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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Metal Louvre: Kiss - Destroyer

As iconic an image as any in rock history, this is one of the most arresting album covers in Kiss' entire catalog. It's as recognizable on a global level as the Coca-Cola logo and the golden arches. Painted by famed fantasy artist Ken Kelly (who also did the even cooler Love Gun), the Destroyer album cover is symbolic of the album itself, as well as the bicentennial year in which it hit the masses.

Pitting the kabuki commandos at the fore of a fireswept apocalypse left in their wake, Destroyer was demonstrative of the sweeping changes in music as well as an American culture ready to swing instead of march. Though Kiss was climbing into a commercialized dimension of themselves in 1976 and beyond, this in-your-face attack is beautifully painted with only slightly exaggerated lines and gratuitous muscle tones to indicate Kiss is decimating the world one town at a time, Hyperborean-style. Only Gene's image seems to be taking the rampage seriously, while Paul vamps, Ace is aloof and Peter is in range rover mode, though fisticuffs at the ready. Whereas Kelly's Love Gun cover shows a domineering Kiss standing arrogantly overtop a coven of face-painted sex slaves, this Kiss shows an intentional variation of character, as if to say Kiss knew they were larger-than-life (pun intended) and taking over the world to the tune of both a platform-shoed party and a trailing Armageddon.

All exemplified by the album itself, where the softsoap oddities "Beth" and "Great Expectations" offset some of the heaviest tunes Kiss recorded at this point like "Detroit Rock City," "King of the Nighttime World," "God of Thunder," "Sweet Pain" and "Shout it Loud." Ironically, Kiss wouldn't get this heavy again until 1982's Creatures of the Night. Even "Flaming Youth," which drives largely on a massive riff, takes a sideshow slide on the chorus. If you're going to topple the world, do it tongue-in-cheek.

Unfortunately it wouldn't be much longer until they toppled themselves for a brief time, yet Destroyer announced the hype of its content with as much edgy bravado as Queen's News of the World. Who didn't have a Destroyer iron-on tee back in the day? Sadly, mine wore out quickly due to repetitive wear, but I remember the carnival at an airport where mine was created, the hiss of the steam pressing the image onto a 50 cent light blue tee. Silk screens take longer to fade, but with anything else associated with your time and place, you just can't beat that industrial iron-on smell. For Destroyer's purposes, it gave an illusory fragrance to the hellfire Ken Kelly pitted Kiss within.

Good times, ain't we lucky we've got 'em.

Friday, June 04, 2010

CD Review: Lamb of God - Hourglass

Lamb of God - Hourglass
2010 Epic Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Now you've got something to die for again if you're a Lamb of God fan. While nearly every diehard has the entire stock of Lamb of God's catalog, savvy marketing behind an out-of-nowhere anthology means you have to give the devout supplemental pages to amend their metal bible, Book of LOG.

Frankly, greatest hits and compilations manifesting at the zenith of a band's career are dubious, even 15 years to the mark as Lamb of God celebrates this year. Then again, the Rolling Stones put out Big Hits (High Tide and Green Grass) in the mid-sixties after the Stones had dropped a handful of albums. Time and tide waited upon the Stones, blessing them with four decades' worth of life that continues today. It can happen, so they say. Cash in along the way.

As ambassadors to the self-dubbed "New Wave of American Heavy Metal," Lamb of God has backed their claim with firestorms in disguise of albums. Landing with the majors thankfully didn't kill this band; in fact, it refined their voluminous processing with an enviable polish. By attrition, the spit-shine of Lamb of God's work following their dirty and apocalyptic breakout As the Palaces Burn from 2003 has calibrated this band into a marketable commodity, on the level of Megadeth and Testament at the heights of their ascension in the eighties.

One might say on their most-recent studio album Wrath, Lamb of God felt the need to derail the runaway sales train provoked by their thrash 'n goof ditty "Redneck" from 2006's Sacrament. Many say they're back to form with Wrath, yet Lamb of God is a different band than the ones who recorded New American Gospel and As the Palaces Burn. Certainly different from the provocation horde calling themselves Burn the Priest. In some ways, they've even traversed a different--though no less raucous--path since recording the fan-favorite Ashes of the Wake in 2004.

Looking back at Lamb of God's progress from their Burn the Priest days, this hop-skip anthology Hourglass is a fundamental primer to the band posting the bonus attraction of 18 nuggets of rarities and time-capsule recordings of past songs.

You've already banged your head numerous times to "Walk With Me in Hell," "Ruin," "Pariah," "In Your Words," "Blacken the Cursed Sun" and "Now You've Got Something to Die For," and they're guaranteed for repeat edification on this comp. Hourglass sieves roughly four songs apiece from each of Lamb of God album on the first two discs of this triple compendium, with an extra helping by one from New American Gospel. That being said, if you're new to Lamb of God or simply never picked up their albums, Hourglass' selections are a dandy way to get acquainted.

Since many listeners have yet to buddy up with the 1998 self-titled Burn the Priest album, you can expect a generous outlay: eight out of fourteen tracks make it to Hourglass including an encore of "Suffering Bastard," 7-inch version on the bonus disc. It's appropriate for Lamb of God to reward their fans with so much Burn the Priest material, including tour tape versions of "Salivation," "Lame" and "Leech," not to mention other 7-inch cuts of "Ruiner," "Preaching to the Converted" plus the rarely-heard "Ballad of Kansas City." Eat hearty.

From a historical perspective, all of this drumming-up of Burn the Priest tracks makes Hourglass a valuable research tool. Set as part of the "Underground Years" disc, coupled with the "Epic Years" album, a neophyte can get a hankering for the bleeding and the blazing Lamb of God went through to finesse their rough 'n tumble thrash grind into a sometimes-eloquent smoothover of Slayer-loving steel-core. By themselves, the combo punches of "The Passing," "In Your Words" and "Set to Fail" from Wrath tells the Lamb of God story in song; spiffy picking, Epic.

However, the project is grossly undermined with the ommission of Lamb of God's avalanching masterpiece, "A Devil in God's Country" from As the Palaces Burn. Licensing issues or whatever the reason "God's Country" missed inclusion is inexcusable. By far the mightiest song Lamb of God has yet penned, Hourglass feels stark naked without it. The absenteeism of "A Devil in God's Country," frankly, hurts Hourglass' reason for being, which is to provide an audile examination of a modern powerhouse in metal. In fact, it would've been far preferable to lose the demo cut of "Now You've Got Something to Die For" or "Hourglass" to make room for Lamb of God's crowning achievement on a singular level. Just saying. Some might even itch about the elimination of "Again We Rise" from Sacrament, but at that point the bone-picking become monotonous.

Hourglass' bonus album is the high focus point and for all the demo and lost tape tricks yanked out of the bag, the best of the bunch are the Japanese album songs "Nippon" and "Condemn the Hive." Both burst with exquisite detonation, though at times you can hear jumbled breakdowns and attempts at prog that confuse the routine order. Ditto for "We Die Alone" and "Shadow of Your God." Sometimes Randy Blythe's vocal mixes are drowned by his band's amplitude, likely the reason they were relegated to special feature instead of final cut. Still, these are all splendid castoff rescues which quakes Disc 3 before it settles into archive outtakes and vintage recordings of early-on material the remainder of the way.

As one of the chunkiest bands in the land, Lamb of God hardly carries a commercial vibe. Yet Hourglass is a slick and commercialized collection of fan favorites, breakdown staples and an extra pack of meat to substantiate Lamb of God's loud 'n proud by-product. Good news for testifiers is there's more gospel than diatribe here, even if subjectivity robs this comp of its full impact.

Of course, for everything said in this review, Lamb of God is offering five different mega formats and round-ups including deluxe editions and full-length vinyl packages of their entire catalog, so get some as you please.

Rating: ****

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Metal Louvre: Nailbomb - Point Blank

A protest band in their own right, nothing Sepultura created delivers the razor's edge of fear quite like this shattering cover of Max Cavalera's one-time side project, Nailbomb.

Human rights activists can rally 'round this terrifying vintage photo of a VietCong woman being held at gunpoint by a U.S. soldier. Alone it tells you what you're in for with Point Blank. Before you scream for bloody justice, you still have to question what the story is here. Was the solider attacked first, did he lose a brother-in-arms from a guerrilla attack by the Cong? Or is he as inhumane as the photo on Point Blank would insinuate?

Max, along with Alex Newport and a bevy of guests including the Sep crew, Dino Cazares and Ritchie Bujnowski churned one of the angriest albums ever cut, bar no genre. Added by samples from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer along with the reverb of Max pounding on a washing machine and Alex slamming brakes on his car, Nailbomb's intent was to debilitize their audience. Mission accomplished on brutal songs such as "Wasting Away," "Guerrillas," "24 Hour Bullshit," "For Fuck's Sake," "Exploitment" and "World of Shit."

As bombastic as Point Blank (still today the fiercest output by either of its principal constituents) is, Nailbomb didn't even need to issue the music to deliver an emotional impact. Is it propaganda or a hard-hitting pictorial of human rights violation? You be the judge, but if this cover this doesn't slit you raw, you're one numb son of a bitch.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Whattya Listenin' to Wednesday - 6/2/10

Hails, loyal readers...

Hope everyone's extended weekend (for those who apply) went well and everyone is stuffed on cookouts and all limbs intact. In my neighborhood, some late night clods were blowing things up to the tune of pipe bombs, which brought my proverbial cutlass out at the ready should my kid be woken up at 1:00 a.m. Otherwise, a very busy weekend with little rest.

I met a pair of children on Saturday who really touched me. The first is a one-year-old girl with spina bifida named Abby and the second is an older boy, Erik, who has dealt with a rare skin disease since birth where he is easily cut and his flesh comes off in large chunks. I'm impressed by the family who've adopted these two remarkable kids and the humane treatment they give. If these children are to enjoy a future happy life, they're in the best position to do so in this household. Erik especially warmed me with his courageousness under the painful circumstances he lives with. His life is consumed by constant bandaging, yet he has the most cheerful disposition I've seen in anyone outside of my own boy. I was very inspired by Erik's sweet candor and when he told us he was Superman, I had to agree with him. I doubt I'll be able to listen to death metal lyrics with the same disaffectation again.

Here at The Metal Minute, stick around for more Metal Louvre selections, a look at the new Canvas Solaris and the Lamb of God anthology Hourglass, and Part 2 of my 2003 interview with Dee Snider.


Lamb of God - Hourglass
It's Casual - Buicregl
It's Casual - Stop Listening to Bad Music
ZZ Top - Rio Grande Mud
Mastodon - Remission
Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street
Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers
Dio - Sacred Heart
Dio - Dream Evil
Fugazi - Margin Walker
Fugazi - Repeater
The Cure - Disintegration
Heavy Metal soundtrack
Windmills by the Ocean - s/t
Isis & Aereogramme - In the Fishtank 14
Red Sparowes - Every Red Heart Shines Towards the Red Sun
The Cars - s/t
The Cars - Candy O
The Cars - Greatest Hits
Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack
Slipknot - s/t
Slipknot - Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses
Slipknot - All Hope is Gone
Delain - Lucidity
Canvas Solaris - Irradiance

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Metal Louvre: Ratt - Invasion of Your Privacy

While we're remembering the 1984 that wasn't...

Released in 1985, Invasion of Your Privacy is a tail-end party crasher album which survived the Orwellian paranoia subconsciously undermining Cold War America the preceding year. Nevertheless, the cover of Invasion suggests the lingering presence of Big Brother with Playbody model Marianne Gravette (also featured in the "Lay if Down" video) glancing towards a surreptitious voyeur off-panel. Meanwhile, she's surrounded by an open glass door (forever tainted in allure by the chase sequence in John Carpenter's original Halloween) and a pinpointing video camera overtop her feathery coif.

Gravette's dimensions are sleek, her underwear is white, indicating a questionable purity as she's being spied upon. Whereas Tawny Kitaen blatantly vamped the cover of Out of the Cellar, Gravette quietly tantalizes with her French cut giving us her hips and her cotton-strained bosom slumping into her lap. Sometimes sexiness is conveyed without nudity. Ratt may sing "You hardly notice" on "Between the Eyes," but I beg to differ.

Little would anyone know this cover would be 20 years shy of exemplifying the voyeuristic obsession of reality t.v. America. Ratt were using sex to sell albums, but they were far classier and more on-the-mark than perhaps even they realized while ripping out "You're in Love," "Dangerous But Worth the Risk" and "Got Me On the Line" like the good times would roll on forever. Too bad they didn't. Today's Big Brother got bought off to sell sex and hybrid vehicles.