Guest Shot

GUEST REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2018) Blu-ray bonus features

We’ve already reviewed the movie ad-nauseum, so here is something fresh:  a review of the Blu-ray bonus features by guest writer Kovaflyer!

Guest review by Kovaflyer

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi (2018 Lucasfilm blu-ray)

Directed by Rian Johnson

If you enjoyed The Last Jedi or if you have mixed feelings about the newest instalment of Star Wars and are trying to make sense of the film, the bonus features are a great in-depth look at where Rian Johnson took the galaxy that is so very far far away.

 

The Director and the Jedi – Full length documentary feature

The Director and the Jedi is your first behind the scenes look at The Last Jedi and the hard work that went into making this Star Wars movie. This part of the bonus features takes you behind the scenes of the building of up to 120 different sets, the creation of all the creatures that we have come to know and love, the eye-pleasing costumes, as well as the amount of detail involved in the makeup artistry; like the work done to create Kylo Ren’s scar.

The Director and the Jedi also features discussions with Mark Hamill about Luke Skywalker and the direction that Rian took with Luke in the film. Mark tells us that he was going to play the Skywalker that Rian envisioned regardless of how he felt about his own image of Luke. Early footage of Mark and Daisy going over lines and choreographing the Luke vs. Rey scene was fantastic.

The interviews and interactions with Carrie Fisher are both heart warming and fun and showcase Carrie at her best; the only way that Carrie knew how to be. Carrie was excited about the direction of Leia’s character in the movie, calling her strong and in charge.

 

Balance of The Force

Rian Johnson really wanted to hit the re-set button on “the Force” and what it means. He wanted to show new Star Wars fans that the Force is not a super power, but a balance between all things, the light and dark, in all living things.  It is a gift, and not all about moving rock or things across a room.

When he started writing The Last Jedi he had a look back at Star Wars and the main characters in the story and what challenges they would eventually come up against.

Rey is looking to find herself and where she comes from; who her mom and dad are and where they have been, and what her new powers mean and how to use them. With Rey there are no easy answers and if she wants them she is going to have to find them herself.

Finn has just woken up on a ship after being injured in a fight on Starkiller Base while trying to save Rey and the Resistance. He wakes up with the ship under attack and Rey missing, and therefore he has to think fast and take action to save Rey, himself and the ship.

Leia, facing more and more loss is taking charge and leading the Resistance in the biggest fight yet.

Luke is fighting his own internal battle that the Jedi must end. In his view, the Jedi have done nothing but added to the problems of the galaxy, and if he were to bring back the Jedi, the Sith would rise again. Luke believes if the Jedi die, that a new light could rise and win. Therefore, Luke Skywalker has exiled himself; he is being selfless. Rian knew that there was a reason why Luke went into hiding, that it was a selfless act and that he was not just cowering away.

Yoda, yes that Yoda (the puppet version brought to life by Frank Oz), comes to Luke when he needs him the most. Yoda reminds Luke of the same lessons he once taught him, to stop with all the big plans and to focus on the here and now, to be the Luke Skywalker that everyone needs; to be the myth, to be the legend of Luke Skywalker and to not let the light burn out. So, Luke must train Rey and keep her in the light. The most important message Yoda had for Luke, was that failure is the greatest teacher of all. Johnson insisted to have the original puppet version of Yoda and his puppeteer Frank Oz for the film. He wanted Mark Hamill to interact with Oz and not a CGI version of Yoda, and even procured the original Yoda puppet mold in order to fashion the latest version of the Jedi master.

 

Scene Breakdowns

The bonus features also offer the following scene breakdowns.

Lighting the Spark: Space battles are massive undertakings. You get the big explosions, the visual and auditory effects. However, Johnson explains that he felt that in this space battle, he wanted to show the humans behind the spaceships; to make you feel connected to what is happening based on the relevance of the battle to the characters. It is interesting and fun to learn where some of the sound effects that were used in the battle came from (e.g. a roll of duct tape), how some of the spacecrafts and battle sequences were modelled after WWII aircraft and aerial footage (e.g. a B-52 bomber), and how Kylo Ren’s spaceship was of course modelled after Vader’s own tie fighter. In this battle, that saw so many Resistance fighters lost, Johnson chose to highlight Leia’s struggle with loss and grief and her deep love for her people.

Snoke and Mirrors: Rian explains that in bringing Snoke to life, he wanted to ground him in reality; make him have a physical presence. He was worried, however, about the complexity of creating a believable character completely out of CGI technology. In utilizing a complete motion capture suit for Snoke’s character, however, they were able to use every nuance that Andy Serkis brought to the character’s physical being; every facial expression, every twitch, etc.

Showdown on Crait: Johnson explains that the scene of the showdown on Crait was one of the first visions he had when he started working on the movie. To create the visual effects for the shots fired on the salt planet, the film crew went to the salt plains of Bolivia and filmed shooting sequences. It is amazing to hear just how many different options they went through when creating the red under the salt (e.g. shredded dyed red paper), how they reinvented the Walker from Empire into the Gorilla Walker using various sounds bytes to create its own unique ‘voice’, or how they used sounds from old beaten down cars in order to obtain the sounds for the Resistance fighter ships.

 

Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)

This part of the bonus features offers a look at the first meeting between Rey and Snoke with Andy Serkis in the full motion capture suit. It is amazing to see Andy’s performance in the raw without the CGI effects. To say that Andy’s performance was intense is a serious understatement!

 

Deleted Scenes

The bonus features also provide a look at some of the scenes that did not make the final cut for the movie; fun to watch but one can understand why they were left out for the most part.

 

In closing

In closing friends, I give this bonus footage 4/5 stars and highly recommend that you pick up the Blu-ray edition of The Last Jedi as you will enjoy some fabulous bonus features that will enhance your enjoyment of this Star Wars film.

 

 

 

 

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GUEST REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995) Part Two – the VHS

BLACK SABBATH – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995 IRS CD/VHS set)
Part Two: the VHS video by Harrison Kopp

As Mike’s VCR is currently stored away, he will be joined by Harrison, who was naughty and downloaded a 720p copy of the show when someone had it up on YouTube, and therefore will be reviewing the video half of this box set.

 

 

 


The video version is a great snapshot of the band at this period. The quality is quite good for a VHS, only betraying its origins with any large expanses of black shown. It also features some innovative action shots to capture the band, which is much appreciated as, although Geezer is still head banging away as usual, Bobby generally fades into the background and, as Mike has pointed out in other reviews, Tony Martin’s frontman-ship involves either singing up front or shaking his thinning hair by the drum riser.  As for Tony Iommi? Well he’s still the epitome of theatrical guitar playing.

The lighting is done well also, although the red occasionally gives the skin an overly pink tone. And for the first time, Geoff Nicholls is visible in the background of some shots, doing keyboards and backing vocals.

Puzzlingly, there is also a black and white filter used on a couple shots here and there, that really isn’t necessary. Those preceding niggles however, were only small nit-picks of a thoroughly enjoyable show to watch.

There are also three songs included on the video that aren’t on the CD and will be therefore be reviewed here. The first is fairly early in the set and is “Mob Rules”. Tony powers through verse after verse without fail. Although it inevitably falls short of the Dio renditions, it still deserved a place on the disc.

“Anno Mundi” is next. This is easily the best of the three. Tony Martin sings his heart out in an amazing performance of the only song from Tyr. This easily should have been on the disc as well.  (They all should have.)  On a side note, it’s really nice to see audience members head-banging and singing along to these Martin-era songs.  Last of these is a decent rendition of “Neon Knights” that just can’t compete with Dio’s versions. A couple subtle melody changes here and there don’t help it either.

Still, despite a couple small missteps:

4.5/5 stars, and Tony martin’s finest hour with Sabbath.

GUEST REVIEW: Rock and Rule (1983) by Robert Daniels

Please welcome guest writer Robert Daniels, from radio’s Visions In Sound 

ROCK AND RULE (1983 Nelvana)

“Oh what will the signal be for your eyes to see me…”

Back in about 1984 or 85 I remember watching TV one afternoon and stumbling on an animated movie. Interested, I stopped to watch. It had weird, trippy images and some scantily clad cartoon woman singing and a strange creature growling. My 14 year old mind was intrigued and then was completely blown when one of the animated characters said “Shit!” Cartoon characters were not supposed to swear!! Clearly this was a mistake. No, it was not a mistake, it was Rock and Rule. Although at the time I didn’t know the title and didn’t see the movie on TV again for a while.
Rock and Rule was set in a post apocalyptic future where the street animals evolved into a human like society. MOK is an aging rock star trying to find a specific voice in the guise of a worldwide talent search. MOK hopes to unleash a powerful demon from another dimension, his dwindling popularity driving him to destroy the world in vengeance and immortalize himself in the process. After returning to Ohmtown he finds the voice he’s looking for in Angel, a singer in a local band along with friends Omar, Dizzy and Stretch. MOK invites her to join him and when she refuses he kidnaps Angel and forces her to sing to raise the demon.

This was the era of the edgy “adult” cartoon, Heavy Metal, American Pop, Wizards, Starchaser: The Legend Of Orin and others. I do remember getting into an argument with my Mom back in 1981 about not being able to see Heavy Metal. “It’s a Cartoon…it HAS to be for kids!!!”.

It would be several years later when I was in high school that I described the ending scene to someone and they said “Oh yeah, that’s Rock and Rule…” Bingo, I had a title and looked high and low for a copy on VHS. Nothing. I was obsessed to find Rock and Rule. Of course, in the late 80s early 90s there was no internet so the only thing I could do was continue to bug the people at Steve’s TV to try and find a copy. Again, nothing. Then one day out of the blue I got a call from Steve’s. They said they found a copy and would order it for me. “Great” I said, “How much.” “$129.99”. My heart sank, that was far too expensive for my blood. So the film continued to sit in the back of my mind for years.

“My Name Is MOK, thanks a lot”

Then one day in (about) 2003, I heard of a showing at the former Hyland theatre. A local Anime expert and film buff rented the then-empty theatre to show the a cut of the film.

Also Don Francks, the voice of MOK, was going to be there. I jumped at the opportunity.

The film was nothing like I thought it was going to be. First, it was produced by Nelvana Studios that I only knew for Care Bears, Strawberry Shortcake, Droids and Ewoks, etc. All kids’ cartoons. It was also one of the first films I ever saw that listed “Songs by…” first above the main cast. This list included Cheap Trick, Debbie Harry, Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, with a special performance by Earth, Wind and Fire. After the movie there was a Q & A with Don Francks, who I later found out provided the voices for such characters as Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget, Lackki from Captain Power and the un-credited voice of Boba Fett from the Star Wars: Holiday Special. I asked him if he based his performance of MOK on David Bowie. He said that he didn’t have any particular person in mind when he voiced MOK. I later found out that MOK’s full name was MOK SWAGGER a spin on Mick Jagger. However, the talent representation of The Rolling Stones’ lead singer objected and forced the producers to drop the character’s surname. It’s also interesting to note that David Bowie, Tim Curry, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger and Sting were all considered for MOK but the budget of the film couldn’t afford them.

“I dunno about this, nobody seems to be buying these ‘I survived the MOK concert’ T-shirts.”

This year (2018) is the 35th anniversary of this masterpiece of Canadian animation. Rock and Rule is the first English speaking Canadian animated feature film entirely produced in Canada itself. Unfortunately the film sat in near obscurity for years after being shelved by distributor MGM and never got released in North America. The film did develop a cult following after being shown on CBC (who held the Canadian TV Rights), HBO and Showtime. Bootleg copies would show up at comic book conventions oddly enough with Ralph Bakshi being credited as director.

“She can sing, or she can scream!!!”

Much like Heavy Metal from 1981 music was a huge part of the film and also much like Heavy Metal the music got tied up in rights issues.

Back in about 2005 just before the release of the Rock and Rule DVD, I was actually in contact with someone from Nelvana Studios who told me that director Clive A. Smith, whose wife Patricia Cullen had also written the score, had the tape masters for the soundtrack in his garage and that he might be willing to let me have them for mastering. Unfortunately nothing came of this as I lost contact but it was the closest I came to producing a soundtrack release. In 2010 the film was released on Blu-ray and unfortunately has become quite expensive on the used market.
It was previously believed that no official soundtrack album had ever been issued for Rock and Rule. In fact, Deborah Harry mentions on a “Making Of…” documentary that she hopes the music gets a soundtrack release.  However, as it turns out, a handful of film critics received a cassette tape featuring nine songs (“Hot Dogs and Sushi” and “Send Love Through” were omitted). All songs are extended from how they appear in the film and in familiar copies. “Born to Raise Hell,” “I’m the Man,” “Dance Dance Dance,” and “Ohm Sweet Ohm” have been officially issued on CD, along with an alternate version of “Pain and Suffering,” and “Maybe For Sure” (an alternate version of “Angel’s Song”).

Though a deliberate Google search will turn up a couple of versions of the soundtrack, this is the most common track list:

[2:46] 01. Born To Raise Hell (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[5:14] 02 Angel’s Song (Deborah Harry)
[4:22] 03 My Name Is Mok (Lou Reed)
[2:11] 04. I’m The Man (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:12] 05. Earth Wind And Fire – Dance Dance Dance
[2:49] 06. Ohm Sweet Ohm (Cheap Trick – Album Version)
[3:15] 07. Triumph (Lou Reed)
[1:28] 08. Hot Dogs & Sushi (Melleny Brown)
[3:28] 09. Invocation Song (Deborah Harry)
[3:41] 10. Pain & Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[5:56] 11. Send Love Through (Deborah Harry and Robin Zander)
[4:30] 12. Maybe For Sure (Deborah Harry)
[5:22] 13. Angel’s Song (Cassette Mix)
[3:29] 14. Invocation Song (Mono Cassette Mix)
[4:35] 15. My Name is Mok (Cassette Mix)
[3:42] 16. Pain And Suffering (Iggy Pop)
[0:52] 17. Triumph (Movie Mix)
[2:35] 18. Angel’s Song (Movie Mix)
[1:38] 19. Invocation Song (Movie Mix)
[1:49] 20. Pain & Suffering (Movie Mix)
[2:06] 21. My Name is Mok (Movie Mix)
[3:36] 22. Triumph (Mono Cassette Mix)

Rock and Rule falls into the category of “…what could have been”. Had MGM had more faith in the project and released it in North America it may have been a hit rather than the cult classic it would eventually become. If you haven’t seen it or are interested in a look at a piece of Canadian animation history check it out, you will not be disappointed.

A solid 4/5 stars.  Dark, and yet at the same time fun.

 

 

Robert Daniels

 

 

REVIEW Round-up: Guns N’ Roses “Not In This Lifetime” Tour (Guest editorial)

GUNS N’ ROSES “Not In This Lifetime” Tour

By David Martin

A little while ago we reached back to the late-‘80s with a review of a Guns N’ Roses live session in New York. It wasn’t a perfect recording, but it’s a nice glance back to the early days of a band that’s become one of rock’s truly iconic groups. Another interesting thing about looking back at this time is that Guns N’ Roses has, against the odds, become something of a modern sensation.

Our first hints ought to have been when GNR started showing up anew in non-music pop culture. The band put out a vague teaser trailer before screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for instance, and also partnered with an online developer to produce a video game in 2016. The latter was particularly random, though it makes sense when you look at the industry. An Australian gaming resource site states simply that presentation is a huge factor on betting and gaming sites, and part of that means introducing visually and sonically interesting games – like a slot reel based on an iconic rock band, in this case.

Neither a teaser trailer nor a video game tipped us off to what would actually start in the spring of 2016 – one of the most surprising tours, arguably in all of musical history. The band took the stage at Coachella – with Axl Rose and Slash sharing the stage for the first time in years – and kicked off an international slate of shows that ultimately extended into 2018. The tour, dubbed “Not In This Lifetime,” has become one of the most successful in modern history from a financial standpoint. And while reviewing it in its entirety isn’t easy (or necessarily possible) we can look at a roundup of reviews for particular shows along the way.

Coachella (April ’16) – “The magic was absent.” This was a take from Vice, building on a headline suggesting that Guns N’ Roses had shown its age at the Coachella show. The review noted hints of pleasure when the band played the hits, as well as Slash’s enduring skill, but ultimately pointed to a lack of chemistry and the simple ravages of time as reasons for an underwhelming reunion.

Detroit (June ’16) – “This was history being made.” This comment came from none other than Rolling Stone, in a piece that directly refuted some of the earlier reviews. Citing a straightened out lineup and an Axl Rose out of the foot cast he’d appeared in for Coachella, it painted the picture of a reunion tour that had found its groove.

London (June ’17) – “You can’t blow the roof off a stadium that doesn’t have one, but they damn well tried.” So said The Guardian after one of GNR’s European shows, painting a picture not only of an electric performance, but of the thrill for an original fan seeing the band back in action again.

Cleveland (October ’17) – “Guns N’ Roses have no intention of coasting to the finish line.” This was a take offered on one of the tour’s later dates. Not only was it yet another positive review, but it was one with the perspective to mention the almost universally positive response to the tour – as well as growing hopes of fresh material from the group.

All in all the impression left by the “Not In This Lifetime” tour is that while there are occasional frustrations stemming from the simple fact that the band’s members have aged, it’s been good to have them back. And on some occasions, they’ve absolutely wowed all their old fans.

 

#663: Going to the (Metal) Extreme! (Guest shot by Dr. Dave)

#663:  Going to the (Metal) Extreme!

By Dr. Dave

 

Disclaimer: I am not THE authority on this subject, or even any of its sub-subjects. I know what I like, and I love all of this stuff.  But I have not gone so far down this rabbit-hole that I have forgotten about Rush, or AC/DC, or the Cure, or Yes, or Neil Young, or John Lee Hooker, or Charles Mingus. I am not someone who would prefer to burn down a church than be caught listening to Steely Dan (love the Dan). But LeBrain requested this, and I have happily complied. It’s been fun to compile this (almost) completely random spiel on the more extreme end of heavy metal.

 

OK, so I need to get this out of the way at the outset. No discussion of “extreme metal” would be complete if I did not mention three particular, foundational bands – Venom, Bathory, and Celtic Frost.  So – what do I do here? Do I admit that I think that Venom is mostly shit? That I think that the Bathory boat left port a long time ago, and that I despair of ever really catching up? Do I admit that I like Celtic Frost more in the concept than the execution? Well, lookee here – seems like I just did all those things. Consider this me getting those things out of the way. (Side note: Celtic Frost released an album called Monotheist in 2006 that I really like. Tom G. Warrior also has another project called Triptykon that is extremely good. “Aurorae” is just such a great tune. Feel the slow, beautiful menace!)

 

“Taking the Black”

 

Immortal – I must start with this band, and in particular Sons of Northern Darkness, for purely personal reasons. This is the album that got me heading in this direction in the first place. It was in Peterborough, where I had a contract for a year at Trent University. I was introduced to this album by being told: “If you like thrash, then you will like this.”  And that is true. Much of the “extremity” of metal is working from that basis. To a 16 year old in 1986, Slayer was pretty extreme to people whose main metal reference point was a band like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, or Iron Maiden. Sons of Northern Darkness as an entire album is, as far as I’m concerned, a perfect exercise in heavy metal. Is it really fast for a lot of the time? Yes. Does it differ from Slayer? Yes. Is the attitude metal? Gods, yes. This is PURE metal, even if it is quintessential “black” metal as well. If you love early Metallica and Slayer, then there is no reason why you shouldn’t love this. It’s that simple. At the Heart of Winter is also stellar. I almost wanted to start killing people in traffic in Cambridge one day, but At the Heart of Winter kept me in my car and happy instead of committing murder. That is what I’d call a ringing endorsement.

 

Dissection – The song “Black Horizons” from The Somberlain. Epic.  A mix of death and black metal, resulting in a metal anthem that totally rules. The “messy” vocals and the speed can put people off, but this is incredible. It is not “well-produced” by contemporary standards. The snare sounds like something that would happen in your older brother’s shitty apartment’s bathroom. And yet…how does such seeming chaos resolve into something so perfect, so anthemic? Don’t even start to listen to this without listening to the entire song. It doesn’t even really start happening until half-way through. The lesson? You don’t need a lot of money and a great studio to record riveting metal. All you need is the balls. From 4:05 on it is just on a whole other level. And 5:33 is among the most metal metal moments I have ever heard.

 

Deathspell Omega – LOL OMG. Paracletus has to be my favorite full-length. It won’t let anything else be. You get it or you don’t. It’s that simple. One YouTube comment I have read about Paracletus called it enigmatic and maddening.  I’d have to agree. But, to help you on your way, I’d suggest trying the song “Malconfort” which encompasses everything “good” about this band in a fairly succinct (for them) five minute package. No one else can make guitars sound like this. It’s just as revolutionary as what Piggy did to the thrash riff with classic Voivod. Yes, this is meant to be difficult and disturbing. That’s why it’s extreme. Does it make sense?  Yes, in some alternate universe. If you can get down with that then do. Nothing else I say will make any difference. Of course, if you want to start with something a little more “accessible,” then I’d go with Drought. My favorite release, even if it’s not a full-length. The song “The Crackled Book of Life” is one of my favorite things recorded this century. The change at 1:30, and then the buildup that follows, never fails to get my juicy bits a-tingle.

Closely related is Blut Aus Nord, who are less chaotic and more industrial, but just as evil. Both are French, by the way. Sacre bleu!

 

MGLA – best black metal band on the planet right now IMO. Direct and catchy, great riffs, phenomenal drummer with great grooves and a sense of drama. The repetition is built into the sub-genre itself, but their changes make it so worthwhile. If you want to see how an “extreme” metal band handles the “live and in concert” experience, then you will want to check out their live shit on YouTube. One of my favorite bands at the moment, and this moment has lasted for almost three years. Exercises in Futility is as good a place to start as any. One of my favorite albums released this century so far. The first track typifies what I love about them – the riffage is hooky yet dissonant at the same time, and the drummer’s approach to his cymbals is utterly unique. You have to train your ear to “get this,” but once you have then nothing else will ever scratch that itch.

 

Drudkh – “Only the Wind Remembers My Name.” They get much faster and more complicated than this, but this is my favorite tune by them. This is what a classic “Black Metal” band should sound like, except that there is that guitar solo, one of my favorite ever, which turns this song into something so much greater. Listen to that solo: it’s worth more than a hundred “glam rock”/”pop metal” solos put together.  But they have so much else to offer. They combined their black metal with post-metal with A Handful of Stars and as far as I’m concerned, that is an incredible album. Start with the beginning of Microcosmos to get the full black metal flavor, and then go to A Handful of Stars. The latter album is why I love Agalloch so much. So similar, yet different. And what I’m talking about here is HEADPHONE METAL. This is not “party metal”.  Listen by yourself, in a dark room, with raging volume. Yes, there is a guy growling at you, but he’s just barking orders. What you need to accept is the grove that the drums and guitars are laying down. Is it too fast? Then just lay back and absorb it. You will get it in time.

 

AgallochAshes Against the Grain baby. Love this. Sink in. Hooks aplenty, but this is taking time between the hooks. Requires patience. Don’t let the vocals put you off. Listen to the instruments. The voice is just another instrument. Remember that. Climax? Yes please! These guys basically wrote the textbook for “post-black metal,” and much of that involves (mostly) the patience it takes to arrive at the climax. And it has atmosphere galore. Favorite song is likely “Falling Snow.” Goosebumps every time.

 

Wolves in the Throne RoomThrice Woven is the latest album, and it easily made my top-10 for 2017. If you don’t get into this then you might as well just give up on Black Metal entirely. It has of all the faults and all the virtues of black metal. Is it too fast? Then just listen and bob your head to the half-time. If you don’t like the riffs themselves, then give up. And, of course, the vocals are nutty. Par for the course, people. This album is pretty much as pure as it gets without being recorded in 1991 in some Norwegian asshole’s basement.

 

(I would be remiss in talking about Black Metal if I did not mention Burzum. Filosfem is absolutely crucial, and your reaction to this album will largely dictate your reaction to Black Metal for the most part, though it is often slower than Mayhem or Darkthrone. “Dunkelheit” is the main song I’d take for a spin, and yes the production can be VERY irritating. The vocals are certainly disgusting, but the sense of mystery and otherworldliness is all there in spades. Atmosphere, repetition, and a strangely seductive discordance is the order of the day here. I totally get why people dismiss it, and I totally get why people dig it. It is the anal sex of music, after all. Also, Varg Vikernes is a garbage person, so that’s a deal-breaker for some. And yes, there is a strong current of fascism and Neo-Nazism running through a lot of black metal, which totally sucks balls.)

 

UlverBergtatt – “Capitel 1 – Troldskog Faren Vild”.  Clean vocals, driving pace, wicked riffs – this is essential early Black Metal that is still accessible to those who don’t like it when goblins “sing.” Good bass motifs (if you really listen for them), and a full-on nifty guitar solo. Yes, the production is dodgy compared to today, but that really doesn’t matter. For a beafier cover of this, check out Winterfylleth’s version on their latest album. But the original, sweet Jayzus – the acoustic interlude around the 5:50 mark, and then the new riff and groove after that? Fuckin’ stupidly awesome. No respectable headbanger can have a problem with this. AT ALL.

 

Winterfylleth – Kings of English black metal (screw Cradle of Filth). They have the anthemic qualities of Iron Maiden but are more aggressive and abrasive. But that “abrasiveness” in the riffage is the whole point, and once you train your ear to accept riffs that aren’t just in fourths or fifths, you will be hooked. “The Swart Raven” is as good an example as any to exemplify why I love the black metal style of riffage (well, that and Mgla).

 

Never got into Darkthrone, but if there is a Gorgoroth song I really like it is “Sign of an Open Eye” – stately pace, repetitive in a good way, and the riff has all the requisite dissonance without sounding like an orc was being raped in the recording of it. This could easily be a boring listen without the necessary submersion required to “get it” – kind of like a hobbit getting raped by an orc, come to think of it. And that’s OK. I’m not here to judge.

 

 

“Choose Death!”

 

Like my “relationship” to Black Metal, my appreciation for Death Metal has huge gaps in it. I do not particularly enjoy some of the essential bands in the genre, like Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, or Deicide. I typically like my Death Metal as some sort of hybrid, usually involving black or prog. Like I said at the outset, I am no purist or completist, and I think a lot of death metal is just dumb. But…

 

Entombed – Earlier albums like Clandestine and Left Hand Path put Swedish death metal on the map, spawning a legion of copycats, and single-handedly popularizing the Boss HM-2 distortion pedal. But for my money, it’s the death-and-roll of Wolverine Blues that really catches my ear. An essential 90s metal album for sure. Just give the title track for a spin. That is attitude and swagger, my friends.

 

Akercocke – “Shelter From the Sand” – this is what happens when you combine progressive metal, death metal, and black metal. Love this. How do you combine Mayhem, Death, and Rush? THIS. Again, if you’re going to get it you must listen to the whole thing. Everything goes sideways halfway through in a very good way. It goes in places that rule, and should be totally accessible even to people who hated the first half of the song.

 

CarcassHeartwork is the opus, as far as I’m concerned, though the earlier, grindcore stuff is good. Yes, their earlier stuff influenced many other bands, but the really GOOD bands picked up on this album. I remember seeing the video for the title track on MuchMusic’s Power Hour (remember that?) and really digging it at a time when I was getting deeply into thrash. And again, if you like the thrash then there is ZERO reason not to like this as well. With a different vocal style this would have been HUGE, but c’est la vie.

 

Death – Probably the true progenitors of the sub-genre, Death is the earliest bridge between thrash and death metal (other than Possessed, which gave the world Larry Lalonde, now playing guitar for Primus). Slower and less brutal than what death metal turned into, Death is nevertheless a band that anyone into thrash should appreciate, just like Immortal. My favorite of theirs is probably Symbolic, which features the mighty Gene Hoglan on drums. The curious thing is that “melodic death metal” (or melo-death) came around after Death, um, died, but I would argue that this band invented “melo-deth” already. Check out “Crystal Mountain” to see what I mean.

 

Cynic – Serious Death connection here, since Paul Masvidal and Sein Reinert both played on Death’s album Human. I bought Focus on cassette not long after it came out, and it took a helluva lot of getting used to. Like a hybrid of death metal and jazz fusion, with some weird robotic vocals. My favorite of theirs is “How Could I” – in particular the 2004 remix which has a gorgeous outro and ending. Just…..wow.

 

Paths to Possession – This is kind of a Cannibal Corpse spin-off (the “vocalist” is the same), but this is quite melodic. The riffs are much more interesting, and I first heard this around the same time I first heard Immortal, but the grim Norwegians really won my frostbitten heart. Nevertheless, this is still really good “death metal,” on the more melodic-side (at least on the guitar end – the vocals are still Cookie Monster on steroids). The first track of Promises in Blood, “Darklands,” is filled with killer riffs.

 

Sepultura (early) – These Brazilian titans were as much death metal as thrash in their early years, before they became the thrash juggernaut that gave us “Arise,” “Roots,” and “Chaos A.D.”  Mind you, those latter two albums helped create nu-metal (along with Helmet, another band whose place in history will be unfairly shadowed by garbage). But I’m not going to hold that against them. I’m not going to recommend anything, because you should really know who they are by now if you know that “heavy metal” is an actual thing.

 

Other bands: Gojira gets put in this category and I’m not sure why. Their last few albums are amazing, and I get it. Meshuggah needs to be mentioned, but they are somewhat controversial because many people hate what they have spawned (djent) in the same way that other bands I’ve mentioned have inspired lesser bands. Do I dig the Meshuggah? Absolutely. Obzen is a good starting place for some, their earlier stuff a better place for some others who prefer the thrash more than the djent. “Bleed” is, well, fucking exhausting, actually. I mean to listen to, never mind playing the goddamn drums. YIKES!

 

Slugdge – This is a very recent discovery, and I am frickin’ LOVING IT. With a name like that you’d expect it to be low, slow, and sticky. But it’s actually sharp, up-tempo, and technical (often with a strong Ackercocke vibe). This is the kind of band I really like to support, because they are going for a niche market – a couple of guys in England who never do live shows, and just basically make records that some people pay money for. The drums are programmed, but they sound pretty damn organic nonetheless. Their song and album titles parody other titles from metal (“Dim and Slimeridden Kingdoms,” “Spore Ensemble,” “Transilivanian Fungus,” “Slave Goo World.”  And the entire mythology is pseudo-Lovecraftian, centered on a cosmic alien space slug named Mollusca. It’s all very silly, but it is AWESOME. I am very happy to end this entire post with this. “Putrid Fairytale” or “War Squids” from brand new album Esoteric Malacology is probably where you should begin your servitude to the mighty Mollusca! This album is pretty much guaranteed to be on my 2018 Top-Ten list, unless Tool plans on releasing ten albums this year. Which would be the funniest thing ever.

Peace out, bitches!

#657: GUEST SHOT! Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)
Guest post by guitarist and songwriter Derek Kortepeter

Alright, so I’m pretty sure all of us can relay some embarrassing moments from our teenage years. I dunno if it’s the changing hormones or what, but we tend to be pretty damn stupid in these formative years. I have been thinking about my teen years a lot recently, most likely since my high school 10 year reunion is coming up in 2019.

I don’t if it’s nostalgia or what, but I have suddenly been reliving a lot of moments from this time. Here’s something you have to know to know about me first before I start my story. I spent most of my education in public schools in Southern California, namely elementary school and college (two years at a Pasadena City College and then three at UCLA as a transfer student). I switched to a small Christian K-12 school for middle and high school because of bullying (cops got involved, nasty stuff). While I was a working class kid of a single mom, this small school had scholarships and financial aid that made it possible for me to attend.

It is at this small school in “SoCal” that my story takes place. This story involves a CD; well, two CDs to be exact. You see, music has been my obsession my entire life (it eventually became what I studied in college). I had a far ranging interest in all kinds of music from around the world but as a teenager rock, namely punk and metal, amped me up the most.

Above all bands was Van Halen.

Pretty much every person that knew me also knew how obsessed I was with the band. It didn’t matter what incarnation of the band, I owned every damn CD and cut my teeth as a guitarist on all those records.

So while I was a teenage metalhead and punk, what went along with that was that I was a bit of…let’s say, a social anomaly. I didn’t really fit into any clique, but most knew me as a decent guy who was just a tad obsessed with Eddie Van Halen. To go along with this, I was horrifically shy around girls I found attractive.

Awkward doesn’t even really cover it, but holy shit did this come to a head in a hilariously embarrassing way with a girl I liked from age 14 to age 15 (this story ranges from late middle school to early high school). Let’s call this girl “S” so that this never makes it back to people I know. Remember how I mentioned that I was a bit of a social misfit? This girl S wasn’t. In fact, she was popular.

Very. Popular.

My dumb ass had the bright idea to get a crush on a (future) cheerleader who hung around (future) jocks that hated my guts (incidentally I did play starting right tackle on the high school football team) and boy was I about to make my mark. Remember how I mentioned that I was shy around girls? Yeah, that meant I couldn’t hold a conversation without my voice cracking from nerves.

So I had a plan to say something without too many words. I was going to go old school and make a mix tape for her since my conversations were very limited. “Oh man S, is going to so dig this! She’ll love that I shared this amazing band with her,” I thought to myself. The thing is, it was my 8th grade year in the early 2000s so cassettes weren’t the thing anymore. As such, I made her a mix CD.

Not just any mix CD though. A VAN HALEN mix CD.

All the classic Roth and Hagar love songs were there man, it didn’t matter that S was more of a Mariah Carey fan, I figured NOBODY could deny the mighty VH.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BOY WAS I WRONG.

Once I made the CD I approached her locker shaking like my apartment during an earthquake and the conversation went something like this.

Me: Hey… uh… hi S!

S: Oh hi Derek.

Me: So uhhhh…I really like Van Halen…and I…uh…(reaching into my backpack) made this CD for you.

S: Ok?

Me: Yeah…soooo…let me know what you think…k bye!

A day passed and I approached her again towards the end of the day. I figured “OK dude, this is it, you’re gonna find out how much she dug it!” Cue scene:

Me: So… how did you like Van Halen?

S: (nods slightly, forces a polite smile) Yeah… it was… pretty good.

Me: Cool! I, um, yeah cool see ya!

Later on I found out that she didn’t even listen to the damn thing. Friends of mine standing near the “popular group” heard that she didn’t even want the CD and tried to hand it over to guys in the group that liked metal. Major bummer.

But I wasn’t finished embarrassing myself hooooooooo boy I was just getting started.

The 8th grade year ended and I continued to make awkward conversation with S and left a couple of really geeky messages on her home answering machine (FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY). On the last day of the end of the year I was risking my neck by wearing a Van Halen t-shirt (band shirts were banned by the fascists at my school). I wore it in rebellion of the fact that we were going to have to wear uniforms starting my freshman year of high school. That day I got her to sign my yearbook and she wrote, I’m paraphrasing more or less, “you’re awesome, never change <3 –S”

DUDE SHE PUT A HEART OMG.

You see I didn’t realize at the time that girls just do that sort of thing, so I figured I still had a chance. Anyways, I got made fun of quite a bit by the jocks for the whole Van Halen thing, but still liked S. Come freshman year I was a starter on the football team (still not a jock…just was a great lineman), and S had recently had her birthday.

Operation Van Halen part 2 was on.

This time I made a pastel artwork for her (I was a decent artist back then) and… also made another fucking mix CD. This time it was mixed with some more recent bands popular at the time, but still had Van Halen and also some solo Roth and Hagar as well.

Conversation follows here:

Me: So… I have something for you, wait here (I run into the athletic locker room and get the gift).

Me: (hands the artwork and CD over) Happy birthday S.

S: (stares blankly) Oh… you didn’t have to do that (gives awkward hug).

Me: (freaking out that she hugged me) Yeah…uh happy birthday, bye!

In the year that followed this solidified my place in the pantheon of stupidity as the hostility of the jocks increased since I continued to try to pursue a chick outside of my social standing. Eventually I gave up and moved on with my life. Van Halen became a running joke among the popular crowd (one jock grabbed my yearbook and wrote VAN HALEN SUCKS just for “lolz”).

Joke was on them though, I eventually became a really great guitarist (I’m sure Mike can testify to this) and performed frequently in front of the school. My senior year the leader of the worship band asked me to play this Steve Vai piece; I won 2nd place in the talent show for (most people thought I was robbed of 1st). Incidentally, I was placed right in front of S and her pals for the performance.

I wonder if she remembered those stupid CDs I made.

#626.5: The Big Lists of 2017 Part Five: The Mighty Meat

Uncle Meat’s Top Ten Movies of 2017

  1. I, Tonya
  2. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  3. Jim and Andy : The Great Beyond – Featuring a very special, contractually obligated mention of Tony Clifton
  4. Baby Driver
  5. It
  6. Justice League
  7. Gilbert
  8. Logan
  9. Get Me Roger Stone
  10. ESPN 30 for 30 – Ric Flair: The Nature Boy

 

 

Uncle Meat’s Top Ten Albums of 2017

 

I must admit that it was hard doing this list, for the simple reason that Uncle Meat rarely likes anything new.  Call me a Fuddy-Duddy…call me stuck in the glorious past…But you cants call me Johnson.  Considering I am using a very old reference to the David Steinberg show, maybe I should just get on to 2017 instead.

 

10)  Queens of the Stone Age – Villains  – The first track on this album called “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” came out and literally kicked me in the face…pun intended.  But the rest of the album drags and is kinda forgettable.  However the aforementioned track might be my song of the year so it makes up the bottom end of this list.

 

9)   Pallbearer – Heartless   – Not as blatant as my number 10 entry, but again this is based mostly off one track. The song pointed out by Dr. Dave,  “I Saw the The End”, seems to have so many intentional or unintentional “nods” within it they are hard to count.  I have heard it reminds people of Queensryche, Iron Maiden, King’s X…etc.  But the rest of the album doesn’t seem to live up to that glorious track.

 

8)  Deep Purple – InFinite  – Yet another solid output from Morse-era Deep Purple.  Steve Morse has been in the band so long now it seems weird to keep referring to the “Morse era” anymore.  Ian Gillan is writing vocal lines that seem to better suit his limited vocal range right now.  I really like the keyboards on this album.  Even Frank put one of the tracks as his song of the year.  Listen to Frank.

 

7)  Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – The Nashville Sound  –  Someone has to mention something other than “Heavy Metal Bullshit” on this site.  2017 may have been a bit of a Metal resurgence year for me, but Jason Isbell’s 2017 offering needs to be on this list.  His lyrics are reminiscent of the great John Prine on this album.  He also rocks out a little bit more here, which is good because I found some previous album to be way too mamby-pamby and not enough guts.  Plenty of guts and beauty on this record.

 

6)  Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun  – This band was introduced to me by Doctor Doom a few years ago.  Always appreciated what they do but found it hard to get into.  A few listens of Every Country’s Sun, and it’s diverse song styles have made me more than appreciate them. It is really quite simple.  I need to hear more Mogwai.

 

5)  Steve Earle and the Dukes –  So You Wanna Be an Outlaw  – I have only had a couple listens of this in full, which just is not enough to really dig into a Steve Earle album.  But what I have heard I have loved, as per usual.  You just cant go wrong with Mr. Earle.

 

4)  Power Trip – Nightmare Logic – Was introduced to this album by a review on Banger TV (highly recommended You Tube channel run by Sam Dunn).  It was compared to Slayer’s Reign in Blood both in overall style and the album’s short running time.  Once again the past draws me in as it definitely is “old school Thrash Metal”.  Not an album I could listen to a lot, but hard not to elicit a reaction anytime it comes on.

 

3)  The Necromancers Servants of the Salem GirlIron Tom Sharpe or whatever he calls himself here on this blog introduced me to this French band that totally rocks.  Sounds like an oxymoron I know, but it indeed rocks.  I really find they remind me of Orange Goblin at times, which is a high compliment in my world.  I have found myself in the rock guitar pose frequently with this album playing.  Frank would like it.

 

2) Elder – Reflections of a Floating World  – Elder came out of absolutely nowhere for me about a month ago. Kicked my fucking ass…and soul.  Reflections of a Floating World is absolutely the greatest collection of music I heard in 2017.  I couldn’t put it number one which will be explained shortly, however it is so fucking good I would say this might be my favourite “Metal” album in many many years.  Years ago I wanted so bad to find a truly Progressive Metal band, and the closest thing I could find was Dream Theater.  But they continually had this gloss and sparkly side to them which turned me off a lot of the time.  If Pink Floyd and Kyuss had a baby, and it grew up listening to nothing but Gabriel Genesis albums, you would get Reflections of a Floating World.  The singer kinda reminds me of Perry Farrell, which seems like an odd fit but works perfectly.  No barking on this record.  The second track, “The Falling Veil”, is a song I have went to many times within the last month.  If you like good music, and have the patience to appreciate it, soak yourself in this record.  Do it, Frank.

 

1) Five Alarm Funk – Sweat  – Do I think this is the best album of 2017?  As mentioned earlier, that goes to my number 2.  However this was by far my favourite album of this year as well as my favourite band of this year.  Five Alarm Funk is Canada’s best keep secret, but subsequent albums never really captured what it was like to see this band live.  They did release a great live album in 2016, but what FAF have created with Sweat seems to be taking the energy of their live shows and writing appropriate music to suit their show.  The song “Iceberg” is as many parts Zappa and “Heavy Metal Bullshit” as it is a funk song.  Many other tracks have this groovy girth to them.  If you hear about Five Alarm Funk playing a show near you…you owe it to yourself to see Canada’s hardest working band.  The band will kick your ass and back again while you are dancing to it.  But this album will do in a pinch. Love these fucking guys.


And we love you, fuckin’ Meat!

 

#626.3: The Big Lists of 2017 Part Three: Iron Tom Sharpe

No commentary from Tom, just rock.  Pay attention, as many of these titles are recurring on these lists!

 

Tom’s Top 20 for 2017

20 Vulfpeck – Mr. Finish Line

19 The Wizards Of Delight – The Wizards Of Delight (EP)

18 Neil Young – Hitchhiker

17 Thundercat – Drunk

16 Mothership – High Strangeness

15 Steve Hackett – Night Siren

14 Deep Purple – InFinite

13 Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

12 Gov’t Mule – Revolution Come Revolution Go

11 John Garcia – The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues

10 Pallbearer – Heartless

9 Steve Earle – So You Wannabe an Outlaw

8 Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

7 Magpie Salute – Magpie Salute

6 Jason Isbell – The Nashville Sound

5 Fireball Ministry – Remember the Story

4 The Obsessed – Sacred

3 The Atomic Bitchwax – Force Field

2 Five Alarm Funk – Sweat

1 The Necromancers – Servants of the Salem Girl

#626.2: The Big Lists of 2017 Part Two: Frank gets frank with you

First timer but long time fester FRANK drops his lists of awesome.  Who is Frank?  He is the Sausagefest Man of Mystery.  All we really know about Frank is that he pays his rock and roll taxes on time every time.  Here’s his best of 2017, and just because the rest of us did albums, Frank brings his best songs and movies.

His only commentary:  “After doing this list I realised I need to stop watching so many kids movies.”

Frank’s Top Ten for 2017

Movies 2017

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • The Kingsmen: The Golden Circle
  • Justice League
  • Logan
  • Cars 3
  • Spiderman: Homecoming
  • Lego Batman
  • John Wick 2

Songs 2017

  • Fozzy – “Judas”
  • Mastodon – “Show Yourself”
  • Trivium – “The Sin and the Sentence”
  • Five Finger Death Punch – “Gone Away”
  • DragonForce – “Ashes of the Dawn”
  • Theory of a Dead Man – “Rx (Medicate)”
  • Kreator – “Hail to the Hordes”
  • Stone Sour – “Song #3”
  • Clutch – “150 Pesos”

#626.1: The Big Lists of 2017 Part One: Dr. Dave

 

 

Dr. Dave’s Top Ten for 2017

By Dr. Dave Haslam

I can’t believe that it’s been another year and I have to do one of these things again. Where does the time go? Right into the shitter, apparently.

Anywho, where was I?

 

Not a great year, but not a terrible one, either (musically speaking). Since I’ve become something of a “standard bearer” for LeBrain, flying the dirty, blood-stained banner of METAL year after year, it should not be surprising that most of my list is metallic. I tend to gravitate towards that, though I could mention things non-metallic (Stranger Things, Godless, Big Mouth) that are not musical but which would feature in my yearly “best-of” if I did not choose to restrict myself to my top-10 musical releases of the year. And, for the record, I do like things that are not metal. Just…not so much these days. And that’s not really my fault. So…

 

10 – Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

Old-school thrash that is direct and catchy. The speed and double-bass assault is kept to a minimum, so the emphasis is on the mid-tempo swagger and the down-picked chug. Totally convincing without sounding like a nostalgia act (I hate that). There are parts that recall Slayer (the sudden accelerations) and Exodus (the tricky rhythmic shifts in some of the riffs), but, by and large, it doesn’t sound completely derivative of any particular band. Nicely done! (Question: how long are we going to have to wait, with Trump’s America, for some obscene country-rap duo named “Buy and Large” to break big? Don’t tell me you can’t imagine it. I know you can. And that is SAD!).

Song Selection: “Executioner’s Tax: (Swinging the Axe)”

 

9Paradise Lost – Medusa

So apparently there is a Halifax in England as well as in New Scotland (Latin is for jerks, word to your mother). And judging by the output of that town’s most notable musical export, it must be a really, really, REALLY gloomy place. Paradise Lost has been one of metal’s most unsung bands since the late 80s (check out Draconian Times if you think I’m fooling – that shit’s killer). They’ve made some dizzying left turns in that time, but they’ve mostly returned to their roots, which is a hybrid of doom and death metal. They’ve released better albums than Medusa in the past ten or twelve years, but I just have to include this on principle.

Song Selection: anything really, it’s all pretty much the same.

 

8 – The Necromancers – Servants of the Salem Girl

Props to Mr. Morwood for drawing my attention to this French outfit who present as a less-polished, more sprawling Ghost, filtered through some Fu Manchu and a host of other stoner/70s humping outfits. They even have a BOC feel, like in the opening track, which has a chorus reminiscent of “Astronomy.” And then, at 3:50, they bust out a runaway freight-train of a riff that recalls the finest moments of Porcupine Tree’s “Fear of a Blank Planet.” And delicious solos to boot! A band to watch as they grow and better digest their influences.

Song selection: “Salem Girl, Part 1”

 

7 – Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis

Back in the 90s, these sincere (and snazzily-dressed) English Satanists combined death, black, and progressive metal in a manner that veered from the unsettling to the undeniable (Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone will always be their opus). In 2017, they came roaring back after a long hiatus, and though they left the Brooks Brothers’ suits behind them, they are still a complex and scary proposition. Hail Satan!

Song selection: “Disappear”

 

6 – The Obsessed – Sacred

Thankfully, I have seen Wino perform at least once. It was in Philly, at the North Star Bar, for one of Spirit Caravan’s last live performances. The man is a legend – as close as any American comes to Lemmy, and he can basically do no wrong. Revivifying The Obsessed – a band that should have become major in the late-80s/early-90s – is as good a way as any to reassert himself. Nothing fancy here, just dirty and crusty heavy rock, done right.

Song Selection:

 

5 – Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

Ah, Mogwai. Glaswegian post-rock titans. The only live band I’ve ever seen that was louder than Mogwai was Motorhead. That…was a while ago. Nowadays, Mogwai have three basic templates: the poppy/happy Mogwai, the ambient Mogwai (which has seen them become a very-much-in-demand soundtrack band), and the crushing, guitars-up-to-twelve band that I originally fell in love with. They don’t really start cranking it up until the second half of this album, but for “Old Poisons” alone this is easily a top-ten release for me. Their melodic turns often come from left field, but that’s part of the charm. Nobody else does this shit better.

Song selection: “Old Poisons”

 

4 – Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice-Woven

I’m not, nor ever will be, a “black metal” purist or “troo kvltist.” I’m pretty sure many of those a-holes will slag this album with their last dying, frosty breath, but I don’t give a corpse-painted shit. After the demise of Agalloch, WiiTR stand alone atop the Cascadian Black Metal heap (that’s black metal from America’s Pacific Northwest for you noobs). After taking a whole lot of shit for their last album, in which they apparently let their ambient/experimental instincts take over (I’m afraid to listen to it, frankly), WiiTR have come back with an album that could stand as a “how-to” or “Idiot’s Guide” for composing black metal riffs and melodies. Each song has it’s ambient/atmospheric passages, but the riffs themselves are almost parodically perfect. The production is both modern and inviting; while “classic” black metal albums from the 90s sound like they were recorded in an over-turned dumpster, the sounds here are warm – the drums are thunderous yet precise, and the guitars are perfectly balanced between the biting and the enveloping.  This is THE record that could get any sane, functioning metalhead into black metal. It’s great. Fuck off and give it a listen. And if you let the raspy vocals put you off then you are weak, and you are why the world has gone to shite.

Song Selection:

 

3 – Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

Ho-hum. Another year, another Mastodon album in my top-10, as should be expected. “But they’re popuuular! They’re mainstreeeeeeem! They suck now!” Yeah, you know what? Go shit in your hat.

Song Selection: “Steambreather”

 

2 – Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

More of a #1b than an actual #2, this is the left hook to the next album’s right cross that made 2017 the year of progressive doom for me. Sumptuous, sprawling without being indulgent, sensitive yet strong, progressive without being a wankfest…holy shit, I can’t believe these guys are from Boston! Somehow it all hangs together in an entirely organic way. The live footage on YouTube of them performing “Sanctuary” is fantastic. Why they are on some obscure German record label is beyond me. Boston’s not that far away, you know. Throw us puckheads a fucking bone and come for a visit, Massholes!

Song Selection: “Sanctuary”

 

1 – Pallbearer – Heartless

            Heartless? I think not. This, like the Elder, has it all – dramatic arrangements, stirring melodies, and riff after riff after riff. Sure, it was kind of a cock-tease when they pre-released “I Saw The End” and it turned out to be the most directly impactful song, and arguably the best several straight minutes on the whole album. But fuck, that’s not just splitting hairs; that’s splitting the hairs on a paramecium. (Or a Porg. Now, really, what’s that deal?  I mean, look at them. They’ve got a brain the size of a very small plum. Yet one of them gets to co-pilot a spaceship? Fucking nonsense. Would you let your cat use a blender? Exactly.)

Song Selection: “I Saw The End”

 

So that’s it. Peace to you all and all your loved ones (unless they’re dicks).

And on a final note: please please please stop using the phrase “it is what it is.” It’s a tautology, and as such it is utterly devoid of any meaningful content. Seriously – just stop. It’s not Zen. It’s not wise. It’s silly. It is a form of cognitive surrender. And do we really need any MORE of that these days?

 

Dr Dave