I Can’t Change, I Can Only Be Me: A Thing About Sacred Reich and Squandered Opportunities

This weekend marks the second annual Full Terror Assault open air metal festival in Cave-In-Rock, Illinois, and I was supposed to be there, and I’m not, and I’m sad about that. FTA is the first (and so far, only) “European-style” open air metal festival (à la Wacken, Dynamo, Hellfest, etc.) to take place in the United States. Beginning Thursday night and running through tonight, the festival promises “maximum brutality at maximum frugality” – tickets are dirt cheap for a festival, and they include camping. Plus, it’s BYOB, so you don’t have to give some asshole $10+ for shitty beer. Also, the lineup is amazing.

FINALPOSTERweb

See?

I’d planned all year on being there, but due to a series of stupid decisions and piss-poor planning on my part, I can’t afford it. To be honest, last year’s fest boasted a more solid overall lineup, with Napalm Death and Obituary headlining, along with Terrorizer, Eyehategod, Warbeast, Noisem, Broken Hope, Iron Reagan, and a ton of others. This year has Lockup, Master, Rotten Sound, and a different ton of others (they had Venomous Concept, until a visa issue kept guitarist John Cooke from entering the country), but the most exciting part for this old thrash fanatic is the mighty Sacred Reich performing a rare US show.

Since semi-coming out of retirement in 2006, Sacred Reich almost exclusively play the European festival circuit every summer and then stop performing live until the next summer, when they travel back to Europe. I can’t really blame them; it’s no secret that metal fans in Europe are more passionate in general than predominantly lazy-ass American metal fans, so why not go where you’ll be more appreciated? Still, though, they’re one of the old school bands that I’ve never had the chance to see live, and this was gonna be my chance, and instead, I’m sitting home listening to them and writing this dumb thing.

Sacred Reich was formed in 1985 in Phoenix, Arizona. They recorded a demo tape called Draining You of Life in 1986, then scored a deal with Metal Blade records after contributing the song “Ignorance” to that label’s Metal Massacre VIII compilation. They went on to release four full-length albums, one studio EP, a live EP, and a live full-length before breaking up in 2000.  1993’s Independent  very nearly brought the band some fame. The title track was featured in the 1993 movies Son-in-Law and The Program, and they scored a minor hit with the single “Crawling” (which I used to hear alongside White Zombie’s “Thunderkiss ’65”, Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis”, Suicidal Tendencies’ “Nobody Hears”, and a whoooooooole lotta “grunge” on “Solid Rock X-103”, which later became “X-103, Indy’s New Rock Alternative”, and which is now “Alt 103.3”, which is just stupid, but I digress).

With the exception of a few songs, the band’s output was fiercely politically and socially conscious, covering topics such as US involvement in Central America, Aparthied in South Africa, the destruction of the environment, domestic racism, flaws in the US education system, etc. They played a major role in helping my young brain develop the worldview I hold as an adult, and I still very much hope to see them live some day.

The band reformed in 2006 after receiving offers to play European festivals, and they began performing live again in 2007. They have no plans to record new music, which I must say is a decision that I respect and admire. They are under no illusions regarding what their fans want, and that is to hear some classic goddamn thrash metal played at high volumes in front of thousands of like-minded maniacs, which is what they will be doing tonight at approximately 11:15 PM CDT. I will not be there in person, but I will be there in spirit, and the following songs will be in my forever-banging head.

“Death Squad” is the first song on the 1987 debut/masterpiece Ignorance. It’s a helluva way to kick off an album, and this live version is a helluva way to kick a ton of ass.

Here’s the title track…

“Violent Solutions” is my favorite song off Ignorance, and is maybe my favorite Sacred Reich song overall.

1988’s Surf Nicaragua EP is short and sweet, and by “sweet” I mean vicious. Here’s the superlative title track:

1990’s The American Way isn’t quite as solid as Ignorance, but it’s still a damn fine album and contains a few all-time classics, such as the title track, which was featured in the 1992 Pauly Shore/Brendan Fraser/Sean Astin “classic” Encino Man. Is it weird that 2 of the band’s 4 soundtrack appearances were in Pauly Shore movies? Is/was he a fan? I guess in a world where Pauly Shore was once a legitimate force at the box office, anything is possible. Anyway…

“The Way It Is” is also from The American Way, and is also a ‘banger…

Here’s “Independent”, from the 1993 album of the same name…

And here’s “Crawling”, from the same album…

And finally, here’s “Blue Suit, Brown Shirt”, the explosive anti-racist diatribe and album opener from 1996’s Heal

Man, would I ever love to hear that song live.

That’s all the time I have for now. If you’re at FTA II, enjoy the hell out of yourself. If you’re stuck somewhere else, crank up some Sacred Reich and try to ease the pain. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to stay heavy, always.

I’m Not the Undead and I Will Not Quit: A Sort of Review of Surgikill’s Sanguinary Revelations


To say that death metal supergroup Surgikill’s debut album has cast a spell on me would be an understatement. When I first heard the band back in April, via their 2-song promo cassette from last year, I was instantly hooked, but since receiving the album a few weeks ago, I have only stopped listening when I force myself to do so, alternating between Cheap Trick’s stellar In Color and the local public radio station’s classical music programming in an attempt to prevent myself from getting lost forever in the corridors of the grim, blood-soaked mortuary that is Sanguinary Revelations.

Released March 18, 2016 on F.D.A. Rekotz

Released March 18, 2016 on F.D.A. Rekotz

Surgikill is the result of an unholy collaboration birthed from the depths of depravity which are the minds of death/grind legend Stevo do Caixao (vocals) and Razorback Records owners Billy (vocals, guitars) and Vanessa Nocera (vocals/lyrics), and features William Sievers (vocals), Ash Thomas (guitars/drums), and Zdenka Prado (bass).

Did you happen to notice the unusually large number of vocal credits there? Let’s talk about that for a moment. The vocals on this beast are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. They range from merely unsettling to utterly terrifying, and the inclusion of four different vocalists takes what might normally be a “good cop/bad cop” kind of vibe and forces it through a rusty meat grinder until we’re left with more of a “horror cop/psycho cop/murder cop/demon cop” type of situation. There are so many layers of vocals going on at times that it begins to play tricks with your mind. It is truly the closest I hope I ever come to complete madness, and I can’t stop/don’t want to stop listening.

The music is nothing to sneeze blood at, either. Thomas, Prado, and Mr. Nocera’s deft mix of death metal, death/doom, and death/grind is a perfect soundtrack to these proclamations of bloodshed – some seriously wicked sounds that work overtime to contain the insanity that is the vocal attack.

Standout tracks include the rip-roaring opener, “Sanguiniac”, in which the murderous, blood-thirsty she-demon from the album’s cover rains horror across the land…

…the slow, terrifying crawl of “Murderous Thirst”, wherein you are reassured by your killer that what is about to happen to you is purely for pleasure, and not for any kind of mystical or spiritual ends (what a relief!)…

…and album closer “Planet of the Vampires”, which Stevo first wrote in 1991, when he was still the vocalist/bassist of Impetigo. I would be willing to testify that “Planet of the Vampires” is the straight-up creepiest song I’ve ever heard, and I am a man who likes some creepy shit…

I don’t usually bother with album of the year-type lists, but whether or not I do so this year, I can’t imagine anything topping Sanguinary Revelations; it really is a revelation.

Thanks for reading, and stay heavy, heavy people.

Anything Goes Tonight: 11 Heavy Songs About Doin It (In Memory of Prince, with Apologies to Prince)

Knockin boots. Gettin it on. Boning. Doin the nasty. Snu-snu. Making sweet love. Bumpin uglies. Gettin freaky. Hittin skins. Making whoopee. Doin a bunch of fuckin. There are maybe as many euphemisms for the act of sexual intercourse as there are positions, but whatever you call it, you can’t deny that Prince knew a thing or two about gettin busy.

The passing of His Royal Badness hasn’t had a huge effect on me, but it has certainly made an impact on a lot of people close to me, most notably my wife, a.k.a. Mrs. Stay Heavy. She’s a huge fan, has been since she was a teenager, and cites his concert in Indianapolis on the Musicology (2004) tour as the best live show she’s ever seen. While I’ve never counted myself as a fan of his work per se, I definitely understand and appreciate the appeal that his songs, vision, and work ethic have had on so many people. And since I have ears, I do not dislike his music.

At any rate, I though I’d celebrate and honor the life of the Purple One by putting together a playlist of heavy songs about doin it. Please note that I omitted Butt Rock as a genre, as I don’t have the rest of my life to spare on this, so you’ll find no Mötley Crüe, Poison, etc. You’ll also find no KISS songs, because KISS sucks. I did, however, include an AC/DC song, because I feel it would have been un-American of me to do so. (I realize that AC/DC are not an American band, but I also believe that it’s un-American to not at least appreciate what AC/DC does.)

I also, at the request of the missus, did not include songs about necrophilia, even though that technically counts as sex. Hence, no “Necrophilia” by Slayer, no “I Work For the Streetcleaner” or “Mortuaria” by Impetigo, and no “Code Blue” by TSOL, even though I really wanted to include them. These are in no particular order.

1. Death Angel – “Mistress of Pain” (from The Ultra-Violence – 1987)

I’ve talked about Death Angel a fair amount in these pages before, so I won’t get into it much here. Just know that this song was written and performed by a bunch of high school kids (their 14 year-old drummer is probably better than your 25 year-old drummer). It’s on my list of Top Five Death Angel Songs. It’s also the first one I heard, on a compilation cassette called Rising Metal that my cousin Nathan bought way, way back. It’s not technically about sex, but it is about a vicious and brutal dominatrix, and I cannot deny that riff, nor those screams. You can’t either, if you listen.

“Lashing you with her whips
Keeping you bonded in chains
Drool starts to seep through her lips
Gets off on affliction of pain…”

2. Flotsam & Jetsam – “Hammerhead” (from Doomsday For the Deceiver – 1986)

This is the first Flotsam & Jetsam song I ever heard, too. It was on that same tape mentioned above. It’s the first song on their first album, and it’s badass, even if the lyrics are a bit stupid (though they are far from being the stupidest lyrics on this list). Eric A.K.’s vocals are superlative on this album. It also features Jason Newsted (who went on to play for Voivod, Echobrain, and Ozzy Osbourne) on bass guitar.

“Love for the taking, she talks with her eyes,
Wants me to give her a ride.
Spellbound she takes me way deep inside,
Hammerhead baby tonight…hold tight!”

3. Megadeth – “Mechanix” (from Killing is My Business…and Business is Good!)

This song is much closer to winning the honor of “Stupidest Lyrics” on this playlist, but it’s still not the dumbest song. Even if you’ve never heard this one before, it might sound familiar. When Dave Mustaine was still in Metallica, they performed this song as “Mechanix”, but after his unceremonious booting, they made what is inarguably one of the best decisions of their storied career and changed the lyrics to this dumbass song, and “The Four Horsemen” was born. Seriously, I can’t imagine how high/drunk Mustaine must have been to think these lyrics were not total dogshit.

“Who ever though you’d be better
At turning a screw than me
I do it for my life
Made my drive shaft crank
Made my pistons bulge
Made my ball bearings melt from the heat…”

4. Overkill – “Fatal If Swallowed” (from Taking Over – 1987)

Overkill hasn’t gotten enough love in the pantheon of thrash metal, and the pages of this “esteemed” blog are no exception. I have a thing about Overkill in the works, so I won’t say much here, except that Taking Over is my favorite Overkill album, and this is not my favorite song from that album.

“Fatal if swallowed, my love’s too much to hold.
A deadly poison, a hot and heavy load.
Fatal if swallowed, a love you can’t resist.
Another believer, sealed, with a kiss.”

5. Guns N’ Roses – “Anything Goes” (from Appetite for Destruction – 1987)

I can’t add much to this. It’s a straight up filthy song about fuckin, and it’s a real fuckin  good song, to boot.

“Panties ’round your knees
With your ass in debris
Doin’ that grind
with a push and squeeze…”

6. AC/DC – “Givin’ the Dog a Bone” (from Back in Black – 1980)

The most obvious choice here was clearly “You Shook Me All Night Long”, but that would’ve been too easy. It was pretty tough to narrow AC/DC down to one song about sex, as they have at least two per album (and Back in Black has three). I’m not really sure why I chose this one, to be honest, but here we are. It’s silly, not unlike a majority of AC/DC songs.

“She’s no Mona Lisa
No she’s no playboy star
But she’ll send you to heaven
Then explode you to Mars…”

7. Motörhead – “Love Me Like a Reptile” (from Ace of Spades – 1980)

Perhaps the only thing Lemmy enjoyed as much as whiskey and speed was doin it. As a result, Motörhead also has a lot of songs about sex. I also considered “Jailbait”, from the same album, but I felt that one gave the whole mix a slightly too-creepy vibe.

“Baby you’re a rattlesnake, you know the way I feel,
Feel you crawling up my back, you’ve got no love to steal,
You know I’ve got my eyes on you,
You’re petrified, gonna stick like glue…”

8. W.A.S.P. – “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” (1984 single)

W.A.S.P. was a silly, silly band. They probably still are silly, but I can’t say for certain. This one makes the whole list a little too creepy, too, quite frankly, but I felt like I had to include it. It was slated for inclusion on W.A.S.P.’s self-titled debut album, but was removed by Capitol Records at the last minute, and was subsequently released as a single in the UK. It’s worth noting that singer Blackie Lawless no longer performs the song live, as the lyrics don’t jive up with his more recent conversion to Christianity.

Bonus fun fact: back in 1985, this song appeared on the PMRC’sFilthy Fifteen” list, along with Prince’s “Darling Nikki” (as well as “Let Me Put My Love Into You”, the other AC/DC song about sex from Back in Black). I have a thing about the PMRC in the works, so stay tuned for that!

“I’m on the prowl and I watch you closely
I lie waiting for you
I’m the wolf with the sheepskins clothing
I lick my chops and you’re tasting good…”

9. My Dying Bride – “The Thrash of Naked Limbs” (from The Thrash of Naked Limbs EP – 1993)

My Dying Bride makes me feel all kinds of different emotions at the same time, which I suppose is how you know it’s working. This song is no exception; the lyrics are sweet and emotional, the music is heavy and emotional, and the vocals are growly and terrifying (and emotional). Honorable mention: “The Sexuality of Bereavement”, from 1995’s brilliant The Angel and the Dark River. It’s just the tiniest bit too weird for this list, but it’s a fantastic song.

“With the lights low, and you naked on the warm floor
Me besides you, softly kissing, caressing
Make love to her while she’s crying
I could die now, and die happy.”

10. Pantera – “P.S.T. ’88” (from Power Metal – 1988)

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the official winner for “Stupidest Lyrics” on this playlist. Power Metal was Pantera’s first album with Phil Anselmo (more like “white power metal”, amirite?), back when they were transforming from a talented KISS-inspired band into the talented Exhorder-inspired band they became best known for (haha). Power Metal was the band’s transitional “Judas Priest-inspired” phase. It’s pretty weird, and it’s not all that good, but it’s miles better than their first three albums. I mostly included it here because it fits the criteria, and because I like making fun of Pantera, because Pantera fans take themselves too seriously. Vocals on this one are by “Diamond” Darrell Abbot, before he was known as “Dimebag” Darrell, which was before he was known as “Dime”, may he rest in peace.

“Coors Light on ice,she’s gettin’ right
She is feeling my rise, don’t stop roll the dice,
She’s got my rod in her thighs…”

11. Venom – “Teacher’s Pet” (from Black Metal – 1982)

Everything about Venom is simultaneously awesome and kind of stupid (and always, always ridiculous). The lyrics are basically “Hot For Teacher” with a “Hard R” rating. If you’re only gonna listen to one Venom song, it should not be this one. I recommend anything off Welcome to Hell (1981) first.

“Teacher caught me masturbating
underneath the desk
she looked at me and winked her eye
said ‘see you after class’…”

That’s all I got for today, friends. What are some of your favorite heavy songs about sex? Share them in the comments, why not? And remember to always, always, always stay heavy (and sexy!).

 

We Turn It On And You’ll Be Going Crazy: A Sort of Review of Voivod Live at Zanzabar, Louisville, KY, 02.29.16

This show happened five days ago, and I’m just now feeling up to the task of trying to write about it. There are many reasons for the delay, but chief among them are lack of time, lack of energy, and, quite frankly, lack of suitable vocabulary. Voivod crushed the shit out of Louisville, Kentucky on Leap Day 2016, and my brain was among those casualties.

I woke up with the plague that morning, and was as sad and angry as I’ve been in a long, long time. I told Mrs. Stay Heavy that if I didn’t feel any better by the time I got off work, I didn’t think I’d be able to go. I felt like my head was caving in, and there was no way I could miss the next day of work, plus I had to drive 2 hours each way for the show, and like Detective Roger Murtaugh, I’m too old for that shit.

toooldforthisshit

As the day progressed, so did my health, and by the time I got home from work, my body was operating at an estimated 78.3% capacity. That was good enough for me. The missus was getting over her own seasonal bullshit sickness, and she was feeling a bit better, too, so we hopped in the car and drove down, arriving at Zanzabar a little after 7 PM.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I'd gotten the Cobb salad.

This sign greeted us outside. I kinda wish I’d gotten the Cobb salad.

We ordered a pizza, which was just okay (though our service was great, which was a welcome change for us). While we ate, Black Fast did their sound check. I hadn’t listened to them before, but I liked what I was hearing. After eating, we scoped out the premises. It’s a small, weird, eclectic space; pinball machines abound, along with some arcade games. I got the chance to play the Star Wars pinball machine that is partially responsible for my dropping out of college my freshman year, and I’m still just okay at it, but it’s still fun as fuck to play.

Anyway, Black Fast took the stage at 8:30 sharp and played a super heavy, super tight 30 minute set. The relatively small-ish crowd that was gathered around the stage was really into it, and the band clearly fed off their energy, giving it back in spades. I could feel myself regressing a bit, so we went back to sit near the bar after a couple of songs so I could reserve my energy for the main event. I was unable to see the very low stage from my seat, but they sounded great throughout, and I look forward to hearing more from these dudes.

Vektor did a fairly brief setup, during which I played more pinball and checked out the merch, then played their ferocious set to a pretty good number of true believers. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’d only heard one Vektor song prior to that night, and I only listened to that one a couple of weeks ago, after I bought the tickets to this show. Suffice it to say, I was a god damn fool. Vektor were fucking breathtaking, and I wish I could afford to purchase their entire discography right now.

I had to step outside at one point during their set, because in addition to my slowly declining health, I was starting to get sleepy, too. The missus came with me, and we stepped out the door just in time to see Snake walking by. We exchanged a casual “hello” with him, and I played it cool, but my inner fanboy was about to piss himself with excitement. We went back inside and caught the last song-and-a-half of Vektor’s set, then made our way toward the front, managing to snag pretty premium spots right near the front of stage right, a.k.a. Chewy’s side.

After what seemed like decades, the fantastic and disorienting sound of the delayed bass from around the 2:50 mark of Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days” came thundering over the PA, and the heroes of the evening took the stage, smiling like little kids on Christmas morning. They cleaved the top of my head off with “Ripping Headaches”, then continued to slowly cut me into little pieces throughout what is easily one of the top five shows I’ve ever gotten the chance to see. I got three shitty pictures right at the beginning…

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Snake is so much fun to watch.

Chewy in action. I was also in action. I put my camera away after this.

Chewy in action. I was also in action.

Away, dematerializing.

Away, crossing dimensions.

…and then put my phone away and let the show transport me to another dimension – a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. The set was absolutely flawless, and the band was obviously having a blast, and sounded tighter than a duck’s asshole. I almost lost my shit during “Inner Combustion”, “Killing Technology”, “The Prow”, and “Psychic Vacuum”. I screamed along until I almost puked during “Voivod”. And I cried like a little baby during “Astronomy Domine”, just as I do every time I watch live footage and Snake dedicates it to Piggy.

By the time the set was over, I felt like I’d been hit by a car and knocked down a flight of stairs. Every song was stellar, and the only downside to the entire show were the three assholes who were standing right around me. Here’s a little bit about them…

There was the drunk guy – I’ll call him “Drunky”. Drunky was okay at first, but he repeatedly leaned on Chewy’s monitor, causing it slide around, and inexplicably just kept pointing at Away, as if to indicate to all of us that Away was, in fact, there. His shit got old before it was all over, but he was mostly harmless. I saw him getting practically dragged down the sidewalk by two friends after the show, so I know he wasn’t necessarily in control of his facilities, but hopefully he learns to handle his booze a little better in the future. Prolly not, though, as he looked to be mid-40s. Anyway…

Then there was The Couple…the missus referred to the guy as “the poor man’s Brendan Fraser”, but I maintain that Brendan Fraser himself gets that distinction, so I called him “Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin”. He was there with his ladyfriend, who we’ll call “Backpack”, since she was wearing one and clearly did not give a shit about the fact that it was constantly knocking into people. These two douche canoes spent 80% of the goddamn show taking pictures and video with their goddamn phones. It was bad enough that Snake said to Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin at one point, “I’m not getting in your way while you’re filming, am I?”, which prompted Backpack to yell out, “but he loves you guys!” As if the rest of us fucking don’t, right?

But did BFDLC get the point? Clearly not, because shortly thereafter, he pulled his goddamn phone out of his goddamn pocket again, only to lose his goddamn grip and send it goddamn flying onto the goddamn stage, immediately to the right of and behind Chewy’s foot. He managed to lean over and picked it up without incident, but he could have easily tripped Chewy, and I was reeeeaaaaly hoping Chewy would step on it and break it. And Backpack just spent the whole show bumping into me with her backpack and holding her phone way up in everybody’s way.

HEY DUMB DICKS: IF I WANTED TO WATCH THE SHOW THROUGH YOUR GODDAMN PHONES, I WOULD’VE STAYED HOME AND LOOKED THAT SHIT UP ON YOUTUBE THE NEXT DAY, YOU DUMB DICKS.

And I get it; I understand that people want mementos, a little something to remember the show by, but sometimes memories should be enough, and I believe if Brendan Fraser’s Dumb Looking Cousin and Backpack had just fucking let themselves get lost in the experience, like I was mostly able to do in spite of them, they wouldn’t need 700 shitty, blurry pictures to remember the night.

“But Joel, you took pictures too, you hypocrite,” you might say. To that I respond: I took three pictures. The picture of Snake was within the first minute of the show, and the pictures of Chewy and Away were both taken during the same song, and from a low angle, so I wasn’t blocking anyone else’s view when I snapped them. That’s part of why they are shitty pictures.

Anyway, the show ended, and Chewy gave me a pick, and I told him and Rocky and Snake that the show was great, and I told Away, in all honesty, that it was one of the greatest things I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness, and his response was “Oh, wow, thank you so much. And thank you for coming”, and I’m just like, wow, how fucking amazing is that man – one of the true geniuses of our time, and I don’t believe he could’ve been more polite or humble.

Good lord, am I in some kind of comma splice contest or something?

We hit the merch table on the way out, but they only had the Killing Technology shirts (which is the one I wanted most) in size small, and I didn’t really have the money to spend on a shirt anyway, so I bought three buttons and a sticker, and we began the drive home, arriving back a little after 2 AM. I felt like absolute hell, but I somehow managed to get to work on time and do a serviceable job, and I’ve been living in a strange kind of daze ever since. Part of that is related to the fact that I’m still recovering from this bastard of a sinus infection and am on various and sundry medications, but the bulk of the daze is undoubtedly due to the time I spent in Voivod’s multiverse on a day that only exists once every four years. It is a day I will never forget, even though I only got three pictures.

                                                         SETLIST:

 

  1. Ripping Headaches (from Rrröööaaarrr, 1986)
  2. Tribal Convictions (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  3. Overreaction (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  4. Kluskap O’Kom (from Target Earth, 2013)
  5. Inner Combustion (from Nothingface, 1989)
  6. Post Society (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  7. Killing Technology (from Killing Technology, 1987)
  8. The Prow (from Angel Rat, 1991)
  9. We Are Connected (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  10. Psychic Vacuum (from Dimension Hatröss, 1988)
  11. Forever Mountain (from Post Society EP, 2016)
  12. Voivod (from War and Pain, 1984)
  13. Astronomy Domine (from Nothingface, 1989)

That’s all for today. Thanks for reading, and remember to stay heavy, always.

 

We Carry On: A Voivod Primer, Part 4

What follows is Part Four of a multi-part series about the groundbreaking and visionary French-Canadian progressive metal band Voivod.  Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, and Part Three can be found here.

After Eric Forrest’s automobile accident and the hiatus that followed, Voivod decided to call it a day, and in 2001, they disbanded, and the world was worse off for it. However, through some beautiful set of circumstances with which I am not entirely familiar, Away and Piggy reunited with Snake, and Voivod was reborn, not unlike Anark. One of the reasons for the reunion was certainly the interest of long-time fan and collaborator Jason Newsted, who joined the band on bass guitar following his departure from Metallica. Voivod Code Name: Jasonic.

The first album recorded by Voivod Mark III (or possibly Mark IV), 2003’s Voivod (which was released on Newsted’s own label, Chophouse Records), finds the band returning to a sound not far removed from 1993’s The Outer Limits. And while I don’t think the former quite stands up to the latter, the songs are pretty great overall, and some of them are utterly fantastic. It’s certainly better than anything Newsted did with Metallica post …And Justice for AllRolling Stone gave it 2 stars (out of a possible 5), but then, Rolling Stone has put Li’l Wayne on their cover three different times, so Rolling Stone clearly knows as much about good music as Billy Ray Cyrus.

“Gasmask Revival” kicks the album off in fine form, although it’s a little more straightforward than most Voivod songs.

Track three, “Blame Us”, is where things start to sound a bit more Voivod-esque…

And by the time we get to track six, “The Multiverse”, things appear to be right in…well, the multiverse…

“Invisible Planet” is also tight as hell. It’s also worth noting that Snake’s spoken part at the end of the song proclaims “This is Voivod Mark III, emergency!” and while I reckon that the band would be the ultimate authority as to which version of the band is responsible for which albums, the idea that the post-Blacky/pre-E-Force years (Angel Rat and The Outer Limits) should be Mark II is not without merit. However, it gets even more confusing a bit further down the line, and all that really matter is that Voivod is still putting out kick ass music. Mark it VIII if you have to, dude. Voivod is better than your band.

Following the release of Voivod, the band scored a slot on the second stage at Ozzfest 2003, with Newsted playing bass for both them and Ozzy Osbourne, and for a moment, it seemed that everything was comin’ up Milhouse.

If you're a fan of the Simpsons, you owe it to yourself to visit frinkiac.com.

If you’re a fan of the Simpsons, you owe it to yourself to visit frinkiac.com.

Then, the cosmic conspiracy reared its ugly head once again, when Piggy was diagnosed with colon cancer. He passed away on August 26, 2005, at the way-too-goddamn-young age of 45, and anyone who thought that the band was finished would not have been called crazy for thinking such. But as Larry told his class in Throw Momma From the Train, “a writer writes, always”, and that’s just what Piggy did after his diagnosis.

Turns out the formidable master of riff mindfuckery had recorded riffs onto his laptop before he died, and he told Away how he wanted said riffs to be utilized, and the end result was two more posthumous albums, 2006’s Katorz [a phonetic spelling of “quatorze”, the French word for fourteen, as it was the band’s 14th album (including live and compilation albums)], and 2009’s Infini, both of which consist of more straight-ahead, hard driving Voivod songs in a similar vein to their self-titled comeback.

The band produced three videos for Katorz, album opener “The Getaway” and album closers “The X-Stream” and “Polaroids”. The video for “Polaroids” is super-cool, and features some of Away’s artwork overlaid onto footage of industrial landscapes. In addition, “The X-Stream”, was included in Guitar Hero II, which you may recall was taking the world by storm at the time.

The announcement of the release of Infini was met with some surprise, as many people assumed that Katorz would be the last Voivod album, but Piggy had too much inside his by all accounts beautiful soul for just one final album, and Infini received a bittersweet release on June 23, 2009. It’s my favorite album from the Jasonic era of Voivod, but it’s also the first album the band released after I got into them, so that probably has something to do with it.

“God Phones” is a solid way to start things off…

“Morpheus” was featured on this blog before, but it’s too damn good to not mention again. The lyrics are inspired by Piggy’s time in the hospital and his subsequent death, and they are incredibly spooky and heartfelt.

“You came to see me, don’t want to see you
I live in my world, so do not disturb
The thing inside me, won’t let me free
It is so unreal, it’s not a bad dream…”

Album closer “Volcano” mercifully brings the mood back up, because that shit was heavier than a really heavy thing, with apologies to Devin Townsend.

So after the release of Infini,  Voivod was finished, right? I mean, one of their principal songwriters and founding members had lost his battle with that motherfucker known as cancer, so surely they couldn’t carry on, right?

Wrong, asshole! Did you even read the title of this piece?

But that’ll be the topic of Part Five, coming soon(ish), but probably not that soon. Until then, wherever you go, and whatever you do, remember to stay heavy. Do it for Piggy.

Also, I’m sorry I called you an asshole. I love you all, except for the assholes. You know who you are, assholes.

Why All This Commotion Now?: A Really Short Thing That’s Kind of About Voivod

As regular readers may know, I am a HUGE fan of Voivod. I’ve written about them quite a bit, and I’ve already been planning plenty more, but another piece has been added today: I just bought tickets to see Voivod live on February 29th! This’ll be my first time, and I don’t think I could be more excited! I’d planned to see them when they  were touring with Kreator a few years back, but I couldn’t make that show, and then I really wanted to see them with Napalm Death last year, but it’s hard to plan for a 4-hour one-way trip to Chicago in the winter, and then tickets sold out, but now none of that shit matters, because I’m going to see the mighty motherfucking Voivod – headlining, no less! – in just over two weeks! I don’t care that I have to work all day and then drive straight down to Louisville after work, and I don’t care that I have to drive straight back home and work the next day on not enough sleep, because I am finally going to experience the majesty that is Voivod live!

Photo by Shawn Evans. Used without permission. Please don't sue me, Shawn! For more amazing pics of this show, check out http://skullsnbones.com/voivod-live-photos-from-atlanta-by-shawn-evans/

Photo by Shawn Evans. Used without permission. Please don’t sue me, Shawn! For more amazing pics of this show, check out http://skullsnbones.com/voivod-live-photos-from-atlanta-by-shawn-evans/

I’m too excited to think properly right now, so I’ll just share a few super sweet tunes from Canada’s greatest metal export.

“Post Society” is the single from the band’s latest release, an EP which is also called Post Society. It’s very fucking good:

“We Are Connected” is Voivod’s side of a split 7″ they released with At the Gates last year. It, too, kicks mucho ass-o:

This is the title track to their third album, 1987’s Killing Technology. They’ve been playing this one live on this current tour for the first time since 1994(!):

And here’s Dave Grohl talking about Voivod, because Dave Grohl talks about everything:

I gotta start dinner prep now, and crank some Voivod. If you’re interested, check out my previous posts on Voivod…

here

here

here

and here.

Thanks for reading! Stay heavy!

Tremble, You Weaklings, Cower in Fear: The Ten Best 80’s Thrash Metal Songs About Nuclear War

While the threat of nuclear war is still a very real thing today, it doesn’t weigh on my mind the way it did when I was just a li’l guy back in the 80’s. The nightly news talked about it a lot, and it used to terrify me, and then Nancy Reagan’s grandpa made Old Man Gorbachev tear down a wall, and it kind of faded out of the public eye, and life was fucking peaches and cream all the time, and no one wanted to hurt us, until Saddam Hussein threatened our freedom, or whatever. These days, not much airtime is given to the topic, save for an occasional report about Iran or North Korea and their uranium enrichment attempts, because terrorism is the new nuclear war. I don’t really know where I’m going with all this, except to remind you that the media should not be trusted, because they only tell you what they want you to know.

Anyway, I’ve been kicking around the idea of a mixtape about nuclear war for a while now, but to be perfectly honest, the topic can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many metal songs about nuclear war and its aftereffects that I just didn’t know where to begin, so I never bothered. Then one day last week, my buddy Sean suggested I put together a mixtape about nuclear war, and I decided to give it some more serious thought. To make it easier on myself, I settled on the requirement that the songs be of the thrash metal variety. What follows is the result, and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, there are likely to be no surprises. Thrash metal is my lifeblood, and I make no apologies about it. Maybe I’ll make another nuke-themed mixtape some other day where being a thrash metal band isn’t a requirement for the list…maybe not.

As with my previous entry about thrash metal ballads, I don’t necessarily believe these are the the ten very best nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs. Rather, they are ten nuclear war-themed thrash metal songs that I love dearly; I just gave it the title and numbered it from 10 to 1 to see how many people read the intro. It is, in fact, chronological.

Onward to mayhem!

10. Voivod – “Nuclear War” (from War and Pain – 1984)

“Storm, the only weather
Start the directives assassins
Warm inside the under shelter
Wait and fell your broiling skin…”

I’ve written about Voivod extensively, and there’s still more to come, eventually. I love them so hard. This is the last song on their debut album, and while it’s technically a part of the Voivod saga, it also perfectly reflects the air of paranoia and unease that permeated everything in the mid 1980’s. The broken English and the plodding, marching feel of the first almost-five minutes of the song work together to add an extra layer of complexity and fear.

9. Exodus – “And Then There Were None” (from Bonded By Blood – 1985)

“Wars coming, start running, eyes blinded by the nuclear blast
Hearts beating, retreating, all around are bodies burned to ash
Children crying and people dying, no salvation from this holocaust
Bodies burning and now they’re learning, in war painful death’s the bloody cost…”

This is one of my favorite Exodus songs. That main riff is the shit. So, full disclosure: I woke up at like 2:30 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got out of bed and started putting this together around 3:30 AM. I wrote the intro, then started filling in track info at the end and worked my way toward the top. It is now almost 7:00 AM. I’ve grown very sleepy.

8. Anthrax – “Aftershock” (from Spreading the Disease – 1985)

“Blinding our eyes as the sun turns to black
A world full of hatred and fear
All are committed, there’s no going back
There’ll be no one left to hear…”

I still have lots of Anthrax-related things to write about. I’ll get around to it some day. I love this song, and this album. Also recommended, “One World”, from 1987’s Among the Living.

7. Dark Angel – “Falling From the Sky” (from We Have Arrived – 1985)

“Watch the sky
Death is near
You are falling
The final day is near…”

The first Dark Angel album is a glorious, cacophonous, thrashy mess, and “Falling From the Sky” is a perfect example of what the rest of the album sounds like. Not recommended for the faint of heart, or the delicate of ears.

6. Nuclear Assault – “Nuclear War” (from Game Over – 1986)

“No one wins
In this game
Both sides have lost
Who has won
When all are dead
Except for the machines…”

If I didn’t already know, I would be willing to bet that Nuclear Assault were born in the long shadow of the Reagan years. Everything about this band is steeped in nuclear paranoia, government corruption, and environmental destruction. Also, it goes without saying, but Dan Lilker fucking rules.

5. D.R.I. – “Oblivion” (from Crossover – 1987)

“The day has come, the time is near
For all to end. It’s true, it’s here
It’s all over now, no way to stop
The button’s been pushed, the bomb’s been dropped
The city is melting, the sky burns red
The ocean is boiling, we’ll soon be dead…”

I never got around to writing a review of the D.R.I. show at the 5th Quarter Lounge in Indianapolis back in September, but it was fucking awesome, and so is this song.

4. Sodom – “Nuclear Winter” (from Persecution Mania – 1987)

“Slow death is what we can expect
Strike will have just this one effect
Condemned to capital punishment
By the nuclear sword of Damocles…”

The opening track from the Tuetonic thrash titans’ second full length album is a master course in Thrash Metal Riffery, and like the Voivod song above, Tom Angelripper’s slightly broken English makes the lyrics even more unsettling. Side note: I found this album on cassette in a pawn shop in Bedford, Indiana circa 1989. I bought it, along with Jimmy Page’s Outrider. I didn’t really appreciate either album at the time, but one of them made a notable impact on my impressionable brain – an impact that would manifest itself in a super hardcore fashion 4 or 5 years later. The other one was Jimmy Page’s Outrider.

3. Death Angel – “Final Death” (from The Ultra-Violence – 1987)

“Dogs of war, for your blood they lust
Radiation turns your body to dust
Watching fallout as it fills the sky
Now it’s time for this planet to die.”

From all the way back when some of the members Death Angel were still growing pubes, “Final Death” is a lean, mean bastard. It’s not the best song on the album, but it’s still better than most other songs in existence, and Mark Osegueda’s blood-curdling air raid siren wail at around the 2:35 mark sums up the fear in the lyrics perfectly.

2. Metallica – “Blackened” (from …And Justice for All – 1988)

“Fire
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Blackened is the end
To begin whipping dance of the dead
Color our world blackened…”

I hate …And Justice for All because of the way it sounds – Newsted’s nonexistent bass guitar, Lars’ steel trashcan drums, generally non-good sound quality – but I goddamn love …And Justice for All because of the songs, and because of the place it occupies in my nostalgic heart. Metallica is dead; long live Metallica.

  1. Megadeth – “Rust in Peace…Polaris” (from Rust in Peace – 1990)

“I spread disease like a dog
Discharge my payload a mile high
Rotten egg air of death wrestles your nostrils…”

That chorus hasn’t left my head since the first time I heard it. The final track on what is arguably Megedeth’s finest hour is a masterpiece of nuclear paranoia and terror. Mustaine’s vocals are perfect, and in a fresh twist, the lyrics are from the point of view of the Bomb itself. Rust in Peace is Dave Mustaine’s dragon, and he will probably chase that beautiful motherfucker until his final breath. Megadeth is dead; long live Megadeth.

That’s all I got for now, heavy people. Do you have any favorite nuclear war-themed songs? Let’s discuss it, why not? And don’t forget to stay heavy!

 

Here’s to Future Nostalgia!: A Rambly Thing About Metal T-Shirts

To the nonbeliever, metal t-shirts might seem odd, foolish, scary, wasteful, or some other silly shit – I don’t know, I’ve been a Metalhead for over 75% of my life, so I don’t really know how those types think. What I do know, with absolute certainty, is that I fucking love metal t-shirts, and if lack of disposable income and space were not a hindrance, I would own all of them. I will continue wearing them when I’m an old man, and some people will continue to regard me with disdain, and those people can continue to fuck off.

youdon'tknowme

Anyway, I was thinking about metal t-shirts last night, and I was struck by how different the t-shirt buying experience has become. Shirts are so easy to get now, from countless internet purveyors, including the bands themselves. It’s easier than it has ever been for me to own a shirt by literally any band I can think of, and yet the experience is lacking. It might just be nostalgia talking, because nostalgia is much chattier than I am, but I really miss going into a music store and looking through the t-shirts, often finding truly badass t-shirts.

Like this one, for example. Why the fuck did I get rid of this t-shirt?

Like this one, for example. I used to own this t-shirt! Why the fuck did I get rid of this t-shirt? WHAT KIND OF MONSTER AM I?!

I should point out that I currently own some of my favorite metal t-shirts I’ve ever owned, thanks to the internet and to my increased ability to attend shows and buy them in person, but I think maybe it’s the thrill of the hunt that I miss. There was a pretty significant portion of my life (during which I was mostly unable to drive myself anywhere) when I could go into any one of 5 or 6 different music stores within 30 minutes of my house and browse their ever-changing t-shirt selections. Progress has done its thing, and music stores are a much rarer breed these days, but even the few that remain in my town don’t sell t-shirts (or at least not metal t-shirts). My only option for finding metal t-shirts in an old-school real-life browsing fashion is to visit Hot Topic, and sweet baby Jeebus, do I ever hate going into Hot Topic. Sometimes I need it, though, and I’ll brave the muddy waters of whatever befuddling mallcore horseshit the bondage-panted clerk is blasting over the sound system so I can look at the shirts, but I almost always leave without buying anything, because the music seriously gets to me.

Seriously.

Seriously.

Quick tangent: years ago, before we had a Hot Topic here (before I had even heard of Hot Topic, really), I was visiting a friend in St. Louis, MO, and I went into what I later realized was a Hot Topic in a mall there, and bought myself a super-sweet Agnostic Front t-shirt. I wore the fuck out of that shirt, and I still owned it until recently, even though it had severe pit stains, and was much too large for the significantly less chubby me. A year or so later, I was in the mall here (still pre-Hot Topic), wearing my Agnostic Front t-shirt, and I passed a dude who said “hey man, that’s a sweet AF shirt, where’d you get it?” and I said “oh, thanks, I got it at a mall in St. Louis” and he looked at me as if I’d suddenly transformed into a feces-covered kiddie diddler and said “oh”, because he apparently forgot that we were in a mall right at that moment. People sure are dumb.

This is one of the first images that came up when I googled the word "dumb".

This is one of the first images that came up when I googled the word “dumb”.

Anyway, I was talking about the thrill of the t-shirt hunt. It doesn’t really exist anymore. I can no longer spend a lazy afternoon browsing t-shirt selections, narrowing it down to 4 or 5 choices, agonizing over whether to get another Anthrax shirt or a Corrosion of Conformity shirt. Note: I used to own 6 different Anthrax shirts, now I own zero. A significant part of that is the fact that their newer t-shirt designs just don’t speak to me the same way, but it’s also partly because I’m extremely unlikely to just find one in my hands.

I used to own this one, too. I accidentally left it in Texas when I moved back home. I was very sad when I first realized that.

I used to own this one, too. I accidentally left it in Texas when I moved back home. I was very sad when I first realized that.

I don’t really know where I was going with all this; I’m kind of just thinking out loud, and you’re following along. Lucky you, right? I guess the point is that I’m getting old, and my nostalgia is way cooler than today’s reality.

Stay heavy, y’all.

A Quick Update

I don’t have a lot of time today, with it being Christmas and all, but I wanted to pop in and wish everyone a happy Christmas and wonderful 2016, unless you’re an asshole.

I’ve been busier than usual lately, and as usual, my blog has suffered. I always tell myself I won’t let it suffer, but I always let it suffer, and that’s dumb. However, I’ll be starting a new work situation soon, which will allow me to actually schedule time to write each day, and that, my friends, is not dumb. In fact, it’s very exciting.

Speaking of exciting, sometime very soon I’ll begin contributing to a website called Unholy Music, which is based out of Berlin. Be sure to check them out!

Until next time, heavy people, please do stay heavy.

Please Let Me Take You, And I’ll Show You the Truth: Another Thing About Thrash Metal Ballads

If you’ve read much of this blog at all, you’re no doubt well aware that I am cuckoo for Testament. The Bay Area Thrash titans have been damn near flawless since the beginning, and they are one of the very few bands I can think of that have not released a bad song. For example, Iron Maiden is my favorite band ever by a substantial margin, and I like songs from all eras of the band, but they’ve easily got enough clunkers in their catalog to make a Greatest Turds album, which I just might do one of these days.

Anyway, we’re talking about Testament (again). They’ve made some immensely heavy songs – some with riffs so thick you couldn’t drive a tank through them and vocals so intense they could make a cage fighter wet his cage-fighting shorts – but some of their best songs are of the metal ballad persuasion (one of them was included in my Ten Best Thrash Metal Ballads post from a little over a year ago), and while listening to their vastly underrated 1992 album The Ritual, which boasts two ballads, I decided to put together a thing about Testament’s top-notch metal balladry, and this is it. Everybody wins! (Note: these are in chronological order.)

“Musical Death (A Dirge)” (from The New Order – 1988) – This is an instrumental, but it’s so mellow and soothing that I couldn’t bring myself to not include it here. It’s the closing song from the band’s second album (and my personal favorite), and it provides a hell of a showcase for the guitar wizardry of Alex Skolnick. Wizardry really is the only word that begins to properly describe Skolnick’s playing – the man is brilliant, and while the band was still great without him (from 1994-ish through 2000-ish), they are noticeably better with him. He was a touring member of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, for cryin out loud! They are not known for employing musicians who are “okay” at their instruments.

“The Ballad” (from Practice What You Preach – 1989) – This one is not winning any awards for “Most Cleverly-Titled Song” or anything, but it’s a damn fine piece of music. It was also released a single, so you may have seen it on MTV (back when MTV wasn’t a garbage receptacle for entertainment refuse), particularly if you’re old.

“The Legacy” (from Souls of Black – 1990) – This song is not to be confused with the album called The Legacy, which was the band’s 1987 debut, and neither of the two should be confused with the band Legacy, which is what Testament was called when Zetro from Exodus sang for them, way back when I was still listening to Toto and Ronnie Milsap – i.e., whichever radio station my older sisters or my parents had tuned in. It was also a single.

“The Ritual” (from The Ritual – 1992) – This was the last Testament album with the “classic lineup”. Alex Skolnick did not appear on another Testament album until First Strike Still Deadly, 2001’s unnecessary-but-still-great re-recording of The Legacy/The New Order-era material. Original drummer Louie Clemente also left the band after this album, and aside from a guest appearance here and there, has yet to rejoin the band, but the way they operate, I would not be surprised if he did, in fact, rejoin someday.

“Return to Serenity” (from The Ritual – 1992) – This is the Testament song I included in my Ten Best Thrash Ballads of All Time piece. I like it very, very much. The Ritual is noticeably slower than previous Testament albums, and the production is a bit thin, both of which contribute to the album getting unfairly overlooked, which makes me sad – not like “discussing politics with my relatives” sad or anything, but sad nonetheless. This song was also released as a single, and therefore also has a video, and here it is.

“Trail of Tears” (from Low – 1994) – Low was the last album to feature original bassist Greg Christian until 2008’s super-dope The Formation of Damnation (which is just an excellent fucking title), and he left again last year under less than amiable circumstances. Like The RitualLow is also often overlooked, and like The RitualLow is also much better than a lot of people would have you believe, but unlike The RitualLow is a super-heavy, grooving, growling motherfucker of an album. It even flirts with death metal for a few minutes on Side 2 opener “Dog Faced Gods”, but “Trail of Tears” is the quiet, contemplative break from the sludgy, downtuned riff-factory that is the rest of Low. The lyrics are inspired by the actual Trail of Tears, in which thousands of Native Americans were forced to move from their ancestral homelands thanks to Andrew “Indian Killer” Jackson‘s Indian Removal Act of 1830. Man, Andrew Jackson was a despicable piece of shit.

“Cold Embrace” (from Dark Roots of Earth – 2012) – This is a triumphant return to classic Testa-Ballad® (patent pending) form: mellow, lush, verses swell into soaring, booming choruses, all tied up beautifully by Alex Skolnick’s lead work, and for a little under eight minutes, all is right and righteous in the world.

That’s all for today, friends. Until next time, keep on staying heavy, won’t you?