Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Harry Allen (as in "Yo Harry, you're a writer - are we that type?") has unearthed and posted a 10-minute video of Margaret Seltzer, the woman who wrote an "autobiography" claiming to have been raised in South Central L.A. and run with the Bloods - all of which was utter bullshit. Check it out; it's awesome.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


I have tried. Really, I have. In my iPod right now there are albums by Antaeus, Blut Aus Nord, Burzum, Craft, Darkthrone, Deathspell Omega, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Glorior Belli, Gorgoroth, Immortal, Marduk, Nachtmystium, Spektr, Thorns and Xasthur. (I own stuff by Cradle of Filth, Leviathan, Mayhem, Watain and others, but they're not currently represented.) But I have at last come to the conclusion that I just don't like black metal anymore. There are a few groups that occasionally come up with something sort of cool - I enjoy Dimmu Borgir's most pomptastic, John Williams-esque moments, and some of Spektr reminds me of a super-creepy version of Main at times - but the big problem with black metal bands, as adventurous as they sometimes are, is that they're scotch-taping a few small innovations on a base of orthodox black metal. Which annoys the living fuck out of me at this point. The shrieking vocals. The ultra-trebley guitars - and the three riffs every band in the genre has agreed to share between them. The one fucking drumbeat (see previous sentence). Oh, and corpse paint is neither scary nor ignorable. It's fucking silly, and it makes every band wearing it look like a goddamn sad clown/pissed-off mime. I can't take it anymore. I need melody and rhythmic intricacy. I need musicians more concerned with what they're playing than their collection of spiked armbands. I need album covers in color. Sorry, black metallers. I'm sure you're very, very serious about what you're doing. But I'm all done.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Lights And Shadows
Bobby Few and his pumpin' piano have been heard on a fistful of classic or underrated free-jazz albums, from Albert Ayler's Music Is The Healing Force Of The Universe to Frank Wright's Church Number Nine and Uhura Na Umoja. His two-fisted, keyboard-sweeping style blends gospel fervor and avant-garde expressionism into an often breathtakingly beautiful tidal wave of sound that seems to draw equally from Cecil Taylor and Fats Waller. Few's new solo album is occasionally a meditative affair, as albums of (mostly) unaccompanied piano frequently are, but he's lost nary a step in the decades since recording the legendary slabs cited above. And his still-powerful impulse to pummel the instrument, and the listener, into submission comes to the fore more often than not. On the disc's opener, "Bells," Few overdubs whistle and bells, but otherwise it's 10 fingers and 88 keys, all the way. On the gentle-ish "From Different Lands," he gets into some almost classical territory, rumbling at the low end of the keyboard in a decidedly intimidating manner. This ain't no easy listening dinnertime background music. "Enomis," on the other hand, easily could be. The title is Few's wife's name spelled backward, and the piece is lush, romantic, and reminiscent of Thelonious Monk's "Crepuscule With Nellie" in feel if not melody. Ultimately, this is a beautiful and multifaceted disc showcasing a pianist who should be a god to far more jazz fans than he presently is.

The fourth studio recording, and fifth album overall, by Swiss keyboardist Nik Bärtsch and his spidery, minimalist funk group Ronin is possibly the band's most subtle work to date. Bärtsch hasn't changed his compositional style - he's still working with tiny melodic and rhythmic cells that vary ever so slightly over the length of a piece, but he's abandoned his Fender Rhodes for acoustic piano, which gives the music a delicacy, and a humanity, occasionally missing in the past. Albums like Randori and Rea featured compositions - Bärtsch calls them "Moduls," and they're numbered - that sounded like they were played by tiny, wind-up stainless steel spiders. But Holon, in a manner befitting its title, seems to glow with an inner light. In the liner notes, he compares the band to a school of fish, making collective decisions and moving in one direction or another, as one, in a fraction of a second. That's a fascinating analogy, but perhaps a better one would be to the ocean itself, as the band's improvisations and the members' reactions to one another are frequently invisible. This music has a calm and an utter absence of hesitation that makes it feel like the product of a single mind rather than a group. And that's an astonishing achievement. Holon is a quiet and infinitely patient album, one that seeks to lure you in rather than bludgeoning you with excessive rhythmic force. The more you listen to it, the stronger its grip on you becomes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Got Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem from Netflix; watched it last night. I'm not kidding when I say this is one of the most nihilistic movies I've ever seen. The human characters, even the leads (played by the dumbest fireman from Rescue Me and the semi-exotic-looking CTU chick from 24), are just piles of meat that happen to stagger out of the way while the Aliens and Predators are fighting. In the meantime, pregnant women and babies and dogs die, the government intercedes in pretty much the worst possible way (Robert Joy in an expensive suit = run for your life), and overall the movie's "message" boils down to "one day something really big is gonna fuck you over, and there's no way to predict it or save yourself." The filmmaking is rudimentary, but philosophically it was almost Schopenhauer-esque. Recommended with the usual caveats (if you don't like genre movies, don't waste your time watching and my time bitching to me afterward).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Sucker Punch Requiem: An Homage To Jean-Michel Basquiat
If somebody dies young enough, they can become whatever you want them to be. Lisle Ellis, a musician and occasional painter, regards the late artist and occasional musician Jean-Michel Basquiat as a kindred spirit, and has assembled a disconnected, atmospheric shrine on this CD. The overtly 'jazz' tracks making up the bulk of the album are very pretty indeed; saxophonist Oliver Lake and trombonist George Lewis dance gracefully together, and drummer Susie Ibarra is a good match for Ellis's subtle basslines. Pianist Mike Wofford picks at the melodies like a fussy eater, and Ellis's wife, flautist Holly Hofmann, adds delicacy to a stately post-bop group sound.
But more than that, she gives the ensemble what uniqueness it possesses. Ellis's melodies are similar enough to those heard on discs by Greg Osby, Jason Moran, Steve Lehman, Vijay Iyer and other New York performer-composers of the moment that without the presence of Hofmann's flute, blindfold testing would be difficult indeed. The nearly nine-minute "Las Pulgas (Repelling Ghosts)" could be a track from any one of a dozen recent albums. It's all well played, but ultimately inessential. Five brief, glitchy electronic interstitial pieces appear, with no obvious relationship to the main music. Only on the final track do vocalist Pamela Z's gnomic utterances, reminiscent of AGF's experiments in fractured language, add more than ballast for the album's titular conceit - making the record in some small way memorable. Pretty isn't enough.


Got John Darnielle's book on Black Sabbath's Master Of Reality - it's part of the 33 1/3 series - in the mail yesterday, and finished it by shortly after 11 PM last night. It's a quick read - 100 pages or thereabouts, and pocket-sized - but it's also one of the finest pieces of fiction I've encountered in a long time. I guess I'd compare it to the short stories of Thom Jones (The Pugilist At Rest, Cold Snap, Sonny Liston Was A Friend Of Mine), but with less of a Henry-Rollins-attends-the-Iowa-Writer's-Workshop vibe. He writes in the voice of a 15-year-old stuck in a California juvenile psych ward, but it's never mawkish or melodramatic, and he doesn't take the easy way out, making the kid smarter than his captors. The kid is a stoner kid, with some rudimentary grasp of the world's fuckedness, but he's in no way a soul too fine for this world, or any bullshit like that. He's not one in a million, he's one of a hundred million, which makes the story that much stronger, in my opinion. When this kid talks about Ozzy Osbourne singing...well, here it is:

Anyway I can't put it off forever so what happens next is Ozzy starts singing. He has a voice like a weedwhacker some say but I say it would have to be a custom weedwhacker because it doesn't sound like anybody else's, and also it sounds kind of like you know him. Like, when Robert Plant is singing for Led Zeppelin, you can't really think you're ever going to see that guy at the arcade and play doubles on Galaga with him. But Ozzy, he sounds like the guy who changes your quarters at the arcade and you wonder, is that this guy's whole job? Is he married? Does his wife say, "Did you have a good day at the arcade today?" I don't know if I am telling this right but I will try again later maybe. But anyway this is why Ozzy is great, or part of it anyway, is that he sounds like he could be your friend.

John Darnielle, if you don't know, is not just a contributor to Marooned - he's also the lead guy behind the Mountain Goats, making music I have never heard. I think that's what ticks me off the most about the greatness of this book, is that it was written by a goddamn singer-songwriter. But that aside, it's seriously brilliant. I get letters at Metal Edge that attempt the kind of analysis John's narrator essays here, and one of the magical things about this book is how close this is to being a letter to a metal mag, but then it tips over into sublime genius. Go get it; no kidding, it's one of the best books about music you'll ever read.

Monday, April 14, 2008


RIP Robert Reed (keyboardist/vocalist/founder of Trouble Funk). Gonna crank up their Live album (four tracks, "Part A" through "Part D") in his honor.


It wasn't like I especially wanted to listen to the Metal Mind reissue of Disgust's second album, World Of No Beauty (now with eight bonus tracks recorded live in 1994!), through headphones, at 10 AM on a Monday. I love me some Discharge-aping Dutch crust-punk-core as much as anybody, but really, it's a little early for jackhammer beats, pick-slide guitars and guttural rage-barfing. But when you've got two dorks in the next cubicle gushing on and fucking on about how much they enjoyed the Paul Simon concert this weekend, especially the part where David Byrne came out and - their words - "totally stole the show"...well, you can see how my hand was forced. It was either blast my eardrums out, or become that guy - the guy who murders two of his co-workers with a claw hammer.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Are you an aging punk-rock doofus? Then check this out and laugh till you cry at your own decrepitude and obsolescence.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Promo text from the back of a CD I received in today's mail:

[Band Name Goes Here] is a 5 piece melodic hardcore band from Orange County, CA. The group began in the summer of 2003 when vocalist Jesse Barnett was inspired to form a band that would provide him with a medium to project his view points and reflect his musical influences. [Band] blends melody, heaviness, and sincerity into one solid sound that will cater to fans of Comeback Kid, Throwdown, Ignite and Rise Against. When Ash Avildsen of Sumerian Records first noticed the band, he put them on as the opener for Ignite's Anaheim House of Blues show that drew over 850 people. After the incredible response and passionate performance, he immediately signed the band on as their agent and the hype began to spread all of the country. [Band] then completed a Westcoast tour w/Caliban and The Acacia Strain as well as a 7 week co-headline tour w/Too Pure to Die and As Blood Runs Black. [Band] STYG headlined all of the Texas and California shows with all of the turnouts being between 300 and 500 kids. [Band] also holds the record for the highest attendance ever at the Chain Reaction in Anaheim, Orange County's premier all ages venue. Even before signing to Sumerian Records, the amount of momentum behind the band was so powerful that they were chosen to open a Terror tour that also featured The Warriors and All Shall Perish. With the momentum that [Band] created, they caught the attention of almost every independent label in the music community. Rather than jump directly into a record deal, the band continued their relentless touring schedule and headlined a 6 week US tour that firmly planted their stake in the US touring business by drawing on average 400 people a night. The tour ended in San Diego at an New Years Eve show where over 1,200 people were in attendance. [Band]'s diehard touring work ethic combined with their passionate and infectious live show will undoubtedly bring the band success and many exciting opportunities in 2008 including a massive US tour with good friends As Blood Runs Black as well as a large portion of the 2008 Warped Tour

Band name excised because, despite the offensively bad and boring language reproduced above, I will probably wind up assigning a feature on this group to a freelance writer in the semi-near future.

Monday, April 07, 2008


My buddy Steve Smith has an interesting post up on his blog about the thrill he recently got doing a phoner with former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley. I had a similar experience a few years ago, when I contributed to the Ozzfest tour book (which was being assembled by the editors of Alternative Press) and got a phone call at home from Tony Iommi. At that point, I'd been a freelance music critic for something like eight years already, but it didn't matter; I reverted back to age 15 the instant I heard that voice on the other end of the phone.

That wasn't the most interesting thing about Steve's post, though; I was most intrigued by his description of how he became a Kiss fan, because it pretty much matched up with how I'd always imagined that process would work.

I've never been a Kiss fan, and I've always suspected that in order to become one, it's best if you come in blind, so to speak - if you're young enough to not really know much about rock music, then Kiss's blend of (admittedly) catchy hard rock and over-the-top, kid-friendly showbiz (explosions! armor! cartoon demon makeup!) would appeal to you on an almost visceral level. But I missed that window, and consequently never became a Kiss fan. I spent my early-rock-fan years (say, between 8-12) listening to Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, and punk rock - Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Flipper. In fact, I bought my first-ever Kiss album about a month ago - the two-CD set Gold, which covers 1974-82 pretty handily. (It has most of the songs I'd already heard of going in, and certainly all the ones I actually wanted to hear.) Experienced purely as music, they're not bad - relatively catchy hard rock with boneheaded lyrics in one of two modes: single-entendre sex anthems, or goofy power-of-positive-thinking anthems. But I think I'd still rather listen to any number of other '70s hard-rock/proto-metal bands. Serious Kiss fandom is like any other religion - if you don't get caught up in it when you're young, with your critical faculties not yet fully formed, it's probably not gonna happen for you.

Friday, April 04, 2008


Peabody's, 4/3
Baroness' Red Album is one of the best psychedelic hard-rock albums of the past few years. Calling it "metal" would be a stretch, but it is heavy and engaging. The real question is, why is Baroness headlining over these other three bands? [Actually, they weren't; Converge was.] Converge is one of the most forceful — not to mention assaultive — mathcore/metalcore groups around, with Jake Bannon's bloody-throated shrieking the perfect complement to his bandmates' jagged riffing. Genghis Tron's second album, Board Up the House, is much better than its debut record. But like Baroness, the band isn't exactly a metal one. Between the programmed drums and blurting, zapping analog synths, it's more like intelligent dance music with Cookie Monster vocals and random bursts of guitar. Meanwhile, the Red Chord plays ultra-complex, thoroughly pop-unfriendly mathcore, with tons of spazzy soloing and a relentless, pummeling vibe that's exhausting to listen to on CD. Imagine it at concert volume. Without a doubt, this is one of the most genuinely multifaceted heavy-rock bills on the road in some time. No matter what you're into — from stoner-ish groove to nerve-attenuating rhythmic shifts — you'll find something to like. And probably something to hate.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I've been listening to a whole lot of thrash, old and new, in recent months, and it's bringing a whole bunch of bands back to my mind after long absences. Even that wasn't enough to make me recall Rigor Mortis, though; it wasn't until I did a recent phone interview with Ministry's Al Jourgensen, discussing the band's upcoming farewell tour, and he mentioned "Mikey, our guitarist," referring to Mike Scaccia, formerly of RM, who joined Ministry in time for the Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste tour, making his studio debut on the "Jesus Built My Hotrod" single and the subsequent Psalm 69 album.

It's clear from "JBMH" and its B-side, "TV Song," that what attracted Jourgensen to the Texan guitarist was his sheer blinding speed, which, for my money, is best demonstrated on the five-song Freaks EP that RM released between their self-titled (and inexplicably major-label-sponsored) debut CD, in 1988, and 1991's swan song, Rigor Mortis Vs. The Earth. It's five songs (six if you count "Six Feet Under" and "Worms Of The Earth" separately, even though they're a single CD track) in 26 minutes, and features some of the most hypnotically head-down, carpal-tunnel-inducing guitar this side of Orthrelm's OV or Behold...The Arctopus. Seriously, I can't believe Scaccia's fingers didn't just fly right off. Nobody else in the band is playing at nearly his level; sure, they're just as fast as he is, but their work doesn't have the weird little fillips his does. The drummer just pounds away in an almost D-beat fashion, and the bassist does that a-million-of-the-exact-same-note thing that's the thrash equivalent of a jazz bassist just walking while everybody else solos. The vocalist is okay, but nothing special. Ultimately, this EP (and Rigor Mortis's entire discography) is all about the breathtaking guitar work.