Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Got two excellent psychedelic hard rock albums in today's mail from the World In Sound label (Forced Exposure sez the're based out of Germany, but these arrived from Brooklyn, so who knows).

The first one, the s/t debut by Lima, Peru's El Cuy, is a blazin' power trio disc with plenty of idling-dragster Rickenbacker bass, thunderous drums and guitar, guitar, guitar. The vocals are rudimentary/primitive, but in a crude-like-it-should-be way rather than a please-hire-a-vocalist-I'm-begging-here way.

The other one, though, is more interesting: It's Discovery Of Obskuria by Obskuria, a band featuring, according to Forced Exposure, legendary guitar player Tom Brehm of the '60s U.S. group Dragonwyck (never heard of 'em but whatever), super-talented German keyboardist Winnie Rimbach-Sator of Karmic Society and Treacle People - two more groups I've never heard of - and La Ira De Dios from Peru. So okay. What I know is that this album features a lot of kick-ass organ alongside the heavy riffing and huge bass throb, and nowhere does that organ come into play more strongly and more perfectly than on their eight-minute, dooooooommmm-like cover of Metallica's "For Whom The Bell Tolls." They turn the song into an Iron Butterfly-esque plod until your skull's ready to implode from the sheer awesomeness of it. They also cover the Misfits' "Die, Die My Darling" with dueling male and female vocals, making it sound like something in between the Jefferson Airplane and X's "The World's A Mess, It's In My Kiss." Both of these are well worth your time.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Board Up The House
The first time I read the name "Genghis Tron," probably on some website, I laughed out loud. It's a pretty awesome name, and it helps separate them from the metal hordes—which is a good thing. Despite being on Relapse (after some early EPs and a full-length on Crucial Blast), they're not a metal band, though crunching guitars and grindcore-ish screamed vocals are elements of their sound. The dominant elements, though, are synths and programmed drums.

[Read the rest here.]


"Revelations Of Doom"
from Demon Entrails (Century Media)
The legendary demos by Tom G. Warrior’s pre-Celtic Frost outfit have at last been remastered (er, as best they could) and given a proper - deluxe, even - CD issue. It’s a glimpse into what was going on in the mind of one very weird Swiss obsessive in 1982 or so. Rougher than Venom in some respects, but much more compelling, too, Warrior’s delivery on “Revelations Of Doom” is a merciless buzzsaw, chewing right through the worn-cassette sound quality and making this one of the most genuinely assaultive metal releases of the year. Even metal dilettantes and hipsters (yeah, yeah, ugh, ptooey, whatever) should be lining up to bask in the glory from these ashes, still smoldering after 25 years.

(Click here to see this review on itsownself, where you can download the song.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008


There's an article in this week's New York Times Magazine about Anita Renfroe, a female Christian comedian who's big on YouTube.

I guess she's just as fascinating (in a female preacher/dog-walking-on-its-hind-legs way) as Brad Stine, a male Christian comedian the paper had John Leland (yep, Mr. Hip: A History himself) profile back in 2005. (Stine also got a lavish tongue-bath from the New Yorker in 2004.)

I'm not gonna get all Steve M. here, and go off on a tirade about supposedly liberal media outlets and their endless anthropological fascination with people - from performers to politicians - who hate and scorn them. My point is this: I am a firm believer in the positive side of cultural atomization. I don't think it's necessary for any news outlet to be all things to all people. I don't think music critics should be generalists, attempting to know a little bit about everything. I believe critics should specialize, learn a niche and live it. And I think newspapers and magazines should have viewpoints, stick to them, and not bother to engage the other side - and that starts with recognizing that there is another side, that cultural polarization does exist. Anita Renfroe and Brad Stine fans don't give a hot crap about what the New York Times thinks; if they do, it's in a reactionary way, i.e. if the Times is for it, they're agin it. So screw 'em. Let Stine, Renfroe, and all their fellows get their publicity from Christian Comedy Weekly or whatever, the same way fans of basement black metal read Terrorizer and Metal Maniacs, not Rolling Stone, to get their information. (Assuming they read "old media" at all, of course. Which is my second point - if this woman's a huge hit on YouTube, doesn't that prove she doesn't need the Times's imprimatur?)

Friday, February 22, 2008


New York Times obit.

Obviously, this is a big one. The importance of Macero's role in Miles' late '60s and early '70s material is literally incalculable. Should he have gotten co-billing on, say, On The Corner, though? I don't think so. Ask yourself this: Would Teo Macero have made that album by, and for, himself? No. His technical innovations were in the service of Miles Davis's sonic imagination.

But it's unfair to tie Macero inextricably to Miles, anyway. His production work on Thelonious Monk's Columbia albums is equally stellar, and subtle as fuck - the edits (now revealed in the wake of the extended takes available on the remastered CDs) are seamless and just as in service of the music as the wild-ass tape-splicing and stereo panning of the Miles stuff. In fact, this is as good a time as any to state once again for the record that the Columbia studio albums (and the live Monk In Tokyo) are my favorite Thelonious discs, and the ones I almost always wind up putting on when I'm in a Monk mood. Anyway, R.I.P. Teo. Hank Shocklee should pour some out on the curb for you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This morning, I hauled up Slipknot's Iowa, an album I haven't listened to since it came out in 2001, right around the time I wrote a lengthy cover story on them for Alternative Press. (I know these days AP's editors like to shit on the issues they put out back during nü-metal's reign, but I did a lot of work for them between 1999-2002, and I'm still proud of most of it. A lot prouder than I'd be if I had my byline on a profile of Paramore or Tegan and Sara.)

Anyway, Iowa. Slipknot's self-titled album ate my skull in '99; I remember seeing them at the bottom of an all-Roadrunner bill at Roseland (Coal Chamber, The Burning Red-era Machine Head, Amen and Slipknot, and maybe one other band), before anybody really knew who they were, and they tore the place down. They were a whirling ball of energy, flying all over the stage beating the living shit out of everything within arm's reach, from guitars to turntables to percussion sets to each other, and I said to myself, this band is gonna own the world in a year. When I heard the first five tracks (the noisy intro through "Surfacing") on the disc, it was literally breathtaking. They were so fast, so grimy, so chaotic, they were on you before you could blink. Killer, killer stuff.

Iowa isn't a bloated second album or anything; it's not their Wu-Tang Forever. In fact, it's a pretty decent sequel. The lyrics aren't quite as offhandedly brilliant as they were on the debut; there's no line as good as "I'm hearing voices but all they do is complain." The best line on Iowa is "My life was always shit and I don't think I need this anymore," from "I Am Hated." And the difference between those two is the difference between the two albums, and why Slipknot kinda fell apart. The first album was funny, in a hysterical, laugh-to-stop-screaming kind of way. There was rage and pain all over it, but there was also a complex sense of irony and absurdity. When they made Iowa, they'd come so far so fast that they seemed to feel like it had to be uglier, noisier, meaner, and above all less fun. They fell prey to the grunge hangover, the curse of rock since the '90s, the mindset that says if you're selling big numbers, you're doing something wrong and you better wipe that smile off your face, mister, and scare away all the poseurs with your next album. Make it "real," for the "real" kidz. It's a bunch of bullshit, and it leads to the writing of songs like "Heretic Anthem" and "People = Shit."

Still, there are lots of good riffs on Iowa, and a bunch of the songs really bloomed on tour (which is why I say the only Slipknot anyone really needs is the debut and the live album). But ultimately, it feels more clichéd than the debut. It was the sound of them living up to what they thought people wanted from them.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I write a lot of stuff for Metal Edge, in addition to editing the mag. Here are links to some CD reviews available on the mag's website.

Bong-Ra, Full Metal Racket
Demiricious, Two (Poverty)
Kid Rock, Rock 'n' Roll Jesus
The Ocean, Precambrian
War From A Harlots Mouth, Transmetropolitan



Jumper has been pretty thoroughly hammered by critics. A lot of the arguments boil down to: it's incoherent, it doesn't provide a convincing backstory, it doesn't explain the phony science behind the Hayden Christensen's teleportation abilities. This all leads me to believe, having seen the movie, that many film critics are, let's say, slow. I will concede that there is no scene where a government scientist (played by Val Kilmer, maybe - he sold that bit fairly well in Deja Vu) explains how teleportation ability works, how many people each year are born with it, when they first noticed it cropping up, blah blah bliggedy blah. I will also concede there is no scene depicting sinister rites being conducted, sometime in the distant past, by the quasi-religious/all-powerful/incredibly well-funded organization for whom a white-haired Samuel L. Jackson is the figurehead. There is, in fact, a surprising lack of expository dialogue in Jumper. I submit that this is a good thing.

How much exposition do movie reviewers need? Hayden Christensen's character can teleport. He can also teleport physical objects he's carrying, or sitting inside. Samuel L. Jackson and his organization want to kill anybody who can teleport, for religious reasons. That's enough for me; now let's get to jumpin'.

Car chases: check.
Exotic locations: check.
Explosions and fireballs: check.
Cool fight scenes: check.
Rachel Bilson semi-unclothed (not that I'm a giant Rachel Bilson fan, but if there's a chick in the movie, get her clothes at least partially off, amiright?): check.

Makers of Jumper, you have earned my six dollar Sunday-matinee admission price.

Friday, February 15, 2008


...and it's a shithole.

My late father went to London one time on a business trip, and when I asked him what it was like, he said "It's like something you'd wanna burn down and start over." I've never been what you'd call an Anglophile, and this movie, which is great, does a lot to reinforce my prejudices against England and its people. I highly recommend it.

Basically, it's the story of Sean, an 11-year-old boy whose father is killed in the Falklands war immediately prior to the story beginning (it's set in '83). Seeking positive male reinforcement and a general sense of place in the world, he runs a cross a smart, funny, sympathetic older skinhead kid named Woody - who kinda looks like Woody from Toy Story, and who takes him under his wing and lets him hang around with the older kids. Soon enough, he's shaved his head and is wearing a Fred Perry shirt (bought for him by his new buddies) and boots. These are non-racist skinheads, though; one of them's Jamaican. So it's all lunkheaded teenage boys-on-the-loose fun, with Sean tagging along and even sort of keeping up.

But then Gumbo, one of Woody's friends, comes back from three years in prison. He's a racist (though he calls himself a nationalist - as in Front - at first) and a psycho, and he splits the group by demanding that they take sides on whether they're "truly English" or not. Woody and a few others, the Jamaican kid included, bail, but Sean sticks around. Soon enough he's attending National Front meetings with his new father figure, spray-painting racist slogans on walls, and threatening a Pakistani shopkeeper who gave him a hard time earlier in the film.

The movie goes wrong in a way that's both predictable and shocking. Predictable because a gun that's brandished in Act 1 must be fired in Act 3, and shocking because of the way it's filmed and acted by the principals. Gumbo's psychosis is revealed as far deeper and more omnidirectional than we've been led to expect, but more importantly, Sean is shown to be not entirely a nice kid led astray by thugs preying on his vulnerabilities. He's actually kind of a shit, and the actor playing the part's resemblance to a cross between young Jimmy Corrigan and middle-aged Jimmy Corrigan really helps him sell the inner ugliness.

But the real ugliness of the film is external - I sort of thought its title was a reference to the Clash song (the not-that-bad-really single from their post-Mick Jones album Cut The Crap), but when it was over I took it as a simple declarative statement of fact by the director. This is England. This is who we are. Lager louts, racists, scuzzy-looking women, all living in shitty apartments and eating garbage.

Check it out.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Somebody paired Scandahoovian cyber-pop-thrash act Paradise Lost's cover of Bronski Beat's "Smalltown Boy" with a whole bunch of footage from The Island (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Bay, clones, explosions, kinda awesome in a really misguided and dumbassed way). Check it out.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


Awhile ago, I Googled the name "Ayumi Hamasaki" after it popped up at random in some political blog's comments section, and after downloading a couple of albums, I was a rabid fan. I now have her two-volume A Best 2 and her three most recent albums - (miss)understood, Secret and Guilty, which was released last month. (All these are Japan-only titles, btw.) The music's a wildly over-the-top blend of disco/dance rhythms, faux-metal guitars, and Ayumi's just-this-side-of-crazed vocals, with occasional dips into glutinous balladry. Naturally, if there's more J-pop like this out there, I wannit. So I started looking into the an idle and cursory manner, of course. Hamasaki, according to Wikipedia, had one major rival for the title of J-pop queen - I downloaded an album or two of hers, but found them distressingly indebted to bad American hip-hop/R&B, including improbable "street" postures. So that was a bust. I also checked out Tujiko Noriko, Maaya Sakamoto, and the enigmatic UA (the latter of whom I discovered via Fluxblog three years ago or so). All of those were interesting, particularly the Sakamoto tracks composed and produced by Yoko Kanno, the woman behind the music for Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and numerous other anime shows. But none of it had the same berserk, gleeful exuberance of Ayumi's stuff. So I put out a request on ILM for similar stuff, and was recommended Shiina Ringo.

Well, upon dipping into the two albums that were suggested - Karuki Zamen Kuri no Hana and Shôso Strip - I am finding myself once again disappointed. This stuff is much more on the UA, or maybe Björk, model. Strings, weird synth noises, blah blah blah. There's one song on Karuki I kinda dig - "Yattsuke Shigoto." It mixes Jetsons strings with a disco beat, and Shiina's vocal reminds me of Mexican electropop trio Belanova (whose cover of the Cure's "Boys Don't Cry" must be heard to be believed - it's on their Dulce Beat Live CD/DVD). But the rest of it, so far anyway, is quirky/assaultive. Interesting for sure, but not raw fun like I was hoping. Oh, well. Back to Guilty, I guess.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Baby Dee, "The Only Bones That Show." It's short, so go read it there. Plus, that way you can download the song, which is kinda awesome and took me totally by surprise, as it's something I never would have stumbled across had the site's editor not brought it to my attention.


Cosmo issued a challenge (to me and one other dude) to "convince me that Brain Drill isn't just a bunch of noise. I like things as extreme as they come, but this just hurts my head, so to speak."

Well, I've been listening to Apocalyptic Feasting pretty much every day since I got it in the mail, so here's the story.

I don't think it's just a bunch of noise at all. As gritty technical death metal goes, in fact, it's extraordinarily tight. They have some rough edges on their sound - there are times, in fact, when the guitar/drums interaction reminds me of early (think 2nd 18/04 or Asristil Vrieldox, not OV) Orthrelm. Only one of the usual DM caveats applies to these guys: I find the incomprehensibility of the lyrics to be a mercy (why can't more tech-death bands be like Neuraxis and sing about something other than disembowelment?). The other problem I have with a lot of DM, that it's too punishingly mixed, is absolutely not the case on Apocalyptic Feasting; it's super-clean, with each instrument getting its own spot in the mix, and the drums sound particularly nice. Not Decapitated nice, but miles better than the pencil-on-desktop rattling of, say, Vital Remains. And the bassist gets loving attention in more than a few spots, which as we all know has been a rare thing in DM since Atheist broke up the first time. Seriously, folks, if you're a death metal fan and you're not rockin' Brain Drill, you need to re-evaluate.

By the way, Decrepit Birth's Diminishing Between Worlds is great technical death, too. So's the Neuraxis live album, and so's the Infected Malignity's Re:Bel EP, both of which I got in today's mail. About the only thing I've heard recently that I think is overrated, and don't recommend, is the Ambient Death EP, Time Eclipse. No, they don't sound like anybody else currently working, but that doesn't mean they sound good. Pass on that one.

Monday, February 04, 2008


That kinda sums up my thoughts at the moment, so feel free to skip this post now that you've read the headline, but if you're still paying attention, Decrepit Birth's Diminishing Between Worlds is every bit the awesome slab o' progressive DM that Invisible Oranges says it is. They're so melodic, I'm almost thinking about doing something on them for Metal Edge just to fuck with people's heads.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Rune Grammofon

Norwegian improvising quartet Supersilent's debut - a three-CD set simply titled 1-3 - was also the first release on Rune Grammofon, way back in 1997. Ten years later, their eighth release, and their first studio album in five years - 7 was a live DVD - follows the ultra-minimal pattern of all its predecessors.

The band members' names don't appear on the cover, and the tracks are numbered ("8.1" through "8.8") rather than given titles. Still, there's no disguising these four musicians' sound. Trumpeter Arve Henriksen, guitarist Helge Sten, keyboardist Stale Storlokken, and drummer Jarl Vespestad, whether together or alone, sound like no one else making music today.

The album starts off in a very dark place indeed. "8.1" is a morass of rumbling and droning synths, a drumbeat like a whale's heart heard from inside its stomach, and guitar that skronks periodically in the corner like a sulky child. The total effect is somewhere between Tangerine Dream and Black Sabbath: ominous and fearsomely loud.

Much of the music comes from this creepy mindspace. "8.5" features distorted vocals and gentle, choir-of-haunted-angels synths hovering in the right speaker like something from a John Carpenter movie soundtrack. Given the general desolation and creepiness of the goings-on, it's no surprise that trumpeter Henriksen, the gentlest spirit, is largely absent. He first shows up toward the end of "8.5," blowing gentle, almost flute-like lines and shadowed by delicate synths. This is in large part a forbidding, cryptic album, occasionally almost metallic in its loudness but also disconcertingly beautiful.

Friday, February 01, 2008


The new Opeth album just landed in my lap. I can't wait to play it again - listening to it through recording-studio speakers in Sweden, it struck me as awe-inspiring and exactly the kind of paradigm-shifting move they need to make at this point in their career, and I'm curious whether that impression will linger on hearing it through iPod headphones. It's simultaneously their most prog and their least metal album to date, but it's guaranteed to make the faithful fill their jeans with huge, milky loads of Åkerfeldt-love. The sonic palette's really broad - acoustic guitars, female vocals on the first track, church organ, oboe, Mellotron, etc., etc., plus some of the heaviest riffs Opeth's ever played. The second track, "Heir Apparent," starts off with a riff straight from Dio-era Sabbath before going through about six other moods in its just-under-nine-minute running time, including possibly Opeth's single fastest, thrashiest break ever. Plus, it justifies its title by featuring solo spots for both new-ish drummer Martin Axenrot and very new guitarist Fredrik Åkesson. In a way, Axenrot's drum break about two and a half minutes into this track - and, indeed, his playing throughout - is just a giant "fuck you" to anyone who might bitch about Martin Lopez's absence. (I gotta admit, before I heard the record, I was in that number myself.)

Got the Hellhammer demos collection, Demon Entrails, too. Which is nice, but frankly, Tom G. Warrior's past doesn't interest me nearly as much as Mikael Åkerfeldt's present, and future.