This Goes Way Beyond Expectations: A Thing About Voivod’s New Album, The Wake

It’s been far too long since I’ve written anything here (or anywhere else, for that matter), and life is my only excuse, and I know that’s a mostly shitty excuse, but it’s the only excuse I have.

Hey, speaking of “shitty”, how about the state of the world these days? I know that on some level, things are not as bad as they seem, and that bad news gets more airtime than good news, but I also know that I’m scared and nervous about the state of things more now than I have been since I was just a li’l guy, back in the final decade of the Cold War, and I know that I don’t like that feeling.

However, sometimes good things do still happen. As evidence, I submit The Wake, the 14th studio album by French-Canadian Metal Gods Voivod, released to the undeserving world on September 21 of this year. I’d planned on writing a proper review of the album, but if I’m being honest, I’m having trouble finding words that do it justice, so I’m just gonna kind of think out loud here. Bear with me…

Exhibit A

I know I’ve gushed about Voivod a lot in the past, both on this blog and in person (and I will continue to do so in the future), but I say this without hyperbole: Voivod is one of the greatest bands in the universe (known or unknown), and The Wake is one of the greatest albums in the history of time and space. Every member of the band is in top form here, and it’s obvious that they love and fully believe in what they’re doing.

Exhibit B (L-R): Away (drums), Rocky (bass), Chewy (guitars), Snake (vocals)
Photo by Wayne Archibald. Please don’t sue me, Mr. Archibald

If, gods forbid, The Wake ended up being Voivod’s last album ( and I have seen no indication that anyone in the band has even entertained the thought), it would be the most perfect way imaginable for a band to close out their story. Throughout the album’s 56 minute running time, the band touches on every era from their past, without ever sounding forced, recycled, contrived, or stale. (The chaotic nuclear thrash metal explosions that are their first two albums, 1984’s War and Pain, and 1986’s Rrröööaaarrr, are certainly least represented, although the early thrash assault does get a brief nod here and there.)

Elements of the Holy Trinity of Killing Technology (1987), Dimension Hatröss (1988), and Nothingface (1989) all pop in to say hello repeatedly throughout the album. The first track, “Obsolete Beings”, especially reminds me of Nothingface. Something about the guitar tone, maybe? I’m not a musician, and I certainly don’t know shit about music theory, so I can’t say what it is exactly, I just know it fucking rules. There’s even a brief vocal bit on “Event Horizon” that would not sound out of place on the Eric Forrest-fronted album Phobos (1997). The heaviest and most consistent vibe I pick up from the band’s storied past is that of 1993’s genius The Outer Limits (Snake even reuses a line from that album’s brilliant “Jack Luminous” on this album’s mind-blowing closer “Sonic Mycelium”).

And speaking of “Sonic Mycelium”…

With a band like Voivod (which is to say, Voivod), it’s easy to find examples of “this is unlike anything I’ve ever heard”, but even in the context of this 100% one-of-a-kind band, “Sonic Mycelium” is unlike anything I’ve ever heard. For lack of a better term, the song is a medley, but not a regular medley, because that wouldn’t be Voivod enough. Rather, it’s a medley constructed with sounds from the seven songs that precede it, and it revisits the album in such an inventive, unique, and compelling way that I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

It opens with the music from the coda of “Obsolete Beings”, over which Snake sings the opening lyrics of “Spherical Perspective” (but to the tune of the lyrics he originally sang over the coda of “Obsolete Beings”), and from there, it just goes, branching out and sprouting up like its biological namesake, and more than anything else this band has ever created, no words from any person can do this song justice or properly explain it, so my best advice is to finish reading this, obtain a copy of the album, and let it take over your life, too. You can thank me later.

(Note: I do not recommend obtaining your copy from MerchNOW – it’s a terrible company, and you’ll end up receiving your copy sometime after all the events foretold in the lyrics come true and our doomed planet starts over from the beginning. #merchneveragain)

The album is maybe best described as “cinematic”, and I, for one, definitely feel as though I’m watching a movie when I listen to it. Did I mention that it’s a concept album? I know that I did not mention that, I was just being dramatic, but it is, and holy shit, what a concept!

Seriously though, I’ve gone on long enough. Stop reading my dumb words, get yourself a copy of The Wake, put on some headphones, read those lyrics, and get lost, till your bones turn to dust.

Thanks for reading, and please continue to stay heavy.

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Stay Heavy Time Capsule, Volume 1 – 1988: Thrash Metal’s Finest Hour?

I’m a member of a Facebook group that shares media that we’re interested in with one another – music, movies, TV, comic books, novels, and so forth. The group admins throw out a weekly theme that members can follow if they’d like, and last week’s was election-year releases – things released during a US presidential election year. My mind immediately turned to 1988, which is easily one of the greatest years in the storied history of thrash metal, and then a variety of issues arose (work, the sheer volume of 1988 metal (let alone thrash metal), and that goddamn depressing/infuriating election itself) which kept me from sharing any of my picks with the group.

This is me in 1988. My 6th grade yearbook theme was "Building the Leaders of Tomorrow", and everyone was supposed to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I chose "bass guitarist", and I'm pretty sure I came closer to realizing my dream than anyone else in my class, only because I once owned a bass guitar.

This is me in 1988. My 6th grade yearbook theme was “Building the Leaders of Tomorrow”, and everyone was supposed to say what they wanted to be when they grew up. I chose “bass guitarist”, and I’m pretty sure I came closer to realizing my dream than anyone else in my class, only because I once owned a bass guitar.

I’ve actually been kicking around the idea of writing up a 1988-themed post for this blog for a while now, but I’ve just never made it happen up till now. My lack of participation in the Facebook group theme provided the necessary catalyst to finally sit  down and give it a go. I can’t promise this’ll be coherent and organized, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be long, and it’ll damn sure be opinionated. Please note: I am in no way attempting to put together a complete list of thrash metal albums released in 1988; I am simply sharing some of my favorites, with a little commentary here and there for good measure. I’m just gonna put ’em in here alphabetically, because I don’t have all day.

Anthrax – State of Euphoria (released September 19, 1988 on Island Records)

Anthrax was my first favorite band, and State of Euphoria, which I received for Christmas ’88, was the first album they released after I fell in love with them. That has no doubt played some role in SoE being my favorite Anthrax album (I actually think the follow-up, Persistence of Time, is a better album, but I don’t like it quite as much). Whatever the reason(s), it is an undeniably badass album.

Album opener “Be All, End All” is one of my most favorite songs ever.

Side two opener “Now It’s Dark” was inspired by Frank Booth, Dennis Hopper’s terrifying character from David Lynch’s amazing Blue Velvet, and some of the lyrics are taken from Frank’s dialogue. As such, many a fuck is given in this song, in a manner of speaking.

Album closer “Finale” (pronounced “finally” in the song), contains a chugging riff that cannot be denied, along with an unfortunate use of the word “faggot”, which is its only downside.

Death Angel – Frolic Through the Park (released July 1988 on Restless/Enigma)

Frolic Through the Park is not my favorite Death Angel album (that honor goes to 1991’s Act III), but it has some seriously rad songs, and it was a pretty bold step forward from the The Ultra-Violence, their vicious debut from one year earlier. Elements of funk began to appear, and song structures accordingly became more fluid. The band made a video for “Bored”, and it was apparently a pretty big hit on MTV, but my no-cable-havin ass had no way to know about that at the time.

Album opener “3rd Floor” kicks ludicrous amounts of ass. Gang vocals rule my fucking world, and this song delivers like Jimmy John’s.

Here’s the aforementioned “Bored”. If you had MTV in 1988, you’ve probably heard it at least once before. It can also be heard briefly in the criminally underrated 1990 film Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

D.R.I. – 4 of a Kind (released on Metal Blade Records, actual release date unknown)

4 of a Kind is not widely regarded as hardcore-turned-crossover-turned-thrash band D.R.I.’s finest album, but it’s my favorite (and like the Anthrax release above, was the first I heard from the band). Spike Cassidy’s guitar is all over this beast, and several of my favorite D.R.I. songs appear throughout.

“Manifest Destiny” relates the story of early European settlers robbing the “New World” from Native Americans.

“Forever moving onward
Said they were guided from above
Actually driven by hate
Disguised as love
But all their false love
Can’t disguise true hate
And the racist diplomacy
Of the church and the State”

“What are you deaf? Shut up!”

I first became aware of “Slumlord” via a full-page ad for the album in (I believe) RIP magazine. It was a comic visualizing the short yet harrowing story of a villainous slumlord who burns down his building, killing 40 innocent residents, just to collect the insurance money. I wish I still had that comic, but such is life, right? “Slumlord” flows directly into “Dead in a Ditch” on the album, and while it’s not a favorite of mine, it’s still a great song, and they work really well together, so I’ve included both here.

Album closer “Man Unkind” is a goddamn masterpiece.

“Man without an answer
Like a bird with broken wing
Wrapped up in his misery
Forgetting how to sing…”

Megadeth – So Far, So Good…So What! (released January 19, 1988 on Capitol Records)

Not Megadeth’s best, and not my favorite, but it does contain “Into the Lungs of Hell/Set the World Afire”, “Mary Jane”, and “In My Darkest Hour”, and the rest of the songs aren’t bad at all. Dave Mustaine has openly discussed the heavy drug and alcohol use that nearly destroyed the band during this time period.

“Into the Lungs of Hell” and “Set the World Afire” have been featured in these hallowed pages before. I like them both very much.

“Mary Jane” is super cool atmospheric little ditty about a witch.

“In My Darkest Hour” has also been featured here before. Dave Mustaine wrote it after learning of Cliff Burton’s death in September 1986. Overall, I’m pretty indifferent about Megadeth these days, but I have to say that hearing this live on two separate occasions has been pretty dope.

Metallica – …And Justice for All (released August 25, 1988 on Elektra Records)

There’s not much I can really say about this album that hasn’t already been said, either by myself or by others, but I can add that my cousin Jason was utterly stoked to pick this up on release day (his alliances ran more toward Metallica than Anthrax). We listened to it a lot, and I still listen to it on a pretty regular basis. I love the songs, but I sincerely hate the production, and Lars still deserves a beating for that.

Nuclear Assault – Survive (released June 13, 1988 on I.R.S. Records)

Nuclear Assault was my motherfucking jam when I was in junior high and high school. When I become Earth President, Dan Lilker will head up my Department of Metal. I prefer their 1989 follow-up, Handle With Care, but there’s nothing wrong with Survive.

“Rise from the Ashes”, like a good deal of 1980’s thrash metal, seems oddly relevant today.

Jesus, so does “Brainwashed”…

Okay, pretty much all of it…

Overkill – Under the Influence (released July 5, 1988 on Atlantic Records)

New Jersey’s Overkill are woefully underrated and underappreciated. I’m still working on a thing about them, so I don’t wanna say much here. I will say that I prefer the albums that bookend this one, 1987’s Taking Over and 1989’s The Years of Decay, but like Nuclear Assault’s 1988 release, you’d be hard pressed to find a real flaw on this one.

Rigor Mortis – Rigor Mortis (released July 19, 1988 on Capitol Records)

Hailing from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, Rigor Mortis played gore-soaked, horror-fueled thrash metal, and on their self-titled debut album, they played it to within an inch of its life. After this album, vocalist Bruce Corbitt left the band, and they released an EP and a second full-length album, neither of which I’ve bothered to listen to, because Bruce Corbitt isn’t on them. Guitarist Mike Scaccia (who also played with Ministry) died in 2012 after suffering a heart attack onstage during a Rigor Mortis show. Before Scaccia’s death, Corbitt rejoined the band, and they recorded and released one final album, 2014’s Slaves to the Grave, which is also amazing.

“Wizard of Gore” is inspired by the 1970 film The Wizard of Gore, directed by the absurdly prolific Herschell Gordon Lewis, who made 35 films between 1961 and 1972. (Impetigo, the legendary grindcore/death metal group from the “heart of Illinois”, also have a song called “Wizard of Gore”, inspired by the same movie. It has nothing to do with 1988, but it’s a fucking rad song (and band), and you should look into it. I’m planning a thing about Impetigo, but it’s somewhere on the list of 60 million things I’m planning, so don’t hold your breath, although it is near the top of the list, so maybe do.)

“Re-Animator” is inspired by Stuart Gordon’s absolutely goddamn fantastic 1985 movie of the same name, which is itself loosely based on weird old H.P. Lovecraft’s episodic novella, Herbert West – Reanimator.

Slayer – South of Heaven (released July 5, 1988 on Def Jam Recordings)

If you’re keeping track at home, this entry means that all four of the so-called “Big 4 of Thrash Metal” released and album in 1988. That alone makes it a notable year, but as you’ve seen already and will continue to see, there really are so many more. I’ve written about South of Heaven plenty, and Slayer plenty more, so I shan’t delve too deeply here, but I would like to reiterate that I believe South of Heaven to be Slayer’s last essential album.

The title track (and album opener) proved confusing for some Slayer fans, many of whom assumed the band would continue along the path forged by 1986’s classic Reign in Blood. “South of Heaven” laid any hope of that to rest immediately, and the rest of the album proved a stellar, mostly mid-tempo confirmation of that.

Album closer “Spill the Blood” is creepy as a motherfucker, and is one of my favorite Slayer songs.

Suicidal Tendencies – How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today (released September 13, 1988 on Epic Records)

Like D.R.I., Suicidal Tendencies began life in the early 80’s as a straight-up hardcore punk band, then began to infuse elements of thrash metal, eventually becoming a metal band with hardcore elements. How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can’t Even Smile Today is the first full-on metal album from this Venice, California juggernaut, featuring the addition of a second guitarist (Mike Clark) to handle rhythm duties, which allowed original guitarist Rocky George the freedom to play more solos. Suicidal Tendencies at their peak were unfuckwithable.

Testament – The New Order (released May 5, 1988 on Atlantic Records)

I’ve written about Testament more than I’ve written about probably any other band (except for maybe Voivod), so I don’t currently have anything to add here, but I could not in good conscience exclude them from this list, because I still listen to The New Order once a week on average.

“Disciples of the Watch” is inspired by Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, and is possibly my favorite Testament song.

This badass cover of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault” (from 1976’s Rocks) is the primary reason I started listening to Aerosmith.

Vio-Lence – Eternal Nightmare (released on Mechanic Records, exact date unknown)

At a time when many thrash bands were starting to slow things down (notably Metallica and Slayer), Bay Area Thrash upstarts Vio-Lence showed up to the thrash party to remind everyone that speed still kills, and that riffs are still king. Sean Killian’s vocals are a deal breaker for a lot of people, but I’ve always had a soft spot for unconventional vocalists, and I really think they fit the unhinged musical and lyrical themes perfectly. Guitarist Robb Flynn went on to form Machine Head, and other guitarist Phil Demmel joined him a few years afterward.

This album is a goddamn gem, and honestly, I can’t decide which songs to feature, so I’m putting the whole album here. It’s only 35 minutes long, just listen to it already!

Voivod – Dimension Hatröss (released June 29, 1988 on Noise Records)

I’ve written a shitload about Voivod, but like Testament, I couldn’t not feature some songs from this album. It’s 28 years old and still ahead of its time. If you you’d like to learn more about Voivod, check out my multi-part primer: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4, and if you’d like to know more about Dimension Hatröss in particular, give this a look.

With the meat of my 1988 showcase out of the way, I’d like to list a bunch of honorable mentions, most of which were cut due to time constraints…

Blind Illusion – The Sane Asylum (released on Combat Records, exact date unknown)

Progressive thrash metal featuring Les Claypool and Larry “Ler” LaLonde on bass and guitars, respectively. They went on to form a little group called Primus.

Coroner – Punishment for Decadence (released August 1, 1988 on Noise Records)

Technical thrash wizardry from Switzerland. Definitely worth your time.

Forbidden – Forbidden Evil (released September 30, 1988 on Combat Records)

Bay Area Thrash featuring Paul Bostaph, who went on to play with pretty much every band on the planet, on drums. Robb Flynn played guitar in this band before he was in Vio-Lence.

Razor – Violent Restitution (released on R/C Records, exact date unknown)

Lightning fast, razor sharp Canadian thrash metal with lunatic vocals. Highly recommended.

Tankard – The Morning After (released September 1988 on Noise Records)

Tankard hail from Germany, and since 1983, they’ve played songs about drinking beer, partying, and zombies. So basically, they’re Municipal Waste without the Nuclear Assault influence. (I mean no offense to Municipal Waste. They do good work.)

That’s all the time I’ve got for today. I do realize I’ve missed several notable metal releases from 1988, some thrash, some not thrash (Iron Maiden‘s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and King Diamond‘s Them come to mind immediately), but what are some of your favorites from 1988? Discuss in the comments, why don’t you? You can also look me up and continue the discussion on Facebook, Instagram (stayheavyblog), and Twitter (@stayheavyalways).

Thanks for reading, and remember, wherever you go, whatever you do, always stay heavy.

 

 

Only You Can Free Yourself: A Sort of Review of the Today Is the Day Show at the 5th Quarter Lounge, Indianapolis, IN, 09.09.15

Cathartic. Intense. Passionate. Heavy. Loud as fuck. These are a few of the words I’m able to string together off the top of my head as I sit down to write about Today Is the Day’s absolutely flawless performance in Indianapolis on Wednesday, September 9, 2015.

All the cool kids were apparently at the Murat Theater for the Motörhead show that night, but the few people who chose to visit the 5th Quarter Lounge instead were treated to a show they are not likely to forget anytime soon. Vocalist/guitarist/founder Steve Austin poured his heart and soul out all over that room, and drummer Douglas Andrae and bassist Trevor Thomas formed a completely impenetrable wall of rhythm to help drive Austin’s demented vision straight into my very core. “Professionalism” is another word that has been rolling around in my mind since the show; I have no doubt that if the place had been sold out, the performance would’ve been exactly the same. A lot of people in a lot of different lines of work could certainly learn a thing or two from the professionalism on display there.

Quick backstory: Mrs. Stay Heavy and myself had every intention of attending the Motörhead show, as mentioned previously in these pages, but when Lemmy’s health took a turn for the worse and they started cancelling shows and cutting them short not long before their scheduled Indianapolis stop, we decided to not get tickets. In addition, the Murat Theater is a less than ideal venue for a band like Motörhead; it’s the kind of place that Chris Isaak plays, and I can’t really imagine seeing Motörhead in a fancypants seated theater-type venue. At any rate, Today Is the Day added a show in Philadelphia and a show in Indy on their way to Salt Lake City, where they are set to kick off their tour with Abigail Williams tonight, and even though my wife is not quite into such extreme sounds, she knew I really wanted to go, and she agreed to join me, and that’s just one of the many reasons why she is such an amazing human being.

The venue appears to be located in a former church, or perhaps a YMCA – a basketball court remains upstairs (and was definitely in use throughout the night), and the men’s room was very much also a usable locker room, which I imagine works out well for touring bands who find themselves in need of a shower. It was a pretty sweet venue for a show of this nature, and I am very much looking forward to seeing D.R.I. there later this month. It had that familiar dive bar funk to it, pool tables off to the side, and the drinks were priced right.

View of the venue from the li'l parking lot across the street.

View of the venue from the li’l parking lot across the street.

We walked in and scoped out the room, and when I noticed the TItD merch station, I went over to take in the amazing t-shirt selection. No one was behind the table yet, so I turned around to wander back to the missus, when a longhaired fella who looked familiar to me said “Hi! Who are you?” “I’m Joel,” I replied, and MSH introduced herself, and he said “I’m Mike, I’m in (opening band) Photian Schism. Thanks for coming out tonight.” I told him I saw his band open for Death Angel Continue reading

Join Us Or Step Aside: A Sort of Review the Death Angel Show at The Headquarters, Indianapolis, IN, 04.26.15

I’ve always loved Death Angel, since the first time I heard “Mistress of Pain” on the Rising Metal compilation tape my cousin Nathan bought at Wal-Mart back in 1989. My cousin Jason and I each picked up a copy of the band’s original swansong, Act III, as soon as possible after its April 1990 release, and we each played the ever livin fuck out of our copies, to the point where I’ve had to buy two replacement copies (so far). I was bummed when lead singer Mark Osegueda left the band in 1991, so much so that I never got around to checking out the band that rose from the ashes, The Organization, which consisted of the the remaining four members. I was stoked when I heard they reunited for the Thrash of the Titans show in San Francisco in 2001, and even more stoked when I heard they’d decided to stay together and record new music. And I was giddy as a schoolgirl when my cousin Jason and I finally got to see them live in 2012, when they opened for Anthrax and Testament in Indianapolis. They only played for 30 minutes, but goddamn did they ever tear up that stage!

I love every album from the band, but I have to admit that when I’ve thought about my favorite metal bands, thrash or otherwise (which happens pretty often), Death Angel has never topped the list. That changed forever on Sunday, April 26, 2015. Death Angel put on a show that will be goddamn near impossible to top, and I’m left with the unenviable task of deciding which band gets booted out of my personal Top Five Favorite Metal Bands of All Time (for the record, I still haven’t decided yet). Nine days later, and I’m still flying high from the experience.

Death Angel is currently on tour with Cavalera Conspiracy, Corrosion of Conformity Blind (which I would fucking love to see, as I firmly believe that Karl Agell is the best vocalist COC ever had, and Blind is my favorite COC album, but that’s a matter for another time), and a band called Lody Kong, which I’ve never heard, and which I’d never heard of before this tour was announced, but which has a kinda dumb name, but I digress.

The tour had a day off between their Milwaukee and Minneapolis shows, and Larry Rasener of Metalhead Productions offered Death Angel a headlining show that night, and they drove some 300 miles out of their way to kick our fucking asses at The Headquarters before driving another 600 miles to meet back up with their tourmates the next day.

We arrived after openers Death Collector (from Mooresville, IN) started, but we got to see the last three songs from their set, and they were really good. If I’m not mistaken, the members are all under 18, which makes them all the more impressive. They describe themselves as groove/thrash/speed metal, and I don’t recall hearing a lot of speed, but they definitely have a groove that cannot be denied, and when they thrash, it’s unmistakable. Keep an eye out for these dudes! I did not get any decent photos of them, unfortunately, so I guess you won’t know what they look like.

Indianapolis’ own Photian Schism played next, and they were super enjoyable and high-energy. They were fast as fuck, heavy as shit, and tight as hell, and the vocals reminded me of a cross between Napalm Death and another band that has since escaped me, because I’m getting old, and I forgot to write it down. At any rate, good shit.

Photian Schism's vocalist works from down on the floor...

Photian Schism’s vocalist works from down on the floor…

...so that he can more easily incite pits like this one.

…so that he can more easily incite pits like this one.

Killzone provided the direct support, and they, too, brought some serious metal goods; a solid groove, some thrashing riffs, and vocals in the same general ZIP code as Metal Church. If you get a chance to see any of the above bands live, I highly recommend them all.

Killzone action shot.

Killzone action shot.

At just a hair past 10:00 PM EDT, Death Angel took the stage, blowing the tops of our heads clean off with the opening 1-2 salvo of “Left for Dead” and “Son of the Morning”, from 2013’s absurdly great The Dream Calls for Blood. They went on to play a TDCFB-heavy set, but they also played at least one song from every album in their catalog, pulling out a couple of tunes from 1988’s Frolic Through the Park, which Mark indicated they pretty much never play live, and even graced us with the presence of “Voracious Souls” off their legendary debut (and recent Decibel magazine Hall of Fame inductee) The Ultra-Violence (1987).

Rob Cavestany, Riff Master General

Rob Cavestany, Riff Master General.

Mark Osegueda, the Golden-Lunged Warrior.

Mark Osegueda, the Golden-Lunged Warrior.

The band seemed to be into the show just as much as all of us were (if that’s even possible), and Mark had only good things to say about the crowd and the metal scene in Indianapolis. The final attendance was 200, and we made that room sound like it was a sold-out 500 capacity venue; the band rewarded us by playing as if we were 5,000 strong, and they were absolutely fucking flawless. You might say that Death Angel’s dream called for blood, and that we all spilled enough…buuuuut, you might also be a big goober.

Death Angel 9

Mark and Rob, being their own North Star(s).

Death Angel 18

Rob and his Partner in Thrash, Ted Aguilar.

It was seriously one of the two or three best shows I’ve ever had the pleasure to see, and I’ve seen hundreds of shows. Iron Maiden live in 2013 is the only show I can even think of at the moment that compares. Literally the single problem I had with the show is that I only got to hear one song from Act III. Well that, and the fact that they had to stop playing. Truly, it was a show for the ages.

But then after it did end, this happened! HE WAS SO FUCKING NICE!

But then after it did end, this happened! HE WAS SO FUCKING NICE!

Setlist

“Left for Dead”
“Son of the Morning”
“Claws in So Deep”
“Fallen”
“Buried Alive”
“Succubus”
“Execution – Don’t Save Me”
“Mistress of Pain”
“Seemingly Endless Time”
“Truce”
“The Dream Calls for Blood”
“Caster of Shame”
“3rd Floor”
“Bored”
“Voracious Souls”
“The Ultra Violence” Intro / “Thrown To The Wolves”

Final Thoughts: Like the Testament/Exodus show the prior week, there were lots of kids at this show, too, although it was an all-ages show, so it totally makes sense. Still, though, it’s fuckin awesome to see so many young people sincerely enjoying great music. Also, I really thought the sound at The Headquarters was gonna be shitty, as it’s located inside a warehouse/industrial/storage-type facility, but it was great! I cannot recommend enough that you see a show there sometime; just be prepared for the place to become a sauna, and to probably have to wait in line for the single restroom.

Maaaaan, look at this bitchin-ass shirt.

Maaaaan, look at this bitchin-ass shirt!

That’s all I got for now, folks. I didn’t intend to take so long getting this finished and posted, but, y’know, life and all. Until next time, stay heavy. Always.

Making the Legacy Known: A Sort of Review of the Testament/Exodus Show at the Mercury Ballroom, Louisville, KY, 04.21.15

I am in a fair amount of pain today, and it’s a mostly good pain, but still, I hurt. I am a reasonable, rational adult (more or less), so I understand that I am responsible for my own actions, but Testament and Exodus must shoulder some of the blame for my current state; if they weren’t so fucking amazing, and hadn’t played the Mercury Ballroom last night on the Louisville stop of their current Dark Roots of Thrash II tour, I very likely would not be sitting at my computer alternating an ice pack and a heating pad on my neck and shoulders while I attempt to put words to what I witnessed last night.

I suppose I should begin by saying that this tour has been slightly mis-advertised; from the very beginning, it’s been clearly stated that Testament would be “perform[ing an] exclusive new set list, including The Legacy & The New Order in their entirety + select Practice What You Preach lp cuts”. I understood that to mean that they would be performing those albums beginning to end, followed by an encore of songs from 1989’s Practice What You Preach, and that did not happen, but that’s on me; the words “beginning to end” have never been a part of the advertising for this tour. Testament instead played a set of songs from both albums – a set which covered all of their 1987 debut The Legacy, but which did not cover all of 1988’s The New Order, as it left out the hauntingly beautiful instrumental pieces “Hypnosis” and “Musical Death (A Dirge)”, along with their badass cover of Aerosmith’s “Nobody’s Fault”, which I was very psyched to hear live. In addition, the “select cuts from Practice What You Preach” ended up being the title track (which they play live on a pretty regular basis), and nothing else – no “Nightmare (Coming Back to You)”, no “Envy Life”, no “Time is Coming”, no “Greenhouse Effect”, nothing…just the title track, which totally fucking rules, but can hardly be considered “select cuts”.

Anyway, that’s a minor issue overall, as the show was fucking amazing, and quite frankly, I would be making plans to see it again at Bogart’s in Cincinnati on May 2 if I could swing it financially. Here’s a rough breakdown of the night…

My cousin Jason and I (who grew up listening to metal with me) got in the doors toward the end of opener Shattered Sun’s set. I wasn’t in a hurry to get in, as I didn’t really care about seeing their set, but I have to admit that the little bit that I did see was pretty damn good. Yesterday happened to be the release date for their debut album, Hope Within Hatred, and I doubt I’ll purchase the album, but I would see them live again if I had the chance. They’re pretty tight.

A relatively short break followed, made complete by $8 beers (at least they were draft Stella Artois) and a pee-pee break, then the lights went out, a roar went up, and Dan the Automator’s fucking sick-ass beats began to boom out of the sound system, signalling the imminent impact of Exodus and “Black 13”, the opening track from last year’s monstrous album, Blood In Blood Out. The band took the stage as frontman Steve “Zetro” Souza flashed a devilish grin to the crowd, pointed randomly out to various parts of the crowd and twirled his finger in the air to indicate that he was not about to allow this crowd to not become a circle pit. Roughly half of the crowd obliged, and most of that group did not ease up until the band left the stage. Exodus fanatics are some tough SOB’s.

The band flowed from “Black 13” directly into the title track from the new album, and the crowd did indeed rage, and I can’t help but believe that Paul Baloff would have been proud. After “Blood In Blood Out,” Zetro finally addressed the crowd, which was followed by two Rob Dukes-era songs, “Iconoclasm” and “Children of a Worthless God” [Both songs originally appeared on 2007’s The Atrocity Exhibition…Exhibit A, which is a seriously kickass album, which is a true statement about all of the Rob Dukes-era albums, even the highly controversial Let There Be Blood (2008’s re-recording of the band’s classic first album, 1985’s Bonded By Blood). I am a bonafide Rob Dukes fan, and I make no apologies for it. But I digress.]

I was interested to hear those songs with Zetro’s voice, but “Children of a Worthless God” especially, as it is notable for a recurring clean vocal passage, but I have to say that I was pretty goddamn impressed with Zet’s delivery. The band then taught us all “A Lesson in Violence”, then played another song from the new album, “Salt the Wound”, which is notable in the studio version for featuring a guitar solo from Kirk Hammett, who formed Exodus in 1981 before being poached by Metallica. Hammett’s solo sounds pretty much like every other Kirk Hammett solo from the past 20 years, and the song itself is the weakest on the album in my opinion, but it was much better live. In fact, I thought Zetro’s voice on all the new songs sounded better live than on the album, where it tends to take on a very Cobra Commander quality. I am not wrong about this – listen for yourself:

To be clear, in no way does this diminish my enjoyment of any era of Exodus. But I continue to digress.

The lights went out again after “Salt the Wound”, and the spoken intro to 1989’s Fabulous Disaster played, followed by that album’s opening song “The Last Act of Defiance”, followed by the remainder of their set (highlighted by perennial crowd favorite and fond ode to moshing, “The Toxic Waltz”), followed by a much-needed break for yours truly. It was really difficult to not expend every bit of my energy on Exodus, and I had to constantly remind myself that Testament was yet to go on, and that I had a two-hour drive back home after that.  The crowd cleared out a bit when the lights went up, so Jason and I moved closer, scoring some pretty sweet spots directly in front of the sound board.

This was where our view began, before the insane crowd caused us to move a bit to the left.

This was where our view began, before the insane crowd caused us to move a bit to the left.

A fairly quick set change took place, and soon the lights went out again, and the mighty Testament began to crush everyone in the room with their fucking flawless thrash metal. They kicked off with the first four songs from The Legacy, in order, then jumped ahead a year and played a brilliant version of “The Preacher” before reaching back into the debut for “Do or Die” and “First Strike is Deadly”. Chuck then introduced The New Order‘s outstandingly good “A Day of Reckoning” by indicating that they almost never played it live until this tour (which, quite frankly, has been a pretty stupid decision).

“Apocalyptic City” followed, then a block of the first four songs from The New Order, in order, followed by the remainder of The Legacy, “Alone in the Dark” and an almost unbelievably fast version of “C.O.T.L.O.D.”, which I anticipated bringing about the most intense pit action, but which was instead relatively mild, which I attributed to an exhausted crowd that simply gave too much too soon. The band left the stage for the standard encore break, then played their “select cuts” from Practice What You Preach before ending an amazing night of amazing music with the unfuckingtouchable “Disciples of the Watch” (OBEY!), during which it became clear that the crowd was not out of energy yet. Holy shit, friends, “Disciples of the Watch” can incite a fucking pit!

This is as close as I could get to capturing the whole band in a picture. Standing still while Testament plays is HARD, y'all!

This is as close as I could get to capturing the whole band in a picture. Standing still while Testament plays is HARD, y’all!

Exodus Setlist

“Black 13”

“Blood In Blood Out”

“Iconoclasm”

“Children of a Worthless God”

“A Lesson in Violence” (from Bonded By Blood)

“Salt the Wound”

“Blacklist” (from Tempo of the Damned – 2004)

“Bonded By Blood” (from BBB)

“War is My Shepherd” (from TotD)

“The Toxic Waltz” (from Fabulous Disaster)

“Strike of the Beast” (from BBB)

Testament Setlist

“Over the Wall”

“The Haunting”

“Burnt Offerings”

“Raging Waters”

“The Preacher”

“Do or Die”

“First Strike is Deadly”

“A Day of Reckoning”

“Apocalyptic City”

“Eerie Inhabitants”

“The New Order”

“Trial By Fire”

“Into the Pit”

“Alone in the Dark”

“C.O.T.L.O.D.”

— encore break —

“Practice What You Preach”

“Disciples of the Watch”

Final Thoughts: There were quite a few kids there (with parents), which was fucking awesome! Both Zetro and Chuck noticed and commented on it. Also, I still haven’t heard any songs live from Exodus’ second album (and their debut with Zetro) Pleasures of the Flesh (1987), and I don’t care for that fact. Also, I finally got a Testament shirt with The New Order album cover on it! Also, the sound at the Mercury Ballroom is pretty great, but it’s kind of an awkward place to see a show, what with the support poles positioned around the floor area. Also, the place supposedly has a capacity of 900; being a Tuesday, the show wasn’t sold out, and I’m not good at estimating crowd sizes over about 30, but if there’d been 900 people in that venue, someone might’ve died. Also, I came nearer to getting into a fight than I ever have before (and hopefully ever will again) at a show; that white trash jackass can still fuck off.

There's a good chance my shirt is cooler than your shirt.

There’s a good chance my shirt is cooler than your shirt.

That’s all I got for now, friends. I gotta go rest my neck for Death Angel in Indianapolis (in four days!). Y’all stay heavy…I definitely will.

Thrashy Birthday to Me

I’ll be celebrating my 38th birthday later this week, which is an incredibly difficult thing for me to wrap my brain around. Next Tuesday (4/21), my cousin Jason and I will be travelling to Louisville, KY to catch Testament and Exodus on the Dark Roots of Thrash II tour (Texas band Shattered Sun will be opening, but I don’t care about them), and as you might imagine, I am fuckin pumped.

I might not make it out of this alive, y'all.

I might not make it out of this alive, y’all.

Testament will be playing their first two albums (1987’s The Legacy and (my personal favorite) 1988’s The New Order) beginning to end, followed by “select Practice What You Preach LP (1989) cuts”.

Holy.

Fucking.

Hell.

My favorite thrash band (and second favorite overall band) will be performing two of their greatest works in their entirety! “Over the Wall”! “Burnt Offerings”! “First Strike is Deadly”! “Alone in the Dark”! “Eerie Inhabitants”! “Trial By Fire”! “Into the Pit”! “Disciples of the (motherfucking) Watch”! And all the rest! I might figuratively die from blood loss to my brain from the raging thrash boner I’ll have, if I don’t figuratively die from a broken neck first!

Oh, shit!

God damn!

Plus their badass cover of a badass Aerosmith song (which I admittedly only know because of Testament’s cover)!

Whut?!

But before that even happens, Exodus will thrash my balls clean off with a set consisting of songs from throughout their storied history. A quick perusal of setlists from the past few nights of the tour shows 12 songs, which is pretty sweet, although it does seem that I’m still not gonna get to hear “And Then There Were None” live, which is a bit of a bummer, but I can’t really complain. Plus, they’ve been playing “The Last Act of Defiance” on this tour, which is rad as hell.

See?

Also, they’re playing two Rob Dukes-era songs, and I look forward to hearing those with Zetro on vocals.

But wait! There’s more!

Five days later, on 4/26, Cousin Jason and I will be heading north to Indianapolis to see the mighty Death Angel live, on one of only two headlining shows on their current tour! This will be the first time Death Angel has played Indianapolis since 2012 (when they opened for Anthrax and Testament at the Egyptian Room), and their first headlining show in Indianapolis in 25 fucking years! Motherfucking shit-tits, friends, this is an exciting goddamn month!

Here’s the title track off the band’s latest album, 2013’s fucking phenomenal The Dream Calls for Blood:

Here’s “Truce”, from 2011’s Relentless Retribution, which is the album they were touring on when I saw them a few years back:

And here’s one of my favorite songs of theirs, from 1990’s Act III, which was the last album they released before their original breakup:

A quick shout-out and a HUGE thank you is owed to my amazing wife, who had a hand in making both of these shows happen for me.

Reviews of both shows will of course be forthcoming, and if things work out, there’ll be an extra surprise on these very pages in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned, and stay heavy!

In Your Head, Where Fashion Lives: My Evening With Helmet – 03/15/15

I sadly never got a chance to see Helmet live in their first or second incarnations, as I was always broke back then (high school/early college days, y’know) and/or they would play at bars before I was old enough to get into them. As such, I have no reference point for what I witnessed this past Sunday night, other than the first time I saw the band, back in 2004, when they were touring for the comeback album Size Matters, which is not as good as any of the albums that came before it, but which is definitely worth a listen or several. That show was great (Frank Bello was in the band then!), but the circumstances of my attendance were less than ideal, and I was sad that I didn’t get to hear so many of the classic songs, because they were understandably playing several songs from the new album.

I have never seen (and very likely will never see) Helmet live with the original rhythm section of Henry Bogdan and John Stanier in place, and that’s a bummer, because those dudes are absolute motherfucking beasts on their respective instruments. However, as the sole original member, guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton has assembled a damn fine team of musicians to help him carry on the Helmet name, and while I’d rather be able to see Henry Bogdan staring at my soul from under the bill of his cap while his bass tone turns my internal organs into so much goo, the alternative to Helmet circa 2015 is no Helmet at all, and that is just not a world I want to live in. But enough prattling on, I’ve got a show to review!

The Vogue Theater in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis), Indiana is a pretty good place to see a band; good sound, spacious floor area, plenty of tables along the sides, and a balcony that gets opened up for bigger shows. The stage is pretty low, and there’s no barricade, so you can get very close, if that’s the way you like to do it. Like any bar venue, the drinks are quite overpriced, but there are plenty of other bars located in the surrounding area at which you can whet your whistle before entering.

Helmet marquee

Something about the phrase “An Evening With Helmet” made me giggle.

 

Mrs. Stay Heavy and I had a good meal and a couple of beers at Hop Cat, which is located across the street from The Vogue, while we waited for the doors to open at 7:00. We got in around 7:15, and chilled out at a table to do some people-watching until I could no longer handle not being in front of the stage. I took a leak and bought a sweet shirt, then around 7:30, I walked down and planted myself directly in front of Page’s monitor, where I immediately noticed the setlists for each set. I already knew that the glorious 1994 album, Betty, would comprise the first set, but as I perused the list for the second set, I found myself pretty excited that it included four songs from 1997’s super-underrated Aftertaste, though pretty bummed that it only included two songs from 1992’s Meantime, and only one song from the 1990 debut, Strap It On. The double row of asterisks gave me hope, however, and my faith was rewarded; the encore consisted of another song from Strap It On and three more songs from Meantime, which, if you’re keeping track at home, means they played half the album!

Not a great picture, but it did the trick.

Not a great picture, but it did the trick.

Two brothers soon came up and stood next to me, and one of them asked me if I like Clutch, and the three of us began to chat about music. They were super-nice, but I failed to get their names, because that’s the way I do things. I did learn that they drove in from Champaign, Illinois for the show, and that they were in attendance at the last Clutch show I saw at The Vogue, probably 2-3 years ago. One of them told me that “that guy over there (I think he was talking about the bartender) said that they’ll probably start later than they’re supposed to, since there aren’t a lot of people here yet.”

A shitty picture of Page's pedal setup.

A shitty picture of Page’s pedal and effects setup.

That guy over there was correct, and the 8:00 start time promised on the tickets came and went with nary a peep. 8:30 then came and went, and I was starting to get antsy, and a little bit annoyed, but a few minutes later, the lights went out, a roar went up from the crowd, the band came on and, without a word, began the opening strains of “Wilma’s Rainbow”. The place went apeshit, and I started to bang my head like I’ve never banged my head before. They plowed through the album with very little in the way of pausing, and no one in the band spoke until after the last notes of “Sam Hell” faded away into the ether. I was relieved to finally get a break, because I literally could not stop banging my head, but the band had other plans.

I did get a small break during the quiet part of "Beautiful Love".

I did get a small break during the quiet part of “Beautiful Love”.

Page thanked everyone for coming out on a Sunday night, mentioned that they haven’t played Indianapolis “in a really long time” (he estimated 3-4 years, while a guy in the crowd estimated closer to 7; I have no idea who’s right, but either way, they were overdue), told us they had a “kind of special” setlist planned for us, with a few songs they haven’t played in a while, then they rolled into “Like I Care”, “Birth Defect”, and “Unsung”, the last of which sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. I paused for a few seconds during “Unsung” to rest my rapidly deteriorating neck and looked behind me to see a row of probably 5 or 6 dudes with their arms around each other doing what appeared to be a can-can style dance.

Being unfamiliar with the band’s two most recent albums, I planned to utilize the time during “Welcome to Algiers” to rest as much as possible, but it sounded so good that I couldn’t, and then before I knew it, “You Borrowed” was starting. I tried again during “On Your Way Down”, but again, no luck. “Murder” was performed with such vim and vigor, the vocals nearly hemorrhoid-inducing, that I wondered how Page could possibly perform it on even a semi-regular basis, but then when it ended, he said that it was the first time they’d played it live in 10 years! He then told the story behind the song, a tale of living in New York City’s East Village, back when it was only desirable for the cheap rents. Seems a person was murdered in the apartment next to Page’s and the body was left there for several days before it was discovered (he said he assumed a rat had died in the walls).

I tried to rest again during “Miserable”, but was denied by the groove once more. “Exactly What You Wanted” and “Crisis King” almost killed me, but then they left the stage, Page leaning his guitar against his amp, filling the room with 1-2 minutes of the most hellacious feedback I’ve ever heard. The band (mercifully) came back out, but Page didn’t just pick up his guitar and move it away from the amp, no, that wouldn’t have been fucked up enough. Instead he strapped it back on (ha!) and continued to hold the head against the amp while the opening drumbeat from “Rude” pounded through my nearly decimated skull, and they followed that song with “Ironhead”, “Give It”, and “In the Meantime”, and I honestly didn’t care if I lived another moment after that, as it seemed unlikely that anything else could ever be so fucking fantastic.

The band left the stage, but Page stuck around for at least 10 minutes, signing autographs, shaking hands, telling stories, and posing for pictures with a lot of sweaty, stank-ass dudes. He was extremely nice, gracious, and funny, and he said that he loves playing Indianapolis because the energy from the crowd is always so amazing, and that even though they play to crowds 3-4 times larger in bigger cities, those crowds usually don’t seem to appreciate the shows as much. I will say that I personally unleashed at least 3 hearty “FUCK YEAH!‘s” during the course of the 2+ hours, and all the people around me seemed equally stoked, except for the girl directly next to me, who got shitty with a guy for bumping into her. Front row. At a Helmet show. She was an asshole, as was her li’l male companion, who apparently suffers from a severe case of Little-Man Syndrome.

See?

Not pictured:  approximately 35 lbs of sweat in my Testament shirt.

All in all, it was one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen…top 10, easily. Do not hesitate to catch them live on this tour if you get a chance. They’re playing in Louisville in two days, and I would definitely go to that one, too, if I wasn’t legitimately afraid I would end up in the hospital.

Highlights: The entire show was a highlight unto itself, although I wouldn’t have been angry if they’d played “Renovation” and at least one song from Size Matters. Also, meeting Page was rad (high school me would be jealous as fuck), those two brothers seemed pretty cool, and I finally got a badass new Helmet shirt, to replace the one I’ve had since I was 16.

SETLIST

Betty

“Wilma’s Rainbow”

“I Know”

“Biscuits for Smut”

“Milquetoast”

“Tic”

“Rollo”

“Street Crab”

“Clean”

“Vaccinate”

“Beautiful Love”

“Speechless”

“The Silver Hawaiian”

“Overrated”

“Sam Hell”

*****************

“Like I Care” (Aftertaste)

“Birth Defect” (Aftertaste)

“Unsung” (Meantime)

“Welcome to Algiers” (Seeing Eye Dog)

“You Borrowed” (Meantime)

“On Your Way Down” (Monochrome)

“Murder” (Strap It On)

“Miserable” (Seeing Eye Dog)

“Exactly What You Wanted” (Aftertaste)

“Crisis King” (Aftertaste)

*****************

ENCORE

“Rude” (Strap It On)

“Ironhead” (Meantime)

“Give It” (Meantime)

“In the Meantime” (Meantime)

How could you not want to go to one of these shows? That’s a rhetorical question; you couldn’t not want to go.

That’s all for now. Stay heavy, y’all.

Earth Tone Suits You, So Give It a Smile: Another Thing About Helmet

The countdown has officially begun. In approximately 143 hours, Helmet will begin performing their 1994 masterpiece Betty live on stage, in front of me and my shit-eating grin, at The Vogue in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis), Indiana. Then, somewhere between 45-60 minutes after that, they’ll begin a second full set of songs from the rest of their catalog. I’m fucking giddy with anticipation, friends.  As mentioned previously in these pages, I saw Helmet live once before, at Emo’s in Austin, Texas, on the tour for Size Matters, their 2004 comeback album. Guitarist/vocalist Page Hamilton was the only original member in the band at the time (he remains so today), John Tempesta was on drums (which isn’t so amazing on its own, as John Tempesta has played drums in every single metal band that has ever existed, but he’s really fucking good, so that was pretty sweet), Chris Traynor (who previously toured with Helmet on the tour for 1997’s underrated gem Aftertaste) was on second guitar, and the incomparable Frank Bello (who left Anthrax for the first time since joining that band in 1984, only to leave Helmet before the conclusion of the Size Matters tour to rejoin Anthrax) was on bass.

It was a pretty brilliant show, even though I was married to an asshole who didn’t much like to have fun, and who wouldn’t come with me to stand near the stage, but who also got mad at me for leaving her to stand near the stage. This time, though, I’m married to an awesome human being who enjoys having fun at least as much as I do, and I’m confident that she will either stand with me or, if she doesn’t feel like standing, let me stand wherever I want, so long as I promise to not leave without her. Also, as mentioned previously, Helmet will be performing two full sets, one of which will be my favorite Helmet album from beginning to end, with no opening act. Folks, I’ve seen some footage of shows on this tour, and the shows run somewhere in the neighborhood of 2 hours and 15 minutes. That’s 25-to-30 songs per show. If this doesn’t get you fucking amped up, I don’t know how you can be happy in this life.

She really is quite a Betty.

She really is quite a Betty.

And I am fully aware that at this point, what we call Helmet is merely Page Hamilton plus three hired guns. I am also fully aware that I do not give a fuck, because the songs rule. It would obviously be better and more exciting if original bassist Henry Bogdan and original drummer John Stanier were along for the tour, because they surely constituted one of the finest rhythm sections ever in heavy music, but since the odds of winning the lottery while getting struck by lightning while being eaten by a shark are better than the odds of Bogdan and Stanier ever rejoining Hamilton on stage, I’ll settle for the current package.  At least we’ll always have this footage of their 1994 performance on 120 Minutes

Here’s a full show from last year’s European run of this tour, filmed and uploaded by one of the greatest heroes in history. They played 35 songs at this show. I can’t stop watching it.

Also, while researching for this piece, I learned that the band played at least one show last year, in Glasgow, that consisted of the Betty set followed by 1992’s Meantime in its entirety. That’s literally the only way I could possibly be more excited about this show. Goddamn, y’all, I am STOKED!

Here’s one of my favorite songs from their noisy, angry bastard of a debut, 1990’s Strap It On.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from their noisy, angry bastard of a follow-up, 1992’s breakout Meantime. I can still remember sitting on my sister’s couch watching MTV when this video came on. My mouth was agape for days after that.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Betty, which I did not like very much upon its initial release, but which grew on me like fungi on a dead tree, eventually becoming one of my favorite albums of all time.

Here’s one of my favorite songs from Aftertaste, which kicks so much more ass than that windbag over at AllMusic would have you believe.

“I get a ‘D’ for disappointment
Now there’s nothing to regret
Everybody’s good for something
At least you know what you won’t get”

Now those are some song lyrics, folks.

And finally, here’s one of my favorite songs from Size Matters (which was written after Hamilton’s breakup with Winona Ryder).

I have not really listened to either 2006’s Monochrome or 2010’s Seeing Eye Dog, so I cannot comment on them, but I’ll get around to it eventually, and I’ll be sure to report my findings here posthaste.

That’s all the time I have today. Daylight saving time is a motherfucker. I’ll definitely be reviewing the show here at some point in the near future, so be on the lookout for that, if you give a shit.

Until next time, please do stay heavy.

 

 

 

Cosmic Conspiracy: A Voivod Primer, Part 3

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

Following the tour cycle for The Outer Limits, Snake left Voivod for personal reasons, and remaining members Away and Piggy took the opportunity to reinvent the band, resulting in a drastically different sound through the remainder of the 1990s.  With both vocal and bass duties needing to be filled, they opted in early 1994 to bring in Toronto native Eric Forrest (Voivod alias: E-Force – they can’t all be home runs) to handle both.  Forrest’s debut with Voivod, 1995’s Negatron, is probably the least Voivod-sounding album in the band’s catalog, and is probably my least favorite Voivod album, although that would be akin to discussing my least favorite bowl of Count Chocula, or perhaps my least favorite baseball game. In other words, I’d still rather have that bowl of Count Chocula (it was stale), that baseball game (Yankees vs. Red Sox), and this Voivod album than none at all.

The overall sound – a stripped-down industrial groove – definitely roots the album firmly in its release year (it would not be out of place on the shelf alongside Fear Factory and Pantera), and both Away’s drumming and Piggy’s guitar work are much more straightforward and simple than ever before, or since, but it’s important to remember that the simplest Voivod song is still too weird for the average person’s taste.  E-Force’s vocals are much more aggressive and shouty than Snake’s, and the album artwork is just as stripped-down and industrial as the sounds contained within. Ultimately, Negatron‘s biggest downfall is the relative same-ness of the songs.  A video was made for “Insect”, and there’s a good chance you’ve never seen it before.

“Insect” – This is the opening track, and if you were going to listen to only one song from Negatron, I would recommend that this be the one.

“Nanoman” – Ivan Doroschuck of Men Without Hats (a.k.a. the band that taught the world “The Safety Dance”) co-wrote the lyrics to this one.

“Cosmic Conspiracy” – Piggy’s guitar work in this one is more like classic Voivod than probably anything else on the album.

When the band returned to the studio to record the follow-up to Negatron, Away was ready to bring the original Voivod story line back into play, and he and Piggy made it clear to E-Force that they were expecting more vocal dynamics from him this time around. The resulting work, 1997’s Phobos, is easily the band’s most underrated album, as well as the darkest album the band has recorded to date. Negatron makes so much more sense when you hear Phobos and realize what it was leading to.

From the very beginning of the “Catalepsy I” intro, the album elicits feelings of isolation and desperation, and, like its Greek mythological namesake, it conveys a sense of cold, oppressive, absolute fear. One time when I played it at work, a co-worker described it as “burly as fuck”, and that is definitely an apt way to describe the sound.  Forrest’s vocals are indeed more dynamic throughout, mixing the harsh screams of Negatron with something much more Snake-like (“Bacteria” provides a good example of the latter), and his bass is much more prominent than the previous album.  Away’s drums are up to their old familiar off-kilter, herky jerky tricks, and Piggy’s guitars are overflowing with reverb, and are downright devastating here, from the opening notes of “Rise” through the jarring, unsettling staccato buzz of outro “Catalepsy II”.

As mentioned above, the album revives the story of Away’s childhood nightmare creation, the Voivod, marking his (its?) first appearance since 1990’s progressive masterpiece Nothingface.  The storyline is more straightforward than any of the other related albums, save perhaps 1988’s thrasy-prog masterpiece (and my personal favorite Voivod album) Dimension Hatröss.  The album begins with the Voivod (who apparently found his way out of his own mind, where we left him in Nothingface closer “Sub-Effect”)  “sleeping in death” until a mysterious and diabolical character named Demok sends signals from space, resurrecting him as Anark, wherein he makes his way back to Earth to “restart [his] fear program”, lays waste to the planet (“pure decay, dead planet, virus unknown, plague and curse fall on the globe”), and holes up in “The Tower” to rule the world, where “no one can reach him” and “none shall defeat him”. If we’ve learned anything from the Voivod’s adventures, though, it’s that nothing ever ends well for him, and the tale of Phobos is no exception, as we leave our protagonist “lost in this world, feeling forlorn…Anark my given name, close my eyes, fade away”.  Getting lost in this album, especially through headphones, is an absolutely breathtaking experience.

“Rise” – This song makes me wanna break everything around me.

“Phobos” – Undoubtedly my favorite song from Voivod Mark II (or Mark III, depending on who’s asking). Everything about this song makes me want to live inside it. Utter perfection.

“The Tower” – Like the title track to this album’s predecessor, Ivan Doroschuck co-wrote the lyrics to this one, as well.

“Forlorn – The current version of Voivod has been known to play this song live from time to time, which is a very exciting thing. In fact, I could only be more excited if they were playing “Phobos” live.

Phobos also contains two bonus tracks – a cover of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” and an original tune called “M-Body”, written by friend and superfan Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam and Jetsam), who also played bass on said tune. Both songs are good enough (the KC cover is especially tight), but frankly they add nothing to the Phobos experience, so that’s all the press they’ll get here. You would not be wrong to look them up yourself.

In 1998, Forrest was seriously injured in a car crash, so to fill the impending space between studio albums, the band released Kronik, a collection of live songs, remixes, and previously unreleased songs, including “Ion”, which was featured in the film Heavy Metal 2000, but was not included on the soundtrack album. It is very much of a kind with Negatron.

2000 saw the release of Voivod’s first official live album, Lives, which includes songs dating back to the 1984 eponymous debut, as well as a cover of Venom’s “In League With Satan”.  I am especially fond of Forrest’s take on “The Prow”, which originally appeared on 1991’s Angel Rat.

The story goes that the band recorded demos for a proper follow-up to Phobos, which would have been the final chapter of the Voivod saga, but after Forrest’s accident, the tapes were shelved, and have thus far not seen the light of day. I, for one, would give nearly anything to hear them. At any rate, Voivod lost their momentum and disbanded in 2001, only to re-form the following year with a couple of familiar faces on board – one old and one (mostly) new. That chapter will have to wait for another day.

Until then, friends, I encourage you to stay heavy, always.

P.S.: Jeff Wagner also has some real proper things to say about Phobos over at the Deciblog.

Old-Ass VHS Review, Volume 3: Married With Children – “My Dinner With Anthrax”

Y’know who doesn’t like Married…With Children?   Fascists (for all I know) and self-righteous religious types, that’s who. Since I am neither of those things, I, of course, love it to the ends of the earth. I even wrote a paper about it years ago for a 300-level college history class (and I got an “A” on that sumbitch, too boot!).

Way way back, Indianapolis, Indiana had a TV station known as TTV-4, or to most people, just “Channel 4” (it later became an affiliate for The WB, then a CW affiliate, and just recently, it became Central Indiana’s CBS affiliate, which, for reasons I can’t really explain, seriously fucks with my worldview), which was an independent station that during the day aired cartoons (morning and afternoon), talk shows, original children’s programming, and old TV shows in syndication (The Brady Bunch was one of the most common).  In the evening, movies, Indiana University basketball games, and other syndicated TV shows (Sanford and SonM*A*S*H, the 1960’s Adam West Batman (Julie Newmar’s Catwoman taught me a lot about growing up),  Mama’s Family, Diff’rent Strokes,  etc.), and on Saturday evenings, Hoosier Millionaire, a game show featuring contestants who won their spot on the show by playing the state lottery.

When Married…With Children began airing in syndication on Channel 4,  I was stoked.  The Fox affiliate station in Indianapolis didn’t have a strong enough signal to reach us out in the middle of nowhere (as I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, I grew up without cable television), and the signal from Louisville was weak and not easy to watch (that didn’t stop me from watching it, but it looked static-y and terrible), so I finally got a chance to see one of my favorite shows with an almost cable-TV-like clarity.

When the episode featuring Anthrax aired, I had to tape it, because I knew I might never see it again (living in the pre-internet era was hard, y’all!).  Like many Old-Ass VHS Tapes, I still own this one, and it lives in a box in my basement, only to get trotted out from time to time when I’m feeling nostalgic.  Without further ado, here’s the Old-Ass VHS Review of Season 6, Episode 18 of Married…With Children, “My Dinner With Anthrax” (original airdate: 2/23/92 – Quick note: I started writing this review sometime back in October or so and didn’t get around to finishing it. Then today I randomly decided to finish it, only to realize after finishing that the episode aired 23 years ago today!).

MarcyfrisksFrankie

The band’s interaction with Marcy is priceless. Also, dig that RIP Magazine polo shirt!

 

The Basics:

No case to protect this one.  The tape was originally a 30-ish minute cartoon tape (most likely purchased at Big Lots) entitled Porky Pig and Friends, which featured two Porky Pig cartoons followed by two completely unrelated Warner Brothers cartoons, a cash grab by some unscrupulous company that clearly had no idea (or perhaps did not care) who Porky Pig’s friends actually were. (Side note: one of the other cartoons was called “The Dover Boys at Pimento University”, and it was (and is) hilarious, and you should look it up on your own time.) Written on the label is “Gallagher: Over Your Head”, which I’d taped half of off Channel 4 prior to the airing of “My Dinner With Anthrax”.

The tape begins with the end credits to The Golden Girls, flowing directly into commercials for Miller Genuine Draft Light and the Rad-n-Bad Arenacross Nationals, which the internet tells me were held at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis on February 5, 1993.  The episode begins after this, with the commercials mostly cut out, and it’s pretty straightforward.  If you haven’t seen it, you should; it’s a good one.  I used to think the band members were pretty terrible actors, but honestly, when I watched it recently for this review, I was pleasantly surprised to find that they weren’t as bad as I’d always remembered.

After the episode ends, the tape cuts into a feature on the Phoenix Suns, featuring Gilbert Gottfried.  I used to be a Phoenix Suns fan back in the Charles Barkley days, which is also when I last gave any kind of a shit about basketball.  Sometimes I’m not very good at being from Indiana.

The Extras:

A trailer for National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 was fun to see, as was the commercial for “the new Cutlass Ciera, starting at ‘thirteen nine ninety-five'”.

The Highlights:

Anthrax on Married…With Children is a highlight unto itself.

The VHS-ness:

The picture is a little fuzzy throughout, but the quality is pretty good overall, especially considering the age of the tape, and the number of times I’ve watched it.  It does get a bit rolly and choppy when the band starts talking, but I imagine I’ve watched that part more than the rest of the episode.  The sound is decent.

The Bottom Line:

As with my other Old-Ass VHS Tapes, you’re welcome to come over and watch this one with me.  You don’t even have to bring your own beer for this one, since it’s less than 30 minutes long (although if you wanna stay and watch one of the other Old-Ass VHS Tapes afterward, you should probably BYOB).  YouTube doesn’t have the full episode up for free, so here’s a clip.

That’s all for today, friends.  Stay heavy, always.