Guest Shot

Sunday Chuckle: No Quarter (by Mrs. LeBrain)

Currency is a method used to pay for goods and services in the country or region where these good and services are provided.  Its denominations are very specific and exact.  Often, the customer cannot pay the vendor an exact amount so the vendor is required to return the difference to the customer to complete the transaction.  This action is commonly referred to as making “change”.

Money is highly recognisable to its users.  Larger denominations are made of universally sized paper and plastic sheets referred to as “bills”.  Smaller denominations are metal pieces with a circular shape in a variety of sizes known as “coins”.  The different sizes typically indicate value so they can easily be detected and assessed by their users.  Many nations have ‘coins’ very similar in colour and shape, but with the value of these coins being so small, most users cannot be bothered to examine these pieces closely to confirm authenticity.

A common coin in Canada is known as a “quarter” which has a value of 25 cents.  (1/4 of a dollar) To put this into perspective, my daily coffee costs about eight quarters and an ass-kicking rock CD would cost Lebrain about 80 of these things.

One afternoon, after having a morning coffee with one of my girlfriends, we decided to visit the “Golden Arches” for a quick and unhealthy lunch.  The order came out to $11.25, and for once I had EXACT change (woot!!!).  I reached into my purse and pulled out my ten dollar bill, my one dollar coin (known in Canada as a ‘Loonie’) and what I thought was a “quarter”.

The cashier and her supervisor examined the coin closely and gave it back to me.

McD:  “What is this?”

Me:  “A quarter.”

McD:  (In a rude, shaming tone) “No it isn’t and we can’t accept it from you”

I took the coin back and gave the cashier a fifty dollar bill (making her provide me with a lot of change to complete the transaction.  It turns out the “quarter” was a Swiss Franc with an exchange value of $1.27 CAD.

Their loss, my gain.  I just hope they didn’t spit in my fries.

Mrs. LeBrain

Advertisements

#605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!” 

GETTING MORE TALE #605: “Hey, you got a message, use Western Union!”

Featuring guest essay by John Hubner

“A lot of bands mature, which means they get square; they start delivering messages. Hey, you got a message, use Western Union.” – David Lee Roth

When David Lee Roth made that legendary statement, he was talking about rock and roll bands who take things too seriously.  Might as well jump?  This is course is a matter of taste.  I enjoy Van Halen and ZZ Top, but I also enjoy the more cerebral works of Marillion and Dream Theater.  In music there truly is room for all tastes and styles.  Few genres are as diverse as rock and roll, even lyrically.  If a writer is a strong enough to embed personal messages in their words that might go undetected by the listener, then this kind of lyric should be celebrated.  On the other hand, fans are sometimes turned off when the messages are too overt.  U2 have faced some backlash over this.

So, rock bands:  by all means, feel free to tell us all about climate change, globalism, big pharma and Wall Street.  If you do it well, the fans won’t mind.  On the other hand, there is no shame in rock and rolling all nite and partying every day.  As Paul Stanley once said in one of his many stage raps, “We all came here tonight to escape from the world! Tomorrow morning when we get up it’ll be just as screwed up as it is today. We might as well have a little fun!” And that is certainly one very valid reason to rock.

Even here, in these very virtual pages, I’ve taken a few liberties where I’ve veered slightly off course.  I’ve preached a little bit about the plight of the Indigenous Canadian.  Other tangents included mental health, stigma, religion, tolerance, and even the rights of service dog owners, with music as the common thread.  I hope I haven’t offended anyone with these fairly benign notions.  I try to be careful.  As a writer, I founded myself with two projects:  my reviews, and Record Store Tales.  Most of you got here because of the music, and so that’s what I deliver.  I don’t need to bore you with social justice or environmental ideals.  I don’t want to bore myself, either.

Speaking of Record Store Tales, one of its many focuses was to relay lessons I learned from a decade of retail management.  Any time I walk into any record store, I could make mental lists of things they are doing great and others for Continual Improvement.  That goes for a lot of retail in general too.  Back to the subject at hand…and this should be patently obvious to most sensible people…leave your personal politics out of your customer service job.

Mrs. LeBrain and I were up at the cottage a couple years ago, and we stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up some bathroom essentials and some candy.  There was only one cashier on duty and she was a chatty one.  There was a problem with the person in front of us; something wasn’t scanning right.  It took forever to fix, and this cashier would not stop talking.  I had a feeling we’d be in for some chatting when she finally got to us.

I was right, and it didn’t start well with a “How are you today darlin’?”  Fine…thanks.  “Would you like a bag for this?”  I glanced at Mrs. LeBrain who nodded yes and said, “Yeah a couple bags.”  Her response threw me for a loop.

“Well have you seen the landfill?” she asked me in a condescending tone.

“Ummm…no?” I answered, very puzzled.

“Well,” she began, “There’s no room left in the landfill and the birds are choking on plastic from garbage bags…”

I politely let her finish, and then explained, “OK, but we have dogs here at the cottage, and these bags will be used for them.”  There were in fact three poop factories (Schnauzers) at the cottage that weekend.*  Stoop and scoop, people.  Stoop and scoop.

It’s none of her business why I wanted those bags, I didn’t need to explain myself and I certainly didn’t need to be lectured about reusing and recycling.  I went through highschool at the start of the green revolution.  I do my best to be a responsible inhabitant of Mother Earth.  Rest assured, I am not some littering jackass who doesn’t give a shit.  Sometimes you just need a couple plastic bags, goddammit!

I thought about being “that customer” and complaining about the talky cashier, but decided to live and let live, and instead save it for this story.  Consider my wisdom, young padawans.  You don’t know your customers as well as you think you might.  Say too much, and you just might lose your customer, or find them complaining about you to your boss, as happened to me once when I made a snarky comment about Radiohead!**

So ends today’s lesson, friends.  Do you agree with this experience and advice?

We asked Schnauzer expert John Hubner for a “message” about how awesome Schnauzers are.  He sent us the following treatise:


Klaus. Dieter. Helmut. Otto.

No, these are not the names of former members of Kraftwerk. Nor are they the names off the guest list to Angela Merkel’s surprise birthday party. Those four names are the miniature schnauzers that have had a profound effect on my life. “Miniature schnauzers? What?” Yes, those sometimes salt and pepper, sometimes gray, sometimes black, and occasionally blonde yippy terriers that bark bloody murder at you every time you pass by their house(the bark is usually followed up with a crazed “KNOCK IT OFF!” from the same house.) Those dogs with the short stature, manly beard, and a nub for a tail. They have personality for miles and loyalty till the end. They’re the go-to pooch for old ladies and your great aunt that doesn’t like men all that much.
How did I end up miniature schnauzer poster boy? I was a sick kid who suffered from allergies. When I asked my mom why we couldn’t get a Boxer she said it was because of my allergies. But not long after that a book on miniature schnauzers showed up at our house and I was told if we ever got a dog it would be a schnauzer. When I asked why my mom said “Well, schnauzers have hair like your dad’s hair, while a Boxer has hair like your uncle Chuck.” “We never see uncle Chuck” I said. “Exactly, because we’re allergic to him” my mom replied.
Regardless of that bizarre exchange, a miniature schnauzer ended up at our house when I was 8 years old and the rest is history. Growing up with a mini schnauzer I grew to love their loyalty but need for personal space. They weren’t goofy and sloppy like bigger breeds; but they weren’t standoffish like poodles and cats. What I came to realize is that miniature schnauzers are a lot like me. They can laugh and joke and rub elbows for awhile, but eventually they need to retreat from the crowds and the chit chat. Every mini schnauzer I’ve ever known mingle for a bit, then they say “See ya” and head for the comfort of their favorite spot on the couch. I love that about ’em. I respect that.
Miniature schnauzers are better than your dog. Sorry, it’s true. They’re like grumpy little people that don’t take crap from nobody and they’ve got an awesome beard to prove it. They’re loyal, temperamental, prone to anxiety, and do NOT like people knocking on the front door. They like to nap and will tell you what they want when you’re in the kitchen. They howl when left alone in the house and they keep the couch from floating away for a greater part of the day.
I think I’m part schnauzer.

** Freed of the shackles of the Record Store, I can say I like Radiohead enough to own a couple CDs, but still find them so very pretentious. 

GUEST REVIEW: Rush – “Distant Early Warning” (1984) by Aaron Lebold

I asked Aaron Lebold if he wouldn’t mind throwing in a few words about “Distant Early Warning” for my Grace Under Pressure review.  He sent me 772 words!  So here’s an entire separate post for you — Aaron Lebold on “Distant Early Warning”.

 

RUSH – “Distant Early Warning” / “Between the Wheels” (1984 Anthem)

by Aaron Lebold

Mike has asked me to do a review on the song “Distant Early Warning” by Rush.  When I first met Mike I quickly realized that Rush was one of his favorite bands,* and though he showed me a lot of their work, this song was the one that always stuck out to me the most.

My interpretation of the song may be a bit different now than it was when I first heard it; one of the greatest things about music is that its personal meaning can shift depending on what is going on in your own life.  I find musical interpretation to be completely personal, and what you take from it may be completely different than what the artist even intended.**

I was always reluctant to hear the artists of the songs I enjoyed explain them, as it could feel very crushing if the impact it had on me was not the actual meaning. I will explain what this song means to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m right.  It does mean that I am able to see why it had relevance to me, and if you have found a different interpretation, you are not wrong.

“An ill wind comes arising, Across the cities of the plain, There’s no swimming in the heavy water, No singing in the acid rain, Red alert, Red alert”

To me this is the ability to foresee an event, there is a metaphoric storm on its way, and it is serious enough for us to stop our own distractions, and unhealthy coping strategies in order to prepare for what is ahead.

“It’s so hard to stay together, Passing through revolving doors, We need someone to talk to, And someone to sweep the floors, Incomplete,  Incomplete”

This talks about the separation among us as people to me; we all tend to find our own paths and some of us become relevant to each other, where others become lower class, and we may see them as nothing more than the person who is sweeping the floors for us. This type of discrimination makes us incomplete as a human race.

“Cruising under your radar, Watching from satellites, Take a page from the red book, And keep them in your sights, Red alert, Red alert”

This again is a reference to having greater insight than others may possess. Being able to observe a situation undetected and being able to gather forethought about what the results may be.  The Red Book is a reference to Psychology, and this suggests using that manner of thinking as you move forward.

“Left and rights of passage, Black and whites of youth, Who can face the knowledge, That the truth is not the truth, Obsolete, Absolute, yeah”

To me this makes reference to our way of thinking, and things we may have misinterpreted as priority.  Rights of passage is the idea of moving from one group to another, and relates to social classes and advancement. Separating the races of children is another method of creating a divide.  The truth could refer to the idea that we are all one class and one collective  group of people, and that a lot of our perceptions are obsolete in the big picture.

“The world weighs on my shoulders, But what am I to do? You sometimes drive me crazy, But I worry about you”

To me this means that even though I may have my own problems, and I don’t always agree with someone’s actions, I still care for them and can’t help but notice when they seem to be heading in a bad direction.

“I know it makes no difference, To what you’re going through, But I see the tip of the iceberg
And I worry about you”

This basically means to me, that I am aware that my insight does not change your situation, but I can see the bigger picture and it makes me worried about how it may end up affecting you.  The Tip of the Iceberg is of course a reference to the Titanic, and how there is much more lurking under the water than is visible from the surface. The results can be potentially devastating, as they were for the historic vessel.

I can’t recall exactly what drew me to this song when I was younger, and I may have interpreted things differently back then, but the bottom line is that I found relevance and importance in the lyrics.  You may have a completely different take on this song, which is great.  The best thing about music is using it to find our own connections, and get us through our own lives.

Aaron Lebold


* So he thought.  In 1994 I was still a Rush poser.  I only owned Chronicles.  

 

** “Distant Early Warning” was written about the loneliness of someone who worked the DEW Line- a system of radar stations in the far northern Arctic region of Canada set up to detect incoming Soviet bombers during the Cold War, and provide early warning of any sea-and-land invasion. – wikipedia

#592: Gene Simmons on Addiction? (GUEST SHOT by Aaron Lebold)

Please join me in welcoming back guest writer Aaron Lebold. Today he’s discussing Gene Simmons’ recent controversial comments on addiction.  This post was intended for Saturday, but as it happens, August 25 is Gene’s birthday.  So, here is Saturday’s post a little early.  Happy birthday, Gene!

GETTING MORE TALE #592: Gene Simmons on Addiction?
Guest shot by Aaron Lebold

In a recent interview with The Chicago Tribune, Gene Simmons from the band Kiss is quoted as making the following statement;

“I’ve never done drugs or alcohol, so my soul is intact.”

I have never personally been a fan of Kiss, and have always found the way they present themselves, and the way they sound to be a bit of a dichotomy. Regardless of my personal opinion, I have always done my best to remain objective. With this in mind, I find this statement to be rather ignorant.

Clearly the notion of avoiding substances is a positive thing, and the fact that he is successful in many ways and has never used any drugs, or alcohol sends a positive message. This statement however seems to fuel the stigma that people who do drugs are not as good as the rest of society. Apparently Gene thinks that people who struggle with addiction no longer have souls that are intact.

Drugs and alcohol are simply a byproduct of a bigger picture, and just because Gene has not found a place for them in his own life does not mean that he hasn’t taken other things to excess in the same manner. Everyone who has heard of Gene Simmons has also heard about the countless sexual partners he has had, and is likely aware that he will make money off just about anything.

Sexual addiction is a very real thing, and can ruin lives and relationships in the same way as drug or alcohol dependency. Of all the partners Gene has had over the years, I imagine that not all of them were single, and a lot of relationships were likely destroyed. This shows disregard for others, and selfishness in the same way that can be presented by people in addiction seeking their next fix.

I am also fairly certain that with numbers like Gene has, he didn’t always use protection. The risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections or diseases strongly mirrors that of a heroin addict who is willing to share needles. It is reckless and potentially fatal, and also runs the risk of passing them on to others unknowingly. Again, this is typical addict behavior.

When we think of addiction it is often drugs or alcohol that first come to mind, but that is only one way that this can be presented. Most addicts use substances to cope, but after a certain amount of time it becomes obvious to others, and they generally seek help. This is not always the case, but they say the first step is admitting you have a problem, and judging by Gene’s constant bragging I assume he has yet to reach that conclusion.

Just because someone is successful it doesn’t mean they are happy, money and fame will only take you so far, then like everything else in life the novelty will wear off. The amount of marketing that Gene Simmons is involved with is often comical. I generally compare him to Krusty the Clown from the TV show The Simpsons because he wears make-up and will put his name on anything if he thinks it may sell.

Money and business are also things that can be addicting. Anything that takes the focus off your life, or your own problems can overtake your reality. Does Gene Simmons really need to make a Kiss Coffin? A kiss toilet seat? These are real items for sale, and to me this indicates that Gene clearly is more focused on making money then preserving integrity.

Things are not always as they seem, just because Gene Simmons looks like he has it all, my guess is that he is just as lost as the rest of us. He even went to the extent of recently trying to patent the “devil horns” hand gesture, which was being done before he even got into music. How do you get to the point where you already have more money then you could ever spend, but still want to try and stake claim to the way others can shape their own hands?

To me that speaks of someone who is obsessed, which again is no different then someone who struggles with any other addiction. It is not my place to criticize someone I don’t know, but at the same time it isn’t his place either. The idea that he is better than anyone else because he has abstained from drugs is laughable. He clearly has no problems taking things to excess, and my guess is that if he found enjoyment in drugs he would likely have a different story.

Some people simply don’t like to alter the way they think or feel. Sometimes it is hard for them to be in a position where they have less control over what is going on their life. The fact that Gene Simmons has never used to the point of intoxication does not make him a hero, his actions have still destroyed lives and turned into an obsession. Substances just weren’t his thing, and avoiding things you don’t like isn’t exactly a heroing feat.

If you are interested in blogs about addiction and recovery, please check out my wordpress site;
aaronleboldblogs.wordpress.com

#574: GUEST SHOT – Association Through Music

GETTING MORE TAKE #574:  Association Through Music
Guest shot by Aaron Lebold

A sequel to #571:  Record Store Tales – A Different Perspective

Before I met Mike, my knowledge of music was pretty minimal, and I had not yet been able to see the influence it could have on daily life.  I mostly listened to what my friends had shown me, which was basically dance and rap music.  I did have a friend who made me a mix tape, it mostly consisted of tracks from one of those Dance Mix [also known as MuchDance] albums, but amongst all that was “Sweating Bullets” by Megadeth.  I listened to this song fairly often.

When I met Mike I absorbed a lot of his musical tastes.  I looked up to him, and he seemed to know a lot about music, and was very passionate about it. Initially I was just enjoying what I liked the sound of, but this eventually shifted to me being a  bit of a music snob, and focusing mostly on the lyrics, and the message of the song.

Some of the first bands Mike showed me were Soundgarden and Rush.*  Once I got more into music I found I enjoyed a lot of Rush’s music, but couldn’t really find much personal value in it.  There was one song, “Distant Early Warning” that I always found to be powerful, and to this day it is still my favorite song by the band.  I have a feeling that Mike still thinks of me when he hears this song.**

I also associate Rush with a different element of my life.  I had a friend who I spent a lot of time with, and  really liked the girl who lived next door to him.  I remember talking to her about music, and at this point I still didn’t really have an abundance of knowledge, so I went with the few things I had learned from Mike at the time.  I told her I liked Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Rush.  I remember her response of “Rush sucks” made me feel a bit embarrassed, because with music in general I really didn’t know what I was even talking about at that point in time.***

Another association I still have to this day is in relation to Soundgarden. It was around the time that Superunknown had been released, and Mike and I were both huge fans of the album.  At this point in my life I was starting to find value in the lyrics, and Soundgarden and Nirvana really had what I was looking for.

I used to live across the street from a public school, and one evening Mike and I went over there and were just belting out the lyrics to “Spoonman.”  I would take the more mellow parts like “All my friends are skeletons,”  and Mike would follow by screaming at full capacity “They beat the rhythm with their bones”.  This would of course prompt us to both yell “Spoonman!” in unison.

I find it pretty extraordinary that music can be tied so tightly to memory.  I saw Soundgarden play in Toronto a couple years back on their reunion tour, and even then I thought of Mike when they went into “Spoonman.”  

If you are interested in learning a bit more about me, please check out my work on Medium.  

https://medium.com/@aaronleboldbmr  

I am in the process of reflecting on my life story.  Feel free to share some of your most memorable events that you use music to help you remember in the comment section below.

Godspeed,
Aaron

* Rush I remember, but I didn’t know I could take credit for getting him into Soundgarden.  That’s pretty cool.  

** I do!

*** Perhaps I should have warned him that girls did not like Rush.

#571.5: Aaron Lebold BMR – Diagnosis

New guest Aaron Lebold has launched his own site on Medium!  His site, much like Record Store Tales/Getting More Tale, is his memoirs.  Aaron will still be back here doing guest shots — he’s already sent me his newest one.  I wanted to post his most recent story from his own site here because it has personal meaning to me.  Regular readers here know that my wife has epilepsy.  It has been the biggest challenge ever thrown at us.  His story reminds me of ours.  Aaron was also the first person I ever knew to have seizures, although I never saw him have one.  

Diagnosis

As I had mentioned, the teacher I had for Grade six was the same teacher I had earlier in school. This was also the same teacher that went to my mother to express concerns about my attention in class. I held a pretty big resentment towards her back then, as I felt she was saying that something was wrong with me.

One day in school, my mother came and picked me up. I didn’t know where we were going, she just told me I was going to have some tests done. We ended up at a doctors office where they attached a lot of wires to me, and put me under a pretty intense strobe light for a few minutes.

The whole process, even though at the time I really didn’t understand it, already was solidifying in my head that I was different, and that something was wrong with me. No other kids that I knew of had to go and get this type of examination.


…read more at medium.com/@aaronleboldbmr

#571: GUEST SHOT – Record Store Tales – A Different Perspective

Please welcome old friend and new contributor, Aaron.   I have known Aaron since before I was first hired at the Record Store, and he made a cameo appearance in Record Store Tales Part 176:  Trevor the Security Guard.  Aaron is going to be launching his own site really soon and we have planned a few crossovers.  He decided to kick it off with this hilarious memory that I had forgotten all about.  Please enjoy!

GETTING MORE TALE #571:  Record Store Tales – A Different Perspective
Guest shot by Aaron Lebold

I have been enjoying Mike’s Record Store Tales for quite a while now, I have found them particularly enjoyable because I was friends with him when he got this job. The store was initially located in a mediocre mall, and was about the size of a nice walk-in closet. The store has since branched out into a very successful franchise.  I personally feel Mike’s expertise in music played a role in the success of the store, but I like reading them because I remember a lot of the stories, and I may even be mentioned in a couple.

 One of my fondest memories of Mike working at the store, was after it had expanded and added a second location.  Back in those days CDs were worth money, so in turn people had a tendency to steal them, and bring them to Mike’s store to sell.

A woman had gone into the other location, and given Mike’s co-worker a specific list of CDs to look out for, as they had been stolen from her home.  Mike’s co-worker called him at his location to transfer the information, so they could contact the police should someone come in to sell that specific collection of discs.

Mike decided it would be funny if he had me call the other location to try to get a quote for some CDs.  He read me the exact list of CDs that had been reported missing, and instructed me specifically to finalize the phone call with the line “and they’re not stolen either…”

I followed through with Mike’s request, and though I didn’t get much of a reaction from his co-worker, he told me that they called him back and asked him “How much did you pay that kid to do that?”  It was pretty funny at the time, and I will always remember my line.  “And they’re not stolen either…”

Aaron Lebold BMR

#537.2: 2016 Can Suck Balls – Year End Lists, Part 2 – J from Resurrection Songs

Please welcome — for the first time ever! — a guest shot from J from Resurrection Songs!  Please welcome J with his Top Albums list of 2016.

GETTING MORE TALE #537.2: 2016 Can Suck Balls
Year End Lists, Part 2 – J from Resurrection Songs

jIt’s been a right strange year. A right grim one if you consider the musical losses, not to mention the political shenanigans. Soon we’ll be populating a post-apocalyptic world. Hopefully more Mad Max than The Road. For some of us, at least. Soundtracked, it’s a year that I’ve been discovering more older releases than newer releases thanks to the writings and recommendations of fellow bloggers. However, there have been a fair few new releases that I have really enjoyed and I figured I’d hang out at Ladano’s place and say “here’s my top ten albums”.

The following are without a doubt my favourites of the year. These are the albums that grabbed my attention beyond the first side. That continue to pull me in. I am a man immersed in all their sonic awesomeness as I slip deeper and deeper into their grooves.

10. Gojira – Magma
9. The Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem
8. The Cult – Hidden City
7. Black Mountain – IV
6. Sturgil Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
5. Causa Sui – Return To Sky
4. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
3. The Claypool Lennon Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
2. Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
1. My Jerusalem – A Little Death

Note: Lists are tough, but the top five were particularly tough to separate (all stellar in my opinion). Also, I need to spend a bit more time with Bowie’s Blackstar, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ Skeleton Tree, case/lang/viers, and, of course, pick up the latest Leonard release now it’s available on vinyl.

J

#537.1: 2016 Can Suck Balls – Year End Lists, Part 1 – Dr. Dave

Welcome to the first of many year-end lists here at mikeladano.com!  I’ve decided to call this series 2016 Can Suck Balls.  We will discuss the celebrity deaths that plagued this year on my own list, but first up to bat is the man the myth the legend — Dr. Dave Haslam.  His heavier-than-fuck lists always generate a lot of interest, so Dave’s going first!

Please welcome Dr. Dave with his Top Albums list of 2016.


GETTING MORE TALE #537.1: 2016 Can Suck Balls
Year End Lists, Part 1 – Dr. Dave Haslam

dr-daveWell, it was an…interesting…year.  The deaths came fast and furious, and the tail end of the year for me went from the sublime (Cubs win!) to the ridiculous (Trump wins!).

It will be fun watching the dumpster fire that is the United States over the next year, and perhaps a few of these tunes will serve as a compelling soundtrack for that.


10. A 3-way tie between Opeth – Sorceress, Winterfylleth – The Dark Hereafter, and Nails – You Will Never Be One Of Us.

 

Why a three way tie?  Because “Top Tens” are an arbitrary convention.  I understand that we use the decimal system on this planet, but we’re talking music here, not distance, or measurement, or even the weight of your momma.  Opeth was certainly phenomenal live, and there are parts of Sorceress (particularly the title track) that I love, but there is a lot of fluff on this album, a lot of acoustic bits that just didn’t grab me.  If even 75% of it was of the calibre of the title track then it would easily be my #1 album.  As it is, it merely shares a tie with Winterfylleth, who are awesome, but released an album that was pretty meagre compared to their recent efforts, and Nails, a band I probably wouldn’t even like that much except that the pure, unhinged fury of You Will Never Be One Of Us pretty much encapsulates my reaction to the election of Cheeto Mussolini by our terminally stunned neighbors to the south.  Check out the title track (hmm, I see a theme here) if you want the most succinct example of unbridled aggression released this year.


9. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones

 

So Spellcheck flags “synarchy” as a spelling mistake, which casts a poor light on Spellcheck’s recognition of obscure political terms.  And, now that I notice it, Spellcheck also considers “Spellcheck’s” (the possessive form of the noun Spellcheck) as a spelling error as well.  What is my takeaway from this?  That Spellcheck doesn’t like being talked about, or having particular qualities or characteristics ascribed to it.  Well fuck you too, Spellcheck.  I don’t even need you, so blow me.

Anywho, this is a half-hour long EP, and it sure isn’t Drought, an EP from 2012 which demonstrated new levels of variety and composition from these devout French Satanists.  Instead, this returns to their classic sound: eerie, frenetic, bewildering, and very very fucking evil.  There’s a reason why these guys don’t do gigs – it would probably be impossible to do this live.  I can only chuckle at the thought that the U.S. Army uses Metallica or some other mainstream band to torture Muslim detainees when they could be using this instead.  Then again, maybe that’s for the best.  This music would likely have Navy SEALs shitting their undies.

Sample only if you’ve given up on sanity as a “life goal.”


8. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason

 

Recorded together live in the studio, this album has a more organic sound than any of their more recent releases.  If you know them, then you know what to expect.  They are a consistent, well-oiled machine, and there are few surprises or major deviations here.  The song that really hooked me is “MonstroCity” (cool title, bro), which has a lurching, idiot-man-child-on-meth kind of funk to it – my favorite tune on the album.  This album almost didn’t make the list, as my ability to truly appreciate Meshuggah depends on my mood; however, since I have been in a “smash-shit-up” kind of mood lately, here it is.


7. Devin Townsend – Transcendence

 

This fucking guy.  Devy likely won’t get his proper due until years from now, but now is the time to get on board, if you haven’t already.  Is it my favorite release of his?  No (I’m looking at you, Ocean Machine).  But when you can be as heavy as Devy can, and be as melodically lush and compelling, then you are as far past the run of the mill as it gets.  As Rush rides into the sunset (did I mention that 2016 was a very trying year?), Devin Townsend is the Canuck that will pick up that torch and run with it.  Time to recognize this national treasure while he’s still alive.  Give “Failure” a listen and disagree.  I dare you.


6. Dunsmuir – Dunsmuir

 

My love for Neil Fallon (and Clutch) is hardly a secret.  He is the hard-rock equivalent of Tom Waits, but that comparison fails once I realize that Fallon’s tales and subject matter are even more compelling to a freak like me than Waits’.  The band behind him soars, snarls, and grooves in a way that sharts on much of what we consider “classic metal.”   This is why Vinny Appice replaced Bill Ward in Black Sabbath, and why Tim Sult can access limitless possibilities at the blusier end of heavy guitar.  “Crawling Chaos” should give you a good idea.


5. Alcest – Kodama

 

A fine return to form from the French pioneers of blackgaze (black metal + shoegaze).  Unlike last album Shelter, this one has bite to it, adding much appreciated energy to their lushly melodic soundscapes.  With clean vocals and blackish wails, blast beats and proggier grooves, Kodama is an almost perfect balance of their disparate influences.  Yes, this requires patience, and it is designed to be atmospheric rather than fist-pumping.  Go to bed, turn out the lights, spark one up, and listen to this at volume on good-quality headphones.  Immerse yourself.  “Oiseaux de Proie” should serve nicely as an introduction.


4. Gojira – Magma

 

A third French band on my list?  Tabernac!  This one’s a grower, not a shower.  This is a pretty new band for me, and I’m sure getting on the Gojira train at Magma station is like not getting into Mastodon until Once More Round the Sun or The Hunter (“Dude, like, haven’t you heard their early stuff?  It kicks this album’s ass, man!”).  Yeah, fine, whatever.  That doesn’t change the fact that this album has a certain something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  While they might have kicked your ass in a more aggressive and complicated fashion a few years ago, they’ve allowed some restraint and melody into their sound, and it has paid off in a big way.  “Stranded” is what sold it for me, starting with a Meshuggah-esque riff overtop a deep but spacious groove, which then morphs into a simple bridge riff that is as cool as it is accessible, until the three and a half minute mark, when the real earworm of the song kicks in.  Composition might be a four-syllable word, but it’s certainly not a four-letter word.  Sometimes simplicity really is the closest step towards genius.


3. Deftones – Gore

 

I’ll save my rant about how unfair it is to lump these guys into the nu-metal category alongside vastly inferior bands like Korn and Chimp Trisket for a later time.  Suffice it to say that this album rewards multiple listens.  The story is that guitarist Stephen Carpenter had thoughts about stepping away from the recording of Gore because of how atmospheric and subtle the ideas were compared to their earlier albums.  And it’s good that he didn’t, because there is still plenty of succulent riffage here.  Chino Moreno is still a very versatile vocalist, going from a whisper to a scream to a croon in no time, and the rhythm section is always tasty and totally underrated.  “Pittura Infamante” is probably the best example of how this band has grown – although each of their last three or four albums are totally wicked.  This song resembles Gojira’s “Stranded” in that it shows how deceptive simplicity can be the secret weapon that veteran bands use to economize their songs for maximum appeal while still maintaining their true identity.  And watch out for one of the riffs of the year at about the 2:25 minute mark.  Wow.  Then again, listen to “Hearts/Wires” for a more relaxed version of this album.  Or the first track.  Oh fuck it.  It’s all amazing.


2. If These Trees Could Talk – The Bones of a Dying World

 

I had no idea that these post-rock alchemists got signed by Metal Blade, and I knew nothing about this album’s existence until I randomly came across it at Encore Records, which is where I had to special order their two previous albums about a year ago.  This is textbook post-rock, and if you are confused by that particular genre designation then listen to “The Giving Tree.”  It’s less spacey and discordant than Mogwai, less stoner-rock than Pelican, and much more immediate than Godspeed! You Black Emperor.  There are a lot of layers, textures, and dynamics to be explored with three (3) guitarists, and ITTCT indulge that potential without it all turning into a sprawling, unfocused mess.  I get a Steve Rothery vibe from “The Giving Tree,” although it is quite a bit heavier than you would expect from the heart and soul of Marillion.  I’m glad that music like this exists.  Sometimes you just don’t need a vocalist to get to the real heart of the matter.


1. Abbath – Abbath

 

After an acrimonious split with his Immortal bandmates, Abbath made the best Immortal album since 2000’s stone-cold classic Sons of Northern Darkness (one of the best heavy metal albums of the past 30 years, by the way), albeit under his own moniker and with a different rhythm section.  And that rhythm section kicks massive ass, driving the kind of militant and triumphant anthems that will inspire you to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of the women on some frosty tundra where glaciers loom and wolves lie in waiting to feast upon the bodies of the vanquished.  It doesn’t get more metal than this. Like Slayer, Abbath knows that downshifting to mid-tempo is where the truly heavy and epic begins, and “Winterbane” is a perfect example of this.  Merry Christmas, motherfuckers.


scan_20161119-2Close but no cigar: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (good, but too much meh); Russian Circles (haven’t heard it enough); Khemmis (so close…); SubRosa – For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (not as good as More Constant Than The Gods); Inquisition – Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Alter beyond the Celestial Zenith (crazy title, great black metal album).

 

 

My main obsession in 2016 that does not involve a particular album released in 2016:

 

Live MGLA – I’ve spent most of my YouTube time in the past year listening to and watching this Polish black metal band slay audiences and perfect heavy metal with an aggressive yet understated style that simply beggars comparison.  This is THE SHIT.  The drummer is unbelievable, the riffs are unimpeachable, and the compositions are incredible if you consider that hypnotism is just as valuable as anything “showy” or “obvious.”  This gets me hard more than anything else in the universe right now.  No grandstanding, no histrionics, no drama, no “image,” no trying too hard.   This is simply perfect heavy metal.  For a short, two-song sampler, check out “Brutal Assault 21 – Mgla (live) 2016”.   Or for a boringly- filmed but excellent-sounding full gig, check out “MGLA – Live at Dark Easter Metal Meeting 2016 – Full Show” on YouTube.

Dr. Dave

A Tribute to Paul MacLeod (1970-2016) by Uncle Meat

PAUL

I first met Mac in the early 90s when I was dragged to the Walper by a mutual friend of ours Jeff Marsland (aka Chewie). Not long within the set he played Tori Amos – “Pretty Good Year” and Motorhead – “Ace of Spades” and I was hooked. Then being blown away by Six Months … as well as the re-named Hibakusha. Actually my most memorable Paul moment on stage was when Hibakusha broke into Supertramp’s “School” at the Starlight. One of the greatest covers I have ever seen.

Years after that I was fortunate enough to join the infamous MacLeod poker nights, and this was where we started becoming close friends. Also through him I was fortunate to meet and get to know his great and talented friends. We just seemed to enjoy pretty much exactly the same things… music…sports…darts…and I would say most of all…comedy. Considering how long before this I had admired him as a musician, it was surprisingly quick and easy for me to put that away and just look at him as my friend. A few times Paul brought up the first poker game I went to .. and said this statement that always made me laugh: “I had to be friends with you. You had the balls to tell me to my face, in front of my friends, that Scott Deneau was the the best guy you’ve ever seen with just a guitar and a voice.”  I can still picture the look on his face when he would say it and it still makes me laugh.

One Canada Day at the Boathouse (the year would have been 2011 ish? maybe?) Paul played two full sets of all Canadian tunes. Some of the songs he pulled out of the air that night were classic. They weren’t perfect. Some of the lyrics were wrong. But with every song the crowd just wanted to see what was coming next. His interactions with Kevin Doyle that night were so much fun. This was followed by an after hours set of Who tunes with Paul only singing and Chris Latta on guitar. Totally kicked my ass. Hard to forget moments like these.

A few amazing years of playing darts with the man. Getting my ass thoroughly kicked most of the time. Loved going to war with him for a few years on the same team. His personality shone through every dart venue we played at. What can I say? The man knew how to own a room.

I was lucky enough many times to get the gift of him just picking up his guitar and singing. Sometimes singing along but mostly just soaking it in. And then we would go back to comedy. And lots of it. Every time I would go over to his sister’s place he would be so “on” with the comedy. Relentless. The man loved making people laugh. So, included here is one of his favourite bits from his all-time favourite comedian Norm MacDonald. This is what made the funniest guy I know laugh.

Long live old Harold Delaney.