that you can expect to see all of your favorite members of Isis, Neurosis, Pelican, Rosetta, Balboa, Intronaut and others intertwining in offshoot identities like Windmills By the Ocean and Red Sparowes, just to name a couple. As of now you can add Zodiak to this sub-compendium of spinoff art metal bands.

Perhaps the intense, soul-touching nature of this genre's Tool-branched ambience is so great its principals possess an envious flux of inspiration to the point where they not only need separate entities to express themselves, but also comrades and like minds with which to tap empathetic resources.

Zodiak is a gathering of some Philadelphia's underground elite (and all representatives of Translation Loss in-house bands), featuring members from Rosetta, Balboa, Slacks, Javelina and ex-Lickengoldsky. Sermons is the by-product of some old-fashioned dicking around between kindred souls looking to jam away some idle time and reportedly the guys discovered there was more cohesion to this meddling around than anyone expected. Hence we have Sermons, an eight song album with varying latitudes of atmospheric metal that range from dirgy to effervescent to outright bombastic.

At times, the Isis, Rosetta and Balboa influence shows on songs like "Excavate," which grinds and woos methodically with a mix of coherent vocals and outraged yelps. The only surprise here, aside from how well Rosetta's Mike Armine and Slacks' Christian McKenna integrate their vocals together, is the fact the song is literally a 3-minute tune that is antithesis to the multi-minute sound sculptures that typify this particular genus. In a way, Zodiak is ushering in a possible new form of alter-rock using their layered artscapes to create a singular, focused rock song. Are we being treated to a glimpse of the future here? Time will tell...

The remainder of the tone of Sermons varies from luxuriant Floydian mindmelds on "Etc." and "Wouldn't Wait" that create soothing platitudes in preparation for more tension-filled outbursts, all the way to electronic soundscapes that usher near-cataclysmic quadraphonia on "Their God Reigns" and the 1:16 instrumental "Zeroes and Ones."

While Sermons has only a few occasional muckabout and slip-up tendencies that is the telling signal it may not have been originally intended to evolve into a full-fledged project, its overshadowing power and grandeur warrants its release. For the Tool fan, it'll be fun hearing Zodiak work their own way towards a Maynard-esque encapsulation on "Outlined," but by and large, the biggest thrill about Sermons is that a for-kicks jam session just might possibly serve as a prototype to which future ambient music is hedged and refined. If "Excavate" reaches a broad audience, don't be surprised if we see a veritible shift in metal patterns thereafter.

Rating: ****

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins Files Suit Against Virgin Records

Smashing Pumpkins' publicist released the following announcement:

“We fought hard for the right to be in control of how our music is used, to avoid situations like this kind of crass commercialism and exploitation. Labels like EMI are no longer running the show, and we won't be bullied by those in the 'old' music business who consider every artist to be easily expendable. Those days are over.” --Billy Corgan

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS have filed a lawsuit this week against Virgin Records, their former record label, for the unauthorized exploitation of the band’s musical works and image as well as for devaluing the market value of its music and deceiving its fans.

Filed in the Superior Court of the State of California in Los Angeles, the suit states that Virgin Records—without the band’s knowledge or permission—endorsed and sponsored a worldwide promotional marketing campaign by and Pepsi for both companies to promote and sell Amazon and Pepsi products for financial profit.

The suit contends that the Pumpkins—one of alternative rock’s most successful artists—have vigilantly overseen their music and likeness, which “convey a message of honesty, artistic integrity and alternative non-main stream culture“ and that Virgin Records has “irreparably harmed the group, their reputation and goodwill with their fans.”

The Pumpkins would never have granted such authority to Virgin, or any other entity, because they govern the use of its name, likeness, and musical works in conjunction with any commercial affiliation or sponsorship. Therefore, the suit indicates “Virgin has deceived and confused the public into believing that Plaintiff is affiliated with the promotion and/or that Plaintiff itself is participating in the promotion.”

The Pumpkins are demanding, as the suit states, “a full and complete accounting of all funds received by Virgin pursuant to the Pepsi promotion” and the band is “entitled to an award of punitive damages against Virgin in an amount according to proof.”

The suit maintains that “Virgin’s action, unless and until enjoined and restrained by order of this Court, will cause great and irreparable injury to Plaintiff, as it continues to falsely attribute Plaintiff’s sponsorship and/or affiliation with the promotion, and continues to provide Plaintiff’s musical works at a price below the market value of the works, thereby damaging Plaintiff’s reputation and reducing the market value of Plaintiff’s musical works.”

Says Billy Corgan: “'It’s a frustrating situation honestly, to be treated so poorly by a label where we had so much success. Recently, they have ignored our pleas to give our fans special editions of our old albums, telling us they weren't interested. So there is a tremendous amount of hypocrisy involved with them turning around and using us like this.”

“It’s another desperate attempt,” says Jimmy Chamberlin, “by an anachronistic business to generate revenue however they can, legal or illegal. They have neither the wisdom to accept their irrelevance, nor the intelligence to do something about it.” He adds: “Just goes to show that they will do about anything for money. Seems they have long forgotten how to actually ‘work’ for a dollar.”

The Pumpkins, who last year released the gold-certified Zeitgeist album on Martha’s Music/Reprise, are currently on tour in Australia. The band has created one of the most acclaimed bodies of work in music history. Formed in Chicago in 1988, they released Gish, their influential (and platinum) debut in 1991, which was followed by more platinum and multi-platinum albums including the nine-times platinum Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and the four-times platinum Siamese Dream. The pivotal group’s many hits include “Disarm,” “Today,” “Cherub Rock,” “1979,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”—songs that defined the alternative music era and continue to resonate on modern rock radio, influencing a whole new generation."

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 3/26/08

Howdy hoo, friends! Welcome to another edition of Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday!

For me it's that time of the month, yeah, I said it...the end of the month in my day life where you have to dig a little deeper, put in the extra hours (loving that OT, though), contend with more potential problems and hyperactive clients who make you the hero one minute, a crucified scapegoat the next. Believe me, in my 15 years in the mortgage field I've gathered quite a number of stories to tell, and you'll get a taste in my angst novel I'm currently writing on the side...whenever I get the time to finish it, of course...

Fighting to stay healthy with a sore throat and that "deathly feeling" you get when you're about to come down with a fever or the flu, but a steady intake of tea, Tang, juice and ginger ale and some uncharacteristic burrowing under the covers for lengthier bits of time is helping the cause. At least it gave me time to watch Ang Lee's brilliant Chinese political drama Lust Caution and without spoiling things, I really took to this erotic story of seduction and misadventure in occupied China and I wholeheartedly recommend it.

Because of my wife's sinus surgery, I've spent a lot of time on the run meeting her needs, which probably helped usher me to the dead-bed myself, so I've been working in a limited capacity to meet a few deadlines, and probably the music intake is less than usual as a result. I've been rather stuck on The Police's Synchronicity and remembering that 13 year old in transition from angry geek who had to drop fisticuffs in middle school to a more self-realized kid in a new environment with a different outlook on things. It helped my confidence, given the headbanger's path I soon chose and never had to brawl with my peers for--at least not physically. Synchronicity, Def Leppard's Pyromania and Prince's Purple Rain were three of my most-played albums before I started filtering in Maiden, Priest, Twisted Sister and eventually all of the mainstream hard rock and metal bands of the early eighties. The rest, as they say...

Some new stuff I've managed to spin and am tripping out to are new discs from The Sword, Darsombra and Zodiak. I've squeezed in Madonna's Ray of Light a number of times as it represents a state a calm I need, particularly in the rush-rush-kill-yourself pace of the past week. I'm always entranced by "Frozen," one of the most sensual songs I've ever heard, as is The Police's "Wrapped Around Your Finger," which I've backed up a few times when playing Synchronicity. And for good measure, let's not forget Marc Rizzo's gorgeous acoustic flamenco tracks like "Angelina's Song" and "Mamacita" from his otherwise scorching The Ultimate Devotion album. Yeah, I'm a puss, so what?

The Police - Synchronicity
Marc Rizzo - The Ultimate Devotion
Madonna - Ray of Light
Gorillaz - Demon Days
OMD - Live: Architecture & Morality & More
Stray Cats - Rumble in Brixton
Javelina - S/T
Ministry - The Land of Rape and Honey
Ministry - The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste
The Sword - Gods of the Earth
Zodiak - Sermons
Darsombra - Eternal Jewel
Forty Acres - Broken Promise
Heidevolk - Walhalla Wacht

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Twisted Sister Live in New Zealand 1985

Some badass footage of the boys doing "Stay Hungry," "The Beast" and "We're Gonna Make It"

Panndora - "My Heretic Lips" live

The Metal Minute Reaches 75,000 Hits

It's a nice thing to wake up to on a sick and cold morning and find the counter registering 75,101 hits, and done within six weeks of the 50,000 mark! Not too shabby for a little part-time indie site. What can I say that I haven't before? All of you rock! Thank you as always...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Sword Begins Tour of UK and North America

Artwork by Geoff Kern

In support of their latest album Gods of the Earth, doom rockers The Sword start a month-long tour through the UK and North America tomorrow. Saviours and Black Cobra will support on the British leg while Children and Slough Feg will open on the U.S. run. The Sword announces they also plan to play a set of dates on the east coast in May with Torche.

Tour dates:

03.25.08 - Nottingham, UK - Rock City *
03.26.08 - Oxford, UK - Academy *
03.27.08 - Birmingham, UK - Academy *
03.28.08 - Manchester, UK - Academy *
03.29.08 - Glasgow, UK - King Tut's *
03.30.08 - Stoke, UK - Sugar Mill *
04.01.08 - Newport, UK - TJ's *
04.02.08 - Portsmouth, UK - Wedgewood Rooms *
04.03.08 - London, UK - Underworld *
04.04.08 - Colchester, UK - Arts Centre *

04.14.08 - Lubbock, TX - Jake's Sports Center
04.15.08 - Albuquerque, NM - Launchpad
04.16.08 - Phoenix, AZ - The Brick House
04.17.08 - San Diego, CA - The Casbah
04.18.08 - Los Angeles, CA - El Rey Theater
04.19.08 - San Francisco, CA - Slim's
04.21.08 - Portland, OR - Berbati's
04.22.08 - Seattle, WA - Neumo's
04.24.08 - Boise, ID - Nuerolux
04.25.08 - Salt Lake City, UT - Club Vegas
04.26.08 - Denver, CO - Bluebird Theater
04.28.08 - Wichita, KS - Barley Corn's
04.29.08 - Oklahoma City, OK - Conservatory

*denotes Saviours and Black Cobra opening

Ministry Prepares For C.U. LaTour

Kicking off tomorrow in Spokane, Washington, here's a little behind-the-scenes clip of Ministry as they prepare to embark on their final tour...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter From The Metal Minute!

Thanks to mi amiga NickelGhys at MySpace for sending me this hoss wabbit... No wonder Ian MacKaye and Alien Jourgensen wrote a song called "No Bunny" in Pailhead!

Teaser From My Upcoming Cavalera Conspiracy Article For Metal Maniacs Magazine

Be on the lookout in the upcoming future for my piece on Cavalera Conspiracy for Metal Maniacs magazine. As a teaser, I thought I'd share this hilarious excerpt from Max:

"When I was doing Nailbomb in Phoenix, I remember Glen Campbell came in the studio where we were recording. A lot of rednecks and cowboys record there, and were jamming “World of Shit” or something like that, and I’m fucking screaming, you know, ‘Fuck this, fuck that!’ (laughs) We look over in the booth and there’s Glen Campbell standing there and I could tell looking at him he was fucking terrorized!"

Darsombra - "Nymphaea" live

My bro Brian Daniloski from Baltimore in his solo ambient metal venture Darsombra. Brian's also a part of Meatjack, Trephine and probably damned near every other B-more cult band on the circuit. Darsombra's latest creation Eternal Jewel is available at and will hit retail on April 29. Look for Darsombra on tour throughout the northeast and Midwest starting the end of this month.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Underappreciated Slabs Satuday: Amen - We Have Come For Your Parents

Casey Chaos is a frequently misunderstood character. During his run with the bombastic punk revivalists Amen, he took his shots both from and at the press, which unfortunately downplayed the important role he and Amen has played in modern metal and punk. As much credit as Refused deserves for bridging the old scene to the new (particularly in the dead zone of musical narcolepsy spread throughout North America) with their breathtakingly manic Songs to Fan the Flames of Discontent and The Shape of Punk to Come, Amen (and even Madball) deserves equal credit for keeping the air of altriusm swirling in the underground.

For better or worse, though it certainly was not Casey Chaos or Dennis Lyxzen's intention, the aftermath in the decimated sonic waste left by Amen and Refused hypothetically instigated the screamo, neo-punk and metalcore sanctions, though very few bands playing in any of these styles remember to credit Amen or Refused when citing influences. Perhaps this is because these latter two bands had a reasonably short stay in music, considering the undeniable dents each planted on the scene before surrendering to their internal furious hostilities triggered by creations so vehement and passionate. Truly, go back and play "New Noise" from the Refused or "Mayday" from Amen's We Have Come For Your Parents, and there's virtually no band that can match their uncaged, gnashed vengeance. Maybe 400 Blows or Fight Amp can stand toe-to-toe proverbially, but the point here is that the diehard of the diehards know the truth about Refused and Amen and to think that We Have Come For Your Parents doesn't make the list of most for punk's all-time greats is just plain oversight.

If there's one word to sum up We Have Come For Your Parents, it would have to be "relentless." Perhaps "The Price of Reality" slows things down just a hair, but not by much. For sure, Casey Chaos, Paul Fig and Amen's aural demolition team on this album waste not a drop of the angst and belligerence sifting from their anarchy coffeepot, taking cue from Casey Chaos' demigod of inspiration, Henry Rollins and Black Flag. Can't you hear him singing "Drink your black coffee! Drink your black coffee!" in the back of his mind while screaming on these songs?

Son of Sam, does this album literally writhe with seething hatred! Just listen to Casey wail "We don't need no more of your observations!" on the spiteful, anti-organized religion manifesto of "Under the Robe" or the way he rages agaisnt the assembly line of mankind autmaton transfiguration with this lyric from "Calvin Klein's the Killer": "I was born an amputee inside here, who can't turn and pledge allegiance, we just fall in line, we just fall behind..."

Casey Chaos has no qualms in the least to clout his audience over the head in sound, in word and in visuals on this album, be it the front cover with the kids dressed as Witchhunter Generals to the pig-tailed muse licking a lollypop on a half page that lifts up to reveal her kissing a silver dildo. Chaos and Amen are offensive beyond all words here, but look at the message beneath it: disturbing as the image is, it's nevertheless stating that the youth of America is being exploited and robbed of their innocence through the manipulations of a hypocritical mainstream that includes business, government, entertainment and the church at-large, so much that the muse gives all of it the finger while wearing a crown of thorns.

Okay, so this is perhaps a bit over-the-top for some, just as Mel Gibson's extraneously brutal Passion of the Christ is on the opposite horizon, but it's the method to Casey Chaos' literal madness. Think or be stripped of your right to do so; that's the ultimate message of this album as songs like "Ungrateful Dead," "Refuse Amen," "Justified" and "Here's the Poison" chug and pummel with a constitutionally chastising effect. Just the hard guitar slide pulls during "Here's the Poison" sends the album off with loud declaration to cleanse your mind and use it properly. Question the existing before accepting it at face value. Each song on We Have Come For Your Parents acts within a garroting tightknit pull on your throat and brings the frightening edge of a rusty razor within inches of your tearng pupil, all of it done not in the interest of sadism, but in a gutter methodology to show you an ugly reality beyond the artificial gloss the machine wants you to see and embrace.

Sometimes it takes an album of such severity as We Have Come For Your Parents to issue you the wake-up call to get off your apathetic ass since life is only easily manageable if you file and rank. For that lot, there's Ashlee Simpson. For the others, there's Amen. It's a shame the ride didn't last longer than the few years Amen and Refused shook and stirred up the underground, but that just makes songs like "The Waiting" "Take My Head" and "CK Killer" from We Have Come For Your Parents all the more heated and important. They were created in an encapsulated time where the North American music scene grossly needed a bitch slap. It took a group of forward-thinking Swedes and a couple of cheesed-off L.A. hellcats to kick this scene in the balls and spit on it for its general lack of focus.

At his best, Casey Chaos was a Jello Biafra heir apparent and Amen could match their brilliant (though frequently sacriligious and vulgar) lyrical sarcasm with some of the fiercest punk licks and grooves anyone's ever delivered. The shame of it all is the fact that most people have forgotten these contributions, but of course, the bastard stepchild spawn creature spermed from Amen and Refused is the popular modern interpreation of emo that alas, doesn't possess a hangnail of the fortitude and conviction of an album as blatantly intense as We Have Come For Your Parents is with every note and facet.

On a personal note, I had the best four hour interview with Casey Chaos a couple years ago as he was promoting his death metal/punk hybrid group Scum and for every shot the press took at Casey Chaos, I got the bipolar opposite. Personally, I feel like I got the real Casey Chaos, one who had plenty of venomous things to say that backs up what he sang about in Amen, but there was another side that pointed out feelings of rejection and animosity towards certain people in his associations who never reciprocated what he gave. I found empathy in his words and I believe it was a more humbled Casey Chaos that I spoke with. However, don't for one minute think the guy's gone soft, because as we went chatted, he had me surf online to find Ashlee Simpson's lip syncing miscue on Saturday Night Live and we howled like a couple of teenagers telling dirty jokes out of skin mags. For me, highly refreshing that one of the most animated, troubled and angriest voices I've ever heard is just another dude like the rest of us if you look beneath the outraged facade...

Buddy Rich vs. Animal of The Muppets

Anyone remember this? The only bitch of the cut of this video is you don't see Animal throwing the drum at Buddy at the end, but this one saves the montage of Buddy playing his sticks all over everything backstage, which is cooler if you're a drumhead...

Friday, March 21, 2008

DVD Review: A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt

A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt
2008 Microcosm Publishing
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

For all intents and purposes, The Metal Minute and the scores of pages in the blogging universe is a cyberhead's take on the 'zine. In fact, one can say that utilizing this electronic tool eliminates the production manpower as well as effectively reaching a much broader audience than the customary paper and staple medium that embodies a true and proper 'zine.

Assuredly most of you reading this are familiar with what a 'zine is, but consider it a poor man's Metal Maniacs or AP or Spin, though it's not necessarily limited to just music topics. In fact, the concept of a 'zine, which is a homebrewed and self-generated publication, was originally created for sci-fi and horror. In a sense the long-defunct Famous Monsters started as an indie rag that eventually blossomed into something larger. But the 'zine phenomenon has been so vast and diverse the past 30 years that even shoe aficianados have felt the need to share their passion in the form of pocket writing, as the DVD A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt hysterically points out.

The stigma with 'zines has traditionally slashed the mark of a hack upon those who put typewriter to looseleaf and jabber about things that are passionate to them, then fold the pages into a quasi magazine and ultimately photocopy and staple them for deliverance to an unsuspecting reading public. It's not that these underground scribes aren't necessarily worthy of inclusion in the big boy print mags, but for the limited writer slots available with your standard mass-produced periodical, there's an easy hundred or so envious bidders for one of those coveted staff spaces. When something like music tears at your inner soul so much you can't help but write what you're feeling and share with the general public, then this is why the 'zine cult has its own fringe appeal and followers, just as the blogging community has both blossomed and entrapped the spirit of independent writing. Such is the complaint you'll often hear that anyone can make their own blog without a lick of talent and itch on about how much daily traffic snarls bothers them or Tang tastes alright with cranberry juice but not lemonade.

We can call blogging and 'zines the output of geek literati, which is one of the statements A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt posits through testimonials from a posse of 'zine launchers in the Portland, Oregon area where apparently 'zines are boss. Names you've probably never heard of outside the Portland region such as Franco Ortega, Greig Means, Moe Bowstern, Ayleen Crotty and Keith Rosson. Though their names are likely new to you, they nevertheless dictate authoritatively what 'zine culture means and what it stands for. Admitting to being a bunch of subculture nerds putting their thoughts out on materials sometimes borrowed and stolen, they've created their own local hipster microcosm, one that is supported by a hypothetical trade convention for 'zine producers, a bookstore that specifically caters to their small buck or no-charge word peddling and even what is known in Portland as the Independent Publishing Resource Center, which acts a lifeblood and support group to the 'zine creator.

Though A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt is spotty in terms of video output (some footage threads are so chalky they disrupt the tempo a bit), it's the documentary's attempt to bring the views of not only the closet and cellar dweller writers, but also those from the readers who support them that makes it a pretty successful story. The input is resoundingly human, so much it's refreshing to hear the writers warn against self-elitism and public pompousness when the bottom-line to this entire 'zine entreatment is that they're all fanboys and fangirls utilizing alternative methods in which to pose as respected critics. They're average people like their readers, but even they note a few tendencies to taking themselves seriously to the point of public snobbery.

This documentary is more fascinating than meets the eye. If you've had that spark of desire to write about the music you love or movies, art, sports, politics, sexuality, what-have-you, then A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt is going to speak to you. It attempts to cover as many subletted topics outside of the music realm that 'zines have been most popular for, and the diverse subjects these off-kilter journalists churn sentences about just may surprise you. Certainly you're not going to walk into your typical Barnes and Noble and find this stuff occupying space on the magazine racks--though one just might question that of any franchisee B&N's in or around Portland, Oregon.

In the eighties, both heavy metal and punk rock literally breathed in the underground through 'zines. A lot of established and outright famous figureheads of rock have attested that independent writing of the day had as much value to their success as a cover story on Hit Parader. While the professionalism of 'zine writers is as questionable as the sometimes mutiliating online geek squadron (on a personal note, I've had many people write me and say most bloggers offer up a non-committal two sentence opinion of a CD and call it a "review"), there are plenty of unsung heroes in the music promotion and appreciation society. This, in essence, is the largest message pleaded by A Hundred Dollars and a T-Shirt, the fact that a number of serious-minded and talented writers are lurking about in left-of-center typed pastures, and perhaps the underground in Portland are chit-chatting about Ayleen Crotty and Franco Ortega in their local coffeehouses as much as any local art community touts their own.

In poetry circles, there's what is known as chapbooks. Though small-time publishers have stepped up and invited budding poets to publish their prose in a slightly more mainstream presentation, the heart and core of the chapbook is a copied and stapled set of poems that the artist recites from at open mikes and sells to his or her audience for a few duckets in order to sustain a meager living. Certainly don't be tempted by the misnomer that there's money to be made by producing your own 'zine; even some of the well-respected magazines have trouble paying their staff in a medium that's gradually on the decline as the cyber age tears it apart page-by-proverbial-page. What's left at the root of 'zine practice is one person's love and devotion to a subject matter, amped with the desire to be heard from somebody else other than him or herself.

Rating: ***1/2

Thursday, March 20, 2008

CD Review: Lair of the Minotaur - War Metal Battle Master

Lair of the Minotaur - War Metal Battle Master
2008 Southern Lord Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

You've had a bad day or you've woken up on the wrong side of the bed. Life ain't so peachy and you've got no one to talk to about it, or those you do just don't have the time or seem to care. What does that pent-up rage sound like as it's festering and combusting inside your addled mind? Scary stuff, to be sure...

Though everyone handles anger and aggression in different ways through different walks of life, headbangers tend to go tell it on the metal mountain because not only is he or she heard, but projected to the right receptor, the response is usually a vociferous inferno of raging empathy.

You had a bad day? Tell that shit to Lair of the Minotaur, because you're going to get a one viciously loud retort with their latest album War Metal Battle Master and gad-damn, you just might start feeling better within minutes of the opening track "Horde of Undead Vengeance" while the rest of the album will be just one big chum party between the band and yourselves and perhaps anyone else within earshot. If they happen to be non-metal fans, that's more to the good, because War Metal Battle Master is that album, the one you rifle through your collection as prerequisite to pissing off your neighbors, particularly with your car windows rolled down. Whattya waiting for, get 'em!!!

War Metal Battle Master is not a pretty endeavor in the least; like their previous releases Carnage and the Cannibal Massacre EP, it's a beastly projection of hatred and steadfast clunkiness that doesn't lose its stranglehold. If anything, the pace gets nastier on cuts like "When the Ice Giants Slayed All" and "Slaughter the Bestial Legion" while going out of its skull (and yours for that matter) on the wicked fast "Black Viper Barbarian Clan."

War Metal Battle Master is like a Conan pulp novel given the low-tuned crush treatment and as it hacks and slashes its way with virtually no mercy, give praise to Crom that he hears your frustrations and ushers you this bombastic earcrusher with which to sort your duckets out. Lair of the Minotaur isn't the fanciest metal band on the planet, but fancy isn't what you're seeking out when you're in a bad mood, is it?

Rating: ****

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

One From the Vault: Ministry - "Burning Inside" video

Get off your butts and go nuts!

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 3/19/08

Mornin' readers and listeners! Moving slow today as last night I enjoyed a free-float from a savory bottle of chianti I'd purchased in the Outer Banks last year, wonderful stuff! Pleased to say no hangover, but I've been gnawing through some fierce lower back pain for well over a week, so much I had to abandon most of my day on Saturday and watch Animal Planet for a few hours just to rest it enough to go out that night with a friend and my step-sis, but it was a real good night, pain and all. Of course, the funny part is that block of time spent watching AP has been the only t.v. I've watched from Thursday evening to now! Deadlines prevail... Of course, with all the garbage "reality" programming out there dumbing down our society even further, why bother anyway?

Yup, all of this makes a guy feel as old as the college girl my wife works with jokingly called me in a hilarious text war we had last night, but all kidding around aside, Jesus, man, I'm going to be 38 real soon and with no kids yet, I'm starting to feel the age a little. Why? When you feel young at heart and not much different inside than the teenager you were at one time, but you're certainly not perceived that way out there the world and you're called "sir" and "old man," then that just makes it one of life's cruel ironies.

Hope all you Irish and wannabe Irish had a fun Patty's weekend. I've got a strong quarter of Irish blood in me from two families, so I kept thinking to myself after a lifetime of seeing those cute buttons and shirts, am I still entitled to a kiss for only being a quarter Irish? There's one for you, Arsenio... Where the hell'd he drop off to, anyway?

Last month I reported that The Metal Minute had reached 50,000 hits. As of this morning, we're about 2500 shy of hitting the 75,000 mark. This in just over a month. Man, you people rock! Love you all, and thanks as always for keeping this page strong!

Tune-wise, it's been a big blast as always and I had the pleasure of turning my sista onto the Bad Brains for the first time on our long drive home Saturday night and I'm happy to say she caught the vibe. Some deep conversation around some of the deepest music ever recorded. That's how life oughtta be...

Otherwise, my main flavors have been rockabilly from the Stray Cats, a whole lotta Zeppelin, still hanging with The Police and Boris and of course, Flogging Molly in the spirit of the season. The brand new Dokken album Lightning Strikes Again just arrived yesterday, so I've spun that a couple times already as well. Don't know why, but I'm such a sucker for Dokken! I definitely absorbed a lot of music over the weekend while crushing out my column for AMP mag, so the playlist is huge once again. My little college duelist (who was way outta her league, ha) called me a band geek in parting, to which I roared in laughter. There's far worse things to be in life, little lady...

Sonic Youth - Goo
Stray Cats - Rumble in Brixton
Stray Cats - Greatest Hits
Lee Rocker - Black Cat Bone
Marc Rizzo - The Ultimate Devotion
Bad Brains - I Against I
Eagles of Death Metal - Death by Sexy...
The Police - Synchronicity
The Police - Zenyatta Mondatta
Flogging Molly - Swagger
Flogging Molly - Drunken Lullabies
The Chieftains - The Best of The Chieftains
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
Led Zeppelin - Physical Graffiti
Boris - Pink
LaTour - LaTour
The Toasters - CBGB Masters
The Mooney Suzuki - CBGB Masters
Thievery Corporation - The Cosmic Game
Tiger Army - Music From Regions Beyond
American Speedway - Ship of Fools
System of a Down - Toxicity
Dokken - Lightning Strikes Again
Rites of Spring - Rites of Spring
Korpiklaani - Korven Kuningas
Sourvein - Ghetto Angel
Bushwhack - Bushwhack
Midnattsol - Nordlys
Ministry and Co-Conspirators - Cover Up
Farewell to Freeway - Definitions
Dismember - Dismember
The Ocean - Precambrian
Chiodos - Bone Palace Ballet

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Sigh Records Venom Tribute EP Plus Eighth Full-Length Simultaneously

Japanese dark metallers Sigh will be releasing their titular Sigh's Tribute to Venom EP with a subsequent eighth full-release album entitled Scenes from Hell/Tempore Belli/Vanitas directly behind it.

Sigh will be taking on such Venom familiars as "Black Metal," "Countess Bathory," "Schizo" and "Teacher's Pet" on the EP and will feature saxist Dr. Mikannibal for the first time on vocals in the studio for Sigh.

Scenes from Hell/Tempore Belli/Vanitas will reportedly be recorded with a string quartet and brass section, according to bassist Mirai Kawashima, who notes the album "is going to be very furious and grandiose."

Expect both releases by the fall with a US tour to follow.

Hermano to Play Only One Date in the U.S. in 2008

In the "Hmmmmm...." department, former Kyuss affiliate John Garcia and his "hermanos" have chosen the A1A in Lexington, Kentucky as the only venue they'll play this year.

No comments from the band as to why only one play date, but Hermano will be supported by The Oxford Farm Report, Fabric and Earle Grey. The show is scheduled for March 29th.

The band does mention at their MySpace page that the Homesuites Hotel is offering a special $40 rate to those coming in to attend the show. Interested parties need only mention the Hermano show to get the rate.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

CD Review: Sourvein - Ghetto Angel EP

Sourvein - Ghetto Angel EP
2008 This Dark Reign Recordings
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Back out of Cape Fear (where they're reputedly banned) and most recently with a fifth member in tow, North Carolina's Sourvein returns with a heavy-fisted EP filled with cranked-up sludge and doom on their Ghetto Angel EP, one bearing four cuts of audile mud and molasses for drone mutants to trip out on.

As utterly booming as songs like "Septic Werewolves" and "Doldrums" are, they can only be doubly thunderous in a live capacity, particularly with the addition of second guitarist Cool Clyde, a member some fans might recognize as a past touring drummer for the band as well as for his post in Hail Hornet. Clyde's presence alongside T-Roy and Boone ought to jack Sourvein's beleaguered sonic crush a few notches on the crust-o-meter, just as the songs of Ghetto Angel already do.

In no time flat, Sourvein has become one of North America's principal doom meisters and though Ghetto Angel is merely a teaser for what's to come down their weed-choked pike, by all means should you flick the switch on your player and wail this sucker as loud as you can take it. Then you'll be prepared to catch these guys live and in-your-face, just as their recorded material assumes with a boiled-over resonance.

Rating: ****

Nachtmystium w/Xasthur - "Beyond Light" live

Nachtmystium "Beyond Light" w/Xasthur

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Underappreciated Slabs Saturday - Sonic Youth - Goo

A lot of you may be scratching your heads at this one, particularly if you were there in 1990 as Sonic Youth literally defied their own abstract noise bomb sprawlings from early albums like Confusion is Sex, Bad Moon Rising and EVOL with a superfluous devotion to structure, order and louder-than-hell rock on their sometimes misunderstood and overlooked Goo album, one that was also a commercial success.

In 1990 Sonic Youth took a monster step forward from their breakout Daydream Nation and Sister albums and though a large portion of punkers and art noise afficianados gave a jerkwad thumbs down at the decidedly more rockin' feel of Goo, this album fell smack into the arms of an eager alternative rock crowd waiting for something rebellious to cling onto (Nirvana hadn't yet broken through at this point), though many argue the mainstream acceptance Goo found robbed it of any rebellion potential. Sonic Youth also found an appreciable audience amongst the headbangers and rawkers who tripped out on the slinky riffs and jacked-up beats of "Kool Thing," but even more so they could be heard cranking the massive and boisterous instrumental "Mildred Pierce" out of their car stereos. Between Kim Gordon's raunchy bass plus Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo's customarily screech-happy guitars set to a punctuated, punk-driven stun mode, followed by the chaotic finale coupled with a series of banshee "Mildred Pierce!!!" wails.... Jesus wept, even Accept would have to step things up in order to match this outright heaviness.

The big argument with Goo, despite the initial praise and accolades it received, is that longtime listeners soon snubbed the album and Sonic Youth for signing corporate and releasing Goo on Geffen Records. Fat lot that meant, because who in their right minds of whoring themselves to the majors and the subsequent airwaves would daringly spew out five minutes of steady chum racket at the end of the fast-tempoed rocker "Mote?" Even though "Dirty Boots" gets scoffed at by some as a grunge-era timepiece, the truth is that grunge was not even a coined term when the "Dirty Boots" video hit MTV, though the writing was on the wall when you saw the main kids of the clip were a pair of disaffected greasy teens wearing throwback '70s attire, and their love affair born from the pit is a cutesy farewell to the metal, punk and hardcore era that would die soon out for awhile therafter. Was that Sonic Youth's fault, though?

Not hardly. Sonic Youth was one of the few reasons to care about music in the nineties and Goo, for this writer's purposes, remains a top-10 release of the decade because of its sheer brilliance for bonding Sonic Youth's acerbic, shrill punk Dadaism with a relatively straightforward rock approach, though by no means does Goo compromise in any way. If anything, the band's realization of pure songwriting on this album gave them incredible strength as musicians instead of as mere audile shock performers. Listen to Moore and Ranaldo shred all over this thing, as well as Kim Gordon string rape her bass and Steve Shelley keep every song on Goo focused with meticulously hammered pulses and targeted tom rolls that frequently build agitation. Hell, have a go as Ranaldo and Moore create a simulated car race just between themselves on "Scooter & Jinx!"

Goo does not let off the gas and the synergy Sonic Youth discovered on this album is a once-in-a-lifetime experience as Daydream Nation was before it. Never again has Sonic Youth recaptured the full magic of either album, though future albums like Washing Machine, A Thousand Leaves and more recently Rather Ripped have their own individual charms, while Goo's follow-up albums Dirty and Experimental Jet Set, Trash & No Star come off forced on occasion, though both are still rock-worthy nonetheless.

When you have an album like Goo that creates bar upon bar of tension on "Cinderella's Big Score" before cutting loose with a late-arriving first verse that wallows in murky loudness to offset the intense tempo of the song, then holy shit, man, how can you withstand such bombastic splendor? Hang around for the second stanza on this one as Sonic Youth sends the song on a happy trip before rebuilding the nerve-wrenching suspense all over again.

One of Goo's finest moments (and Sonic Youth's as a rock unit) comes with the perfectly-written "Disappearer," a song this band will unlikely ever write again, not because they don't have the talent, but because they fell into such a zone that "Disappearer" becomes one of the band's most beautiful time-and-place tunes, especially when they speed up the rhythm to near cataclysm before settling it back into its steady throb. Cathartic to say the least.

Add an ode to Karen Carpenter with "Tunic (Song for Karen)" with its mod tone and pumping beat prior to a viable soundburst of wailing guitars, plus the grimy punk crunch of "Mary-Christ" and Goo is a Sonic Youth at this point of their lengthy career in command of their positively mad feedback noise scapes while issuing a propensity to rock your goddamned socks off, dirty boots notwithstanding.

Goo's only true downfall is that it followed Sonic Youth's critical masterwork Daydream Nation, yet the fact remains that Goo is a far better album than a lot of people give it credit for. For some fans, this album was to Sonic Youth what South of Heaven was to Slayer, a very strong album grossly overshadowed by the masterpiece preceding it. In Sonic Youth's case, however, Goo is a devastatingly heavy album filled with as much joy as rage, and the more you spin it, the more you begin to appreciate it for the classic it is. Trust me, once you let "Mildred Pierce" sink its booming hooks in you, you will never unhinge them, nor will you be able to resist the fanatical urge to scream your lungs out with Thurston Moore on the song's final tick.

I had the chance to catch Sonic Youth headline the 1995 Lollapalooza, and though I was offended a large portion of the crowd vanished after Hole's set, in retrospect I could care less about those goofballs who dumbly exited ahead of schedule because they flat-out missed Sonic Youth exhibit with full authority why they were the headliners, despite the grumbling protests of the poser mainstream rock kids, a disturbing number of those creeps molesting female crowd surfers.

Sonic Youth and Judas Priest remain the only two bands I've seen in my lifetime where my mouth hung slack in awe for the entire performance. Even though Sonic Youth had already sought to distance themselves a fair bit from Goo and Dirty in their distortion-heavy 1995 set, even they had to appreciate themselves for who they were in 1990. Despite what some fans claimed, Sonic Youth on Goo did not sell out whatsoever; if anything, they proved they could play balls-out and vociferously with a long thread of intelligence, and with a hair of cheekiness as Kim Gordon comedically caricatures a snobby punk elitist with "My Friend Goo." Is that not equally demonstrative of Sonic Youth's smartness as Daydream Nation?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jucifer - "Pontius of Palia" video

Smokin' riff here...

Jucifer: "Pontius of Palia"

CD Review: Terror - CBGB Masters: Live June 10, 2004 The Bowery Collection

Terror - CBGB Masters: Live June 10, 2004 The Bowery Collection
2008 MVD Audio
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Often you'll hear veteran punks and metalheads who lived in the New York region wax about the matinee punk and hardcore shows on Sundays at CBGB's and certainly the names you hear coming out of their mouths like Youth of Today, Bad Brains, Agnostic Front and Gorilla Biscuits lend an air of envy to those never in attendance of such legendary performances at America's lost hellhole club extraordinaire.

Though the year of this show by hardcore revivalists Terror captured for CBGB posterity is 2004 and hardly the vintage air of those eighties hardcore mission statements, what resonates through the bulldog rasps of Scott Vogel (enjoying an obvious homecoming moment) and the massive thrash attack of the LA-based band is that Terror recognizes the history of their venue and they go for it balls-out as if the year is 1987.

They buzzsaw through a destructo-agro set of songs like "Better Off Without You," "Keep Your Mouth Shut," "Life and Death" and "What Have We Done?" and unlike most live recordings, you feel a sense of being there because Terror is simply abusive through their relentless riffing and crushing beats amidst their professions of positivity. You can feel Terror slipping out a Bad Brains homage in tone on "Not This Time" while going absolutely berserk towards the end of the set on "Keep Your Distance" and "Push it Away."

You'll be seeing more from this CBBG Masters series including already-released shows from The Mooney Suzuki and ska legends The Toasters. The late club owner Hilly Kristal was reported to be such a music fan in life that bands from many walks of life can attest to having played there. Going up to New York numerous times in the past, I regret never making it to CBGB's before it recently shut its doors, but interviewing bands who had played the club and reading testimonials from the venue's salad days which hosted the greatest of the greats like The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Blondie and Talking Heads along with its famous Sunday punk matinees, you get the feeling that every act knew they had a standard to live up to when entering the cramped dinginess of CBGB's.

Never before has anyone had to rise to the occasion amidst such squalored conditions, but CBGB's was obviously a juke joint turned into an underground music mecca and listening to an inspired set like Terror's, even in 2004 there was obviously something to prove to yourself as a band, much less the snarling crowd standing on top of the spilled beer, glass and piss.

Rating: ****

DVD Review: Dead Boys - Return of the Living Dead Boys

Dead Boys- Return of the Living Dead Boys
2008 MVD Visual
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

On occasion the prospect of a band reunion can be a misnomer. At-large today, people scoff at reunions largely because they're viewed as cash-ins plied from nostalgia. Frequently a band gets back together with a missing member or two, which causes for instant indemnification of loathing from fans, and this syndrome has been far more apparent today than it ever was, particularly with the widespead interest in hard rock and heavy metal. Frankly, reunions weren't quite so commonplace in the eighties, so much that a band reunification was actually something of an event.

Throughout the eighties, punk legends the Dead Boys were randomly seen getting back together onstage, though not necessarily in the studio, which did eventually cause a stain on the already raggedy band which had been forced to undergo personnel changes in the early part of the decade when guitarist Cheetah Chrome was sidelined with a broken wrist and Johnny Blitz had seen enough to that point. Still, having all five original Dead Boys together including Johnny Zero, Jeff Magnum and out-of-control singer Stiv Bators at The Ritz in New York on Halloween Night in 1986 was as exciting a prospect as the paper the show's fliers were printed on.

First, you had the endearment of punk rock to metalheads and thrashers in the mid-eighties, who were undoubtedly slavering at the bit to get in on the action along with the trad punks and neophytes looking to see the voices behind the trash anthem "Sonic Reducer." Second, you had none other than the Dead Boys' numero uno advocate, Joey Ramone, delivering a brief intro of the band at the gig. Third, judging by the footage unearthed on Return of the Living Dead Boys Halloween Night 1986, the reunion more than justified its welcome.

Though the Dead Boys went a tad pop or at least crossover into the complaisant new wave crowd they chastised by no real intention, the real truth was that they were milking the songs from their two main albums Young, Loud and Snotty and We Have Come For Your Children throughout the eighties while the late Stiv Bators also found favor amongst the alternative clique with Lords of the New Church.

Of course, in 1986 the upswing of hardcore was changing the face of punk, so much that skins and ape drape metal castoffs were taking over the scene, and so much they're hired security at this performance by the Dead Boys. Anyone who lived metal and punk back in the day will attest that stage diving was a far riskier venture then than it is today. For one, the codes were still being established, and you could just as easily pound the floor face-first instead of upon the supportive hands of your fellow show-goers, but even more so, it held a danger element from the bouncers who shoved you offstage, sometimes to the point of handing out knuckle sandwiches as your parting gift.

Sure enough, on Night of the Living Dead Boys, there's the hardcore guy with his unhinged suspenders dangling at his ass and the cro-magnon mullethead shoving stage divers at will, frequently grabbing them by the wrists on their way up and slinging them back into the throng. Meanwhile, Stiv Bators in his strapping leathers, who looked like a cross between Marilyn Manson and an early years Rob Halford, gets into the act himself by hitting the deck onstage and carrying on crazily (at one point it appears through the glaze of this old footage that he got decked inadvertently by a fan whizzing by in his stage catapult) and eventually surrendering his body to the feeding frenzy on the floor.

In other words, chaos reigns supreme yet again at a Dead Boys show. For a band that embraced the violent undertones that punk rock of the seventies ignited, in 1986 they're somewhat slower on the trigger, but not by much. They keep the pace moving at a mostly swift pace with classic cuts like "All This and More," "I Need Lunch," "Down in Flames," "3rd Generation Nation" and of course their calling card "Sonic Reducer," played not just once, but twice in the set! At this point in the strange odyssey of the Dead Boys' cycle, Cheetah Chrome plays better than ever after his extensive layoff, while the other co-founder of the Dead Boys Johnny Blitz drums with thankful enthusiasm.

As Bators reveals to the crowd that bassist Johnny Magnum had a hand in writing a generous portion of the Dead Boys' music, the introverted Magnum keeps his back to the crowd, shying away from Bators' needling to say something into the mike. After much prodding, Magnum snorts a jokey "Fuck you!" and launches into the next song. In fact, the rest of the Dead Boys seem intent on keeping the gibber-jawing to a minimum Cheetah Chrome actually asks the crowd who wants Bators to shut up and start the next song, and then he cuts Bators off by starting "High Tension Wire."

Regardless of how punk or not the Dead Boys were viewed in 1986, one thing's for sure; the attitude was largely there and the Dead Boys were on their game, so much that the already androgynous Stiv Bators gives the crowd a shock salute on the way out by tucking his crank between his legs and pulling his pants down to reveal a femme-like bush. Hmm, you wonder if that's where Silence of the Lambs got that "I'd fuck me" stunt?

Punk rock to the extreme, the ultimate legacy of the Dead Boys...

Rating: ****

Thursday, March 13, 2008

CD Review: Taint - Secrets and Lies

Taint - Secrets and Lies
2008 Candlelight Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Between October File, Ramesses and Taint, the streets throughout the UK have to be rumbling in a way they probably haven't quite felt since the dawn of punk and the NWOBHM. Pin the stoner tag to Taint if you must since there's certainly enough low-tuned sludge in the vein of Crowbar and Weedeater to warrant it, but in the case of Taint, there's something about their not-quite-subtle affinity towards a roughneck reinterpretation of Zeppelin, Aerosmith and even some King Crimson prog that gives them their own air of cool.

Taint has officially been around since 1994 and Secrets and Lies is only their second full-length album, but these fuzz destroyers have meticulously worked their way towards creating their own niche of stoner/sludge via EPs that have allowed the Welsh rockers to patiently hedge their craft and elevate to this moment of assuredness that is guaranteed to make Taint the toast of the sludge underground.

Intensity is the name of the game to Secrets and Lies and you're going to have it dashed straight into your ear canals with the grindingly heavy last stanza of "Hex Breaker" and the collapsing speed rhythms of "Barnstorm Zombie Revival." You'll feel the nervous tension right out the gate on the opening bars of "Born Against Nihilist" before the song stamps forward with a massive tempo on the verses while Jimbob and Al West create havoc with itchy guitar and bass lines that keep pressing the core agitation of the track, eventually allowing it to release into a Clutch and COC-like pogo rhythm.

Upon greeting from "The Idealist," Taint plays rat-a-tat on your grey matter, brandishing a furious sonic assault before mangling the cut to bits with scissoring riffs and tempo shifts that never lose their rocksteady feel. On "This Goddamn City," Taint slices a wound into its muse and throws salt into it with some appropriately ugly note sequences set to a largely sluggish doom tempo before exacerbating the song's inner turmoil by jacking things up in the last two-and-a-half minutes.

Taint pushes their own envelopes on "What the Crow Saw" by fusing Jethro Tull-like neo-Renaissance flute scales amidst a classic rock melody in the spirit of Zeppelin and even Traffic if you listen deep to it. The languished drag of the song also leaves you virutally unprepared for the explosive prog finish, making this Taint's own cranked-up "My God."

All said, Secrets and Lies is a must-hear, especially if you're a fan of subwoofed distortion metal. Taint's work here is he-avy to say the least and though they've been on the scene longer than most people realize, it's grand to now have them on the radar amongst the sludge elite.

Rating: ****1/2