January 19, 2010
I live with a pal, and he is my best pal. Slowly but surely, I have been turning him on to the wondrous world of Death and Black Metal. Though he doesn’t realize the genius of Arising Realm by Ragnarok, he is getting there. Unfortunately he has been duped into thinking Entombed are really good, specifically Left Hand Path. I don’t know if this is my doing, but I don’t think so. I hardly listen to Entombed, because they aren’t that good. I mean, Left Hand Path is a cool record and a Sunlight staple (but clearly, the best thing recorded there was Soulside Journey by Darkthrone), but Sweden has been home to more than just Bergman, gorgeous women, and ikea: It has had many essential DM bands come out of there, but a lot of bad ones too (I think its referred to as the Gothenburg sound? [See: At the Gates]). Because I love my friend and because I hate you, I’m going to present to you:
5 Swedish DM Releases that are Better than Left Hand Path.
I present this in no real order, so here we go!
1.)Therion – Of Darkness
This was the first full length serving from a band that would go on to make a couple great DM albums, and then move on to the icky world of Operatic and Symphonic Metal. If we ignore than and just focus on “Of Darkness”, we will find ourselves with 40 minutes of violence. Something about this record, probably the production and strong vocals, make it sound overly vicious and chaotic. Released in 1991, around the time that DM was becoming more technical, there is a bit more here than just straightforward riffage, but its not overblown or fretless bass (See: Individual Thought Patterns). A highlight of the album is the intro to “Time Shall Tell”, a slow brooding intro (a little typical of Swedish stuff), but with an excellent interruption by the vocalist. A suburb to Hell has some amazing gurgle vocals, but “Asphyxiate With Fear” is probably the highlight of the record. The intro sounds like an outtake from Human, but is sent over the top with breakneck speed to follow. (Further Listening – “Beyond Sanctorum”)
2.)Megaslaughter – Calls From the Beyond
I always forget this band is from Sweden. That is because every time i put on this record and hear the second track “Raise the Dead”, I swear they’re from Finland. Not to worry, because some of the fast riffage gives this the Swedish seal of approval. Speaking of the second track, it shares the name of a Bathory song, and the vocal pattern where they say the title is on par with the Bathory track. Probably on purpose if I had to guess. This album’s pace is all over. They have some incredible mid paced parts that sound like a heavier Celtic Frost or muddier Obituary. The slow doomy parts are what make it sound Finnish, the guitars sound tuned low, and that can be fun. They never dwell, and keep it going, making returns to previous riffs within a song but that’s typical of metal and sometimes welcomed, but they stay on top of it. The only problem you could find with this record is the Metallica-length, with the half of the songs clocking in at over 5:30. This record is absolutely crushing and (at the risk of sounding cheese), sounds evil. The first 1:30 of Raise the Dead will you have you moshing, as will the intro to “Death Remains”. (Similar Artists – Convulse, Accidental Suicide)
3.)Necrophobic – The Nocturnal Silence
Even though they took their name from a Slayer song, they play top tier blackened death metal. Released in a high time of Death Metal (1993), the production of this album is exceptionally well done without sounding overdone or hammy. Their lyrical content has more in common with black metal or at least other DM bands that sing about occult subjects and hell. Its one of those albums in the genre (along with world without god or the ending quest) that truly creates an atmosphere that is talked a lot about among all BM bands. (Don’t listen to the song which they take their name from, Slayer are not a good band)
The only LP by this band, much like Calls From the Beyond, it sounds heavy. The memorial is a perfect example of fusing technical aspects with amazing melody, but still maintaining a huge sound without wimping out. The lyrical content is also quite melancholic. A lot of the lyrics have to due with despair and isolationism, which is a refreshing change. Apparently the band filed bankruptcy after this record was made, but I don’t know why. I’m not sure if this album is overlooked but an album like this is what Swedish Death Metal should mean to people. A lot of doomy parts in these songs. They took the idea of melody and used it just right, and didn’t just become a metalcore version of Iron Maiden (See: At the Gates). You’ll be hard pressed to find similarities in this to Tampa Death. (For fans of : Middle era Bolt Thrower)
Anti-Mosh 001. Strange that this would be the first release on Deathlike Silence because there’s nothing blackened about it. Just straight up Death Metal with a hint of trash in the mix (a hint is the only amount that should ever be present). Not to mention, you’d think Euronymos would want to put something Norwegian to begin with on his label. Oh well, he made a good call. This record has riffage that reminds me of something out of Brazil or early German thrash (You can’t deny how violent Kreator sounds on record sometimes). Anyway, the drums have too much echo and the guitars sound a little weak (like before slayer met Rick Rubin [when they could have been good]), but somehow when its all put together, it’s just right. The more I listen to it, the more it does remind me of Kreator. I guess that’s ok. That would help make sense as to why Euronymos would want to put it out, since he felt Kreator was one of the best black metal bands ever (Just go with it). This album is fucking fast, and thats why I wanted to include it. 27 minutes of carnage. (Further Listening – Kreator)
January 15, 2010
In light of talking about songs that break your heart, I think I’ll try to do the opposite and talk about the positive side of music, though there shouldn’t be one. I present,
Don’t Kill Yourself – Three Songs to Give Your Bipolar Disorder an Upswing
1.)Sophisticated Sleaze: Any Major Dude by Steely Dan.
I always kind of dismissed ‘Pretzel Logic’. I know that its good, and its considered one of the top classics amongst Dan fans, but a lot of the songs just bore me. I took a second look at it, and the album as a whole isn’t great. but side one is somethin’ else. With a heavy 70s style song like ‘Night by Night’, Steely Dan show on their third record they still know how to rock the Al Bundy style (though this obviously pre-dates him, shut up). There’s an almost sweet called ‘Rikki Don’t Lose that Number’. Like all Dan songs, its all how you look at it. It can either be about a gay man leaving his lover, and the song is his lovers letter to him. OR you can look at it as drug addiction and the habit a man is trying to kick, and its the drug speaking to him. Either way, its as close as Steely Dan can come to being sentimental or writing a love song. “Barrytown”, a song about prejudice. Looking up Barrytown, I found out its a small town that was purchased by the unification church. So easily, we can draw the conclusion that this song is about the religious folks in this town, but on a grander scale, the Dan is reminding us about how racist everybody is. But moving on to what I wanted to talk about:
The Song “Any Major Dude Will Tell You”, is quite a shining moment within Steely Dan’s book, for me at least. The delivery is simple, the hooks are there and not overdone (for a song by them), and while the message is blurred, its a positive one in my eyes. Basically its about seeing someone dishelved, who might be feeling that weight of the world we all feel sometimes. The main lines from the song go as follows:
“Any major dude with half a heart surely will tell you my friend; Any minor world that breaks apart falls together again. When the demon is at your door, in the mornin’ it won’t be there no more. Any major dude will tell you.”
I think what Steely Dan are really talking about in this song is about drugs. Maybe I say that because most of their songs are about drugs, because they did drugs, a lot of drugs. But I’ve always enjoyed ignoring things involving drugs for similar meanings. I know that when I listened to this song the first time, it lifted my spirits a bit, and my spirits have permanantely sunk into the depths of the river of shit that is my existence.
2.) Only Human : An 80’s Pop Excercise against Suicide
When I was a kid, like 9 or 10 or 11, my stepdad gave me a 2-CD greatest hits of Billy Joel. I listened to it until the songs were etched in my head like scars. This copy included an 80’s single called “Only Human (Second Wind)”. I remember my stepdad telling me about the song, because he loved it, because he gets really excited on positive messages. He told me about the music video about a kid on a bridge, thinking about falling, and the ghost of Billy Joel shows up and shows him what would happen if he did it. The video is a laugh riot in the best way. Someone once told me they thought it was dumb and cheesy and it really pissed me off. The song reeks of the 80’s, and good. The 80’s is better than 2010, and everything you listen to. The idea of the song is “Hey, you’re fucking up now, but hang in there, because its always darkest before the dawn”. I wouldn’t see the video until I was a teenager and it was great. I still love it, I have the 45 w/picture sleeve on top of a window sill with some other of his 45’s because Billy Joel knows more about being on the brink of death than any of us, mainly because he tried to commit suicide by drinking some sort of drain cleaner. Something poisonous. The B-Side doesn’t live up to this side, so we don’t have to talk about it. Sometimes I wonder if Billy Joel has ever been happy. A lot of his songs are depressing or at least bittersweet, and just last year or sometime, he went back into rehab for drinking. I have a Rolling Stone interview with him from 1980 where he talks about top 40 hits from the 50s and 60s and 70s are great, and he just seems to jaded on rock and everything Rolling Stone wanted to talk to him about. I did learn though that he got the idea from “Vienna”, when he visited his Father there and realized there are places that are there for you when you’re old and you’re done everything and ready to settle down and die. I remember listening to that song when I was 18 and it reminded me of my first girlfriend which was sorta icky, and I’m not sure if I’d still apply the song to her. If her life is too busy, shes making up for all the things that I’m not doing. I mean, someone has to.
I don’t have much to say about this because it should just be heard for itself. I don’t like Hot Water Music like I used to. I only really care about 2 LP’s and an EP. I don’t like Chuck Ragan’s solo material. Its boring. Sorry. But, he wrote “Driving Home”, so it doesn’t really matter what he does, because he wrote “Driving Home”. Its one of those songs that gives many men with beards chills all over their overweight flesh. My friend Joe sent me No Division, and though I don’t listen to it hardly ever because I hate punk, and my roommates band is just a third rate HWM, its still amazing. There are people who read this blog who are too hip for beard rock, but it should be heard. But you won’t so just read this, dickhead:
“razor blades are hard to hold when we’re hit in the heart with problems that won’t shift it’s hard to admit that we’re afraid when we’re hit in the head with unanswered questions that repeat “how could i ever live after this day” we can take the hits and grow tougher collect ourselves to live longer and find there is no need to be afraid because we all have more to offer when we struggle to cope with whatever it takes to make the says we all have what it takes to make it home”
January 6, 2010
Since I suffered my first real broken heart at seventeen, I’ve been on a quest to find the perfect heartache. Whether it be in story, song, or film. I have found a lot of things on my travels. I can show you movies that will bum you out hard, I can lend you books that will make your stomach sink, and I can show you songs that will you send you batting the bulb in your basement. I found the perfect heartache, and I decided to share it with you faithful readers of 3 or 4: Side A of “Late for the Sky” by Jackson Browne.
I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to Jackson Browne, but he easily one of the greatest songwriters of his time, based on his early material from the 1970’s. His lyrics put Bob Dylan’s attempts at introspection to shame. Talk about putting yourself out there, Jackson Browne’s songs are personal on such a level that we hardly hear, at least without coming off cheesy. My first exposure to the name came from reading a Stephen King book which had his name and shortly after, “sloppy lipstick blowjob” within the same somewhat context. Luckily while most people’s first exposure is probably the version of “These Days” by Nico, mine was “Nobody’s Baby”. Of course, “These Days” is a better starting point because it was written during his personal period. While she recorded in 67? somewhere around there, it wouldn’t be heard by him on record until 1972 on “For Everyman”, a brilliant record with beautiful songs and some genius lines. I mean we all know the words to These Days but c’mon: “Don’t confront me with my failures. I have not forgotten them”. Perfect. Just Perfect. Perfect on a Red House Painters level. I have a live album where he talks about recording that song with Nico, and using an electric guitar because Andy Warhol wanted a more modern sound (even though he put strings in it), and forgot that he let someone use it in a movie and being in a theater and hearing the song and thinking, “Hey I used to play like that”, then realizing it was his song. I don’t talk much about Jackson Browne because I don’t want Colin to listen because he’ll ruin it for me, but I’m over it. Anyway, I’m gonna talk about Late for the Sky.
The Album, his third release came out in 1974. It peaked at #14 on Billboard, and Martin Scorsese used songs from it for his film, “Taxi Driver”, which is kind of a bummer. I’m not putting down the movie because its one of his 3.5 Shining moments in the world of film (Raging Bull being the other, Mean Streets and Goodfellas gets a .5 [because its only good from an entertainment aspect, so yeah fight me]) but when I think of the lyrics I don’t want to think of Robert DeNiro being all introverted and creepy taking girls to sex films and shaving his head and his physical regiment and the “You talking to me” scene that was perfectly parodied by Moe Syzlak. The album is 8 songs, and the first 4 are the best but the whole album is actually great. If I crushed on a girl and she said “make me a mixtape” I’d probably put “For a Dancer” on it, buried somewhere on side 2. A tender song about death and optimism. Anyways, I’ll give a rundown on the 4 songs and then I’ll tell you about how I’m a wuss:
1.) Late for the sky starts off this side of a record about past love, failed love, and heartache. If you’ve ever been in a strained relationship, you’ll hear this and know whats up. Wondering how it started and how it got to where it is and why its there. Simply put, “You never knew what I loved in you, I don’t know what you loved in me. Maybe the picture of somebody you were hoping I might be”. This song brings up essentially all the possible things you think when you are in something on the fritz? Do the words you say have meaning? Coming out of the fake dream that you could make things better or good again or to begin with. “Awake again, I can’t pretend,That I know I’m alone, And close to the end of the feeling we’ve known. How long have I been sleeping? How long have I been drifting along through the night? How long have I been dreaming I could make it right, If I closed my eyes and tried with all my might, To be the one you need?”
2.) Fountain of Sorrow is one big river of sadness. A song written about his wife who would commit suicide by overdose on sleeping pills a couple years after this album. Simply put, the song is about coming across a photograph of a lover. To me, it feels like two people together, but on seperate plane’s. One more in than the other, the idea of thinking things are good but really they couldn’t be further from that. “When you see through love’s illusions, there lies the danger, and your perfect lover just looks like a perfect fool. So you go running off in search of a perfect stranger
All the loneliness seems to spring from your life, Like a fountain from a pool.” Another line I quite like is “I’m just one or two years, and a couple of changes behind you in my lessons at love’s pain and heartache school”. Its one of those lines that makes me think about how hard we try to reinvent ourselves after a breakup or a loss. I wrote about it in a song, and made boys and girls weak in the knees once.
3.) Farther On. A song about the day to day struggle of being who you are. Putting yourself out there to get no results, or just to get it pushed back in your face, emotionally speaking. The first verse is perfect: “In my early years I hid my tears and passed my days alone. Adrift on an ocean of loneliness, my dreams like nets were thrown to catch the love that I’d heard of In books and films and songs. Now there’s a world of illusion and fantasy in the place where the real world belongs”. He touches on memories of past love, and the idea of sharing yourself with someone, and realizing there are ones just like you but sometimes they might stop to listen to you too. While these things come and go, and you’re often left with the mess that is yourself, you don’t give up. You keep going. It gets awfully boring being alone, hanging out with yourself, writing blog entries about people who write about being alone. Whoops.
4.) The Late Show is my favourite of the four. Everytime I hear it, I feel my spine crawl and I get chills. I’ve never heard a song that rang more true than this. A lot of ideas are presented in this song, that I almost just feel like its best to just put the whole song right here:
The last chunk of the song, is epic in a way that its almost hard to process. I’ve had so many instances standing somewhere wondering what to say to someone. I’ve often blown it, and learned from it, but a lot of my experiences have left me jaded. That’s why the first part of that song is so perfect. How many times do you pass someone and they ask how you are, strictly due to the formalities. We don’t inconvenience them with any real troubles because they don’t care. No one wants to know your true feelings. Think about all the times you say to someone “I’m good thanks”. Most of my days are spent holding back bile because sometimes you just wanna go off about some little frustration, but we hold it back. Everyday I try to keep quiet, I hear myself speak and wonder why I am using precious breath. This one day, I was walking home from some errands back in Oshawa, and I was listening to this song. It might have been in October. Yeah, October because I remember my hands were cold and I hadn’t bought gloves yet. By the time I reached the end of The Late Show, I had reached my house, and I had to hold back tears over what I had listened to. It was so weird, because I had become the casual listener in the summertime but I guess I never really paid attention except for Fountain of Sorrow. Its an album where, if you let it, it can slay you.
January 1, 2010
When I was a kid, I loved Kiss. Whoops. If I said I wasn’t drawn in by the gimmick, I’d be a liar. I liked the rock music, I had every album they released from the 70’s, I’d buy Kiss Magazines that were released during times of their reunion tours, I’d get bummed that I didn’t get to see them live. I had pay per view VHS tapes of reunion tours. I had a bootleg copy of Kiss Meets Phantom of the Park and I watched it at least 5 times, which is 5 times more than anyone should watch it. I had taped specials of them off much-music and whatnot. I had the Kiss action figures that each came with a letter of the band. I had them set up as a mantle piece shrine style thing. I liked every cd I had. I used to draw the letters and faces everywhere on my schoolwork. I had a Kiss trivia game, and I used to have all of the original Kiss trading cards that were released in the 70’s, but they might have been lost forever. I could tell you all sorts of useless facts and tidbits about Kiss, and you didn’t care because you didn’t even like Kiss to begin with, but you had to listen. As I aged a bit more, I slowly fell out of my love for them, and it shifted towards Billy Joel. Thats probably when I started to feel emotion and less of that boyish goodness.
Every once in a while I go back to some of their records that I have on vinyl. They still tour but you’re a terrible person if you go or support anything they’re doing now. They’re not a band anymore, they are just an entity that sucks up money. When they had the original four, it sort of made sense. It was cool when they did their first reunion tour and wore the Alive outfits, and then the Alive II outfits on the next tour. Now its Gene and Paul and two hacks who got lucky, one of the hacks being the former filler of shoes after Eric Carr’s death. They played Oshawa, and people were crawling out of holes in the wall to either hop on the bandwagon or go because they are too die hard for their own good.
When I was a kid, my least favourite album was probably Hotter Than Hell. Now its my favourite of theirs. Its the one I can throw on the most. To be honest, the only ones I can really tolerate front to back are the first two. Everything I disliked about it when I was a kid is what I love about it now. The opening song, “Got to Choose” sounds like it was recorded too slow for its own good and it drags, and it sounds perfect. To me, the album sounds like an amazing mess, as it should. They recorded this shortly after moving to the west coast, and like every sane person on the west coast, they hated being there. I guess it doesn’t help being NY Natives, which is equally awful, but on their first day there, Paul Stanley’s equipment was stolen. Yuck. The production of this record is muddy as fuck to put it plainly. For someone on a somewhat big label like Casablanca, do you think they aimed for this kind of production or was it the best they could get. Their first record, which probably did better in numbers at the time, sounded cleaner, more slick, which is saying a lot because even that record sounds thin and watered down. This one isn’t thin. Its crunchy, or whatever. A song like parasite, played with just the right amount of slop, is a song almost too dark for its own good. “Parasite Lady, Parasite Eyes”. Doesn’t get much better than that. “Goin’ Blind” always seemed kind of stupid to me, because of the whole “I’m 93, you’re 16” line, but I understand the point thats being driven. The song is just good. A sad bastard ballad that has great lead parts due to the guitar tone Ace had on these songs. I can’t really describe whats on it, mainly because there are parts that sound doubled and it works perfectly. If you ever have a chance, The Melvins did a great cover of this on their album, “Houdini”. Hotter than Hell is easily one of the best rock songs ever. The first instance of filler comes on the 5th track, “Let Me Go Rock n Roll”, which isn’t terrible, I just don’t care about it. Its a staple among Kiss greatest hits CD’s though. Trust me on that one, I had like 5 probably. “All the Way” is one catchy riff machine. Kiss had a lot of songs that sounded like this. “She” is a great example, and most of the songs that sound like this are amazing. “Watchin You” is a banger, “Mainline” kinda sucks but the solo is kinda ok, “Comin Home” sounded way better on Unplugged but its still tolerable, but don’t despair, because we end with “Strange Ways”, a song heavier than anything Black Sabbath did. Wah. A great solo by Frehley, that beats out anything by Iommi. I’m not trying to pick on Sabbath, even though their records are over rated, I still like em. I pick them because we think of Sabbath as heavy, but not Kiss, but they had moments like this.
These days I am rediscovering songs I passed over in my earlier years. These days, I enjoy songs that are sad sack, sappy, well constructed pop songs. Kiss had those in spades, and no i’m not talking about Beth, dickweed. I’m talking about songs like Shand. A great track off a terrible record, that had some life surged back into it on their Symphony record. One of the saving graces of 80’s Kiss is the song “Forever”. Echoey drums in true arena rock style, acoustic guitars, and catchy hooks. Another great song from the 80’s that sounds like Kenny Loggins could have just used it is “Reason to Live”. One of the greatest things we can take from the 80s are achey breaky songs by Hair Metal bands. “Crazy Nights” of the album sharing the same name is another catchy 80s pop song, and it has a spoken part over a lone guitar and tom/snare and it might as well be a fucking Youth of Today song. You could make a tape of these songs and call it “Songs that could have been in Paramount movies from the late 80s/90s AKA Waynes World 1 and 2”. “Turn on the Night” could have been on Born in the USA if you took out pinch harmonics and it’d be more fuel for Brucefans to cry over. Songs like these carry more weight than “Still Ill”. Another good hair hit is “Tears are Falling” from Asylum. Lick it Up, however is still a bad song.
You can find some interview footage of Kiss during the Dynasty period with Ace drunk off his ass, walking off the set and coming back with a Teddy Bear. Manny Ramirez is the Ace Frehley of the MLB. Out in left field, but damn can he play.
I’m still waiting for the day Low covers “I Still Love You”. Maybe I’ll do the solo on it. Its probably uncool to like Kiss, but no one seems to care about Brand Nubian or Bauhaus either.