Guest Shot

Sunday Chuckle: Philip Anselmo meets “Lips” (GUEST SHOT)

Guest shot by Max the Axe’s Stunt Double.  Who, apparently, could also be the stunt double for Lips from Anvil.


 

 

Phil Anselmo meet and greet in Hershey, Pennsylvania. As soon as I walked up, he told me I looked like Lips from Anvil. The greatest compliment I could have ever received! After all the pictures were taken, everyone took a group shot. I quickly showed him a picture of me and Lips together. He shouted “DUDE ITS HIM AND LIPS, HE LOOKS LIKE LIPS!” That alone was worth every penny.

DVD REVIEW: Blade Runner (1982) – Tribute to Rutger Hauer by Holen MaGroin

Guest review by Holen MaGroin


BLADE RUNNER (1982, 2007 Ultimate DVD edition, Warner Bros.)

Directed by Ridley Scott

The first time I saw Blade Runner, I was unimpressed. I didn’t believe it to be a bad film, but it inspired nothing inside me. However, something about it burrowed into my mind. It could have been the inspirational aesthetic, the cryptic atmosphere, or something operating deeper in my subconscious. Something I couldn’t place my finger on. Whatever it was, I had an undeniable desire to see the film again. When I acted upon that impulse, I fell in love with it. All the emotion and humanity that had eluded me on the initial viewing became elucidated the second time around. Since then, I’ve viewed the film many times. Each of my viewings reveals more secrets and offers new interpretations to this alluringly ambiguous picture.

I’m not entirely certain why Blade Runner went over my head the first time. If I had to speculate, I’d guess that my mind was so overwhelmed by the sheer visual spectacle, that I had a difficult time focusing on the movie behind it. After becoming accustomed to the astonishing world in which the story resides, it became clear to me that much more than just the design was awe-inspiring. Underneath the electronic digital exterior was a human pulse, one that beat the strongest in the characters that weren’t even human. It poses the existential question of the definition of life, and makes us wonder who should have the authority to define it.

The events take place in the future world of November 2019. Earth has become an overcrowded, polluted, and commercialized urban environment. The Tyrell Corporation manufactures synthetic human beings known as replicants. They are just as intelligent as their creators, while also possessing superior physical abilities. They’re used off-world for slave labor, and are forbidden on Earth. Deckard is a blade runner, the best there’s ever been. His job is to take out stray replicants, a process described by the euphemism ‘retiring’.

 

When we’re introduced to Deckard, it’s clear we’re observing a broken man. He lacks purpose, and hides his feelings of worthlessness behind alcohol and a bitter attitude. Having quit his job as a blade runner, he drifts around going through the motions. He’s living a very shallow existence, numbed by whiskey, afraid to feel, and terrified of self-reflection. He’s called in to do one last job, and does so only after being threatened by his old boss, Bryant. Six replicants escaped an off-world colony, and four made it to Earth with their lives. They’ve travelled to Earth in an attempt to extend their lives, which have been set to approximately four years. Their leader is the tactical and ruthless Roy Batty, an imposing figure played by the recently departed Rutger Hauer (R.I.P.). Deckard’s job is to retire them, as they are considered a threat to the public.

Despite being artificial, these four replicants are the most compelling characters in the film. They possess real emotions, and you can’t help but empathize with their plight for life. Their methods may be cutthroat, but understandable given the abhorrent treatment they’ve received at the hands of humans. Not excusable, but understandable. Roy is the most viscous, yet he is also the one we learn to care for the most. The other three want more life only because of their fear of death. Unlike his companions, Roy is a pensive philosopher that questions the nature of his existence, and sees the artificial manipulation of his life expectancy as an injustice perpetrated by Tyrell, his creator.

Contrarily, Deckard is a classic noir archetype inserted into a science fiction world as a way of contrasting him with his supposedly ‘less than human’ targets. He has no raison d’être, no philosophy, he simply exists. The very machines he’s been commissioned to destroy contain more human characteristics than he does. He has learned to detach himself from his emotions because somewhere inside he knows that his job is immoral. As the film progresses, it’s a truth that he finds harder and harder to deny.

His path to realization begins when he visits Tyrell at the onset of his case. While there he meets the beautiful replicant Rachel and is immediately captivated by her. Rachel isn’t initially aware that she is a replicant, as she is part of a new generation that has been fitted with memory implants. She’s rather sterile and distant at first, but ironically becomes more emotional as she comes to accept the fact that she is indeed a synthetic human being. This coincides with Deckard’s own increased feelings of guilt and empathy towards these machines as he approaches the completion of his job. Both characters struggle with the concept of humanity in a dehumanizing urban environment, falling in love as they relate to each other’s fear and uncertainty.

Meanwhile, Roy and the seductive Pris manipulate genetic designer J.F. Sebastian into leading them to Tyrell. Sebastian is afflicted with a disease that accelerates aging, allowing him to relate to and take pity on the replicants and their limited lifespan. Roy and Sebastian visit Tyrell during the dead of night, under the pretense of a chess game. Roy’s patience has been rewarded. He is finally able to face his creator. His resentment towards Tyrell for manipulating his lifespan culminates in the line “I want more life, fucker.” The profanity underscores the pent up rage. It’s an emotional slip for the previously silver-tongued devil, and a subtle hint for his surprising climactic decision at the end of the film. When Tyrell informs Roy that there is no way to extend his lifespan, he disposes of his creator and Sebastian.

Deckard learns of the deaths of Tyrell and Sebastian on his radio, and decides to check out Sebastian’s place. What follows is the infamous final confrontation between Deckard and Roy. Deckard offers absolutely no challenge to Roy. Roy’s methodical killings of before are replaced by a sadistic playfulness. Driven past the point of caring upon the realization of his inevitable mortality, he plays cat and mouse with Deckard. In the middle of their game Roy’s hand begins to seize up; his time has come. Deckard attempts to jump from one building to the next to escape, but doesn’t go the distance, grasping the edge hanging precariously high above the ground. Roy catches up to him and easily makes the jump to the next building, standing above Deckard as his fingers slip. But just as Deckard’s grip fails, Roy grasps Deckard’s arm and hoists him up onto the building, saving his life.

In this moment Roy realizes that the most human gesture he can make before death is forgiveness. Saving Deckard even after he killed all his companions was an act of mercy and forgiveness that made his final deed a human one. Roy has reached the stage of acceptance, and ponders in his death soliloquy that once someone dies, all of their memories are lost. All their experience is gone forever. As he puts it, “All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.” An immortal line written by Rutger Hauer himself, it fixes an image to the human fear that we won’t have a legacy, and that all we’ve learned and experienced will be lost forever. Roy believes that with the loss of his experiences, humans will remain ignorant of the nature of replicant life, and that humans will continue to view them as objects to be used instead of living creatures. As he dies peacefully, a dove ascends out of the oppressive city. The shot seems to suggest that Roy does have a soul, and the dove symbolizes something pure and innocent. Roy has redeemed himself by saving Deckard, and his purified spirit ascends to heaven.

Blade Runner is a pensive film. It takes its time unravelling to give the viewer a chance to think along with it. It’s about a man that learns to embrace his humanity from the very machines he’s expected to kill. He even falls in love with one. It makes us wonder what truly constitutes life, and what value a life has after it’s gone and forgotten. Blade Runner is moody, stylized, and very open to interpretation. It’s certainly not a film for everyone, but for the people that enjoy when movies offer more questions than answers, there are few that have done it better.

5/5 replicants

Version Guide

There are five distinct cuts of Blade Runner available on Blu-ray, so I figured I’d do a quick version guide and offer my opinion on the best version of the film (it’s not the Final Cut).

  • Work print (1982) – The original work print shown to test audiences. It is a few minutes shorter than the other cuts, which are practically all the same length. It contains different opening credits, and one instance of voice over narration during Roy’s death scene different than the one heard in the theatrical cuts.
  • U.S. Theatrical Cut (1982) – Voice over narration was added that elaborates on certain plot points and offers background information. This version also contains a happier ending.
  • International Theatrical Cut (1982) – Identical to the U.S. Theatrical cut, only it has a few instances of unedited violence.
  • Director’s Cut (1992) – This version removes all voice over narration, and the happier ending. It also inserts a unicorn dream that heavily suggests that Deckard is a replicant. This version doesn’t contain the extra violence.
  • The Final Cut (2007) – Everything in this cut is cleaned up. The visuals, the sound, etc. Visible wires were removed from the flying cars, and an obvious stunt double’s face was digitally replaced with the actress’s face. Includes a longer unicorn dream, no narration, Roy apologizing to Sebastian before killing him, a different background for the dove shot, the violence from the international cut, and green color grading. Roy also says “I want more life, father.” This is the only version besides the work print where he says father instead of fucker.

My favorite (short version): The director’s cut.

My favorite (long version): The green color grading of The Final Cut is awful. It buries the spectacular world and neon colors in a gross green. Using CGI to replace a face and cover up wires is also a bit too revisionist for my tastes as well. I also think the assertion that Deckard is a replicant ruins the theme of the movie. Therefore, I don’t like the unicorn dream. I also don’t like Roy apologizing to Sebastian, it’s out of character. And father just isn’t as powerful as fucker, even with the God complex connotations. As for the theatrical cuts, the narration isn’t all that awful in my eyes (it’s performed pretty badly), but it is a better film without it. It has some interesting background information, but it ruins some of the ambiguity. I do like that the theatrical cut doesn’t push the idea that Deckard is a replicant, because it’s missing the unicorn dream. The happy ending is inconsistent with the movie’s tone though. So my ideal version would be the international theatrical cut without the narration, and without the happy ending. But since we don’t have that cut, my preferred version is the director’s cut, with the international cut coming in a very close second. You should watch both of those cuts just to get the full experience. I switch back and forth depending on my mood.

This review is dedicated to Rutger Hauer. Thanks for the films, man. We’ll miss you.

 

Gallery: Cheap Trick, Kitchener Ontario, 6/10/2019

Dr. Kathryn saw Cheap Trick at the Centre in the Square and has returned with photographic proof.

Comments:

“Cheap Trick were great! They played for about an hour and a half straight with no encore. It was a good mix of old songs and new. There were a bunch in the middle I didn’t know. Robin Zander can still sing pretty well, but his shortcomings were very obvious when he started to sing ‘The Flame’ with just himself on guitar. When he has all the other players behind him, his voice sounds much better and you can’t hear where he’s lacking. There was an extra guitar player (Robin Zander’s son Robin Taylor Zander) in the back and Tom Petersson played a twelve string bass. Rick Nielsen threw picks into the audience and I caught three!  Looking back, I didn’t get any close ups of Robin Zander! He was right in front of me plenty.”

Setlist:

  • Hello There
  • Way of the World
  • Oh, Candy
  • Big Eyes
  • California Man (The Move cover)
  • On Top of the World
  • Stiff Competition
  • Downed
  • Ain’t That a Shame (Fats Domino cover)
  • High Roller
  • Lookin’ Out for Number One
  • Stop This Game
  • I’m Waiting for the Man (The Velvet Underground cover)
  • The Flame
  • I Want You to Want Me
  • Dream Police
  • Surrender
  • Clock Strikes Ten
  • Goodnight Now

Blu-ray REVIEW: Dune (1984) by Holen MaGroin

Guest review by Holen MaGroin


DUNE (1984 Universal)

Directed by David Lynch

Frank Herbert’s seminal Dune is one of the most beloved and influential works of science fiction ever committed to paper. Despite its convoluted plot, world specific dialogue, and the presence of enough supporting characters to fill a football arena, readers have been captivated by the tale of lost humanity and political turmoil for over half a century.* The book’s epic length gave it the time it needed to develop compelling three-dimensional characters. Adapting such a complex story into a feature film proved to be so challenging that Arthur P. Jacobs, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Ridley Scott all tried and failed to bring the book to the big screen. After three misfires, American surrealist director David Lynch was hired to helm the project in 1981. The film took three challenging years to produce, and upon completion, was a substantial critical and commercial failure.

In the years since its release in 1984, the film has developed a cult following, and for good reason. While it’s not everything a fan of the book would hope for, it’s certainly not as bad as it was made out to be upon its release. For people new to the series, the sheer amount of characters, alliances, and jargon can be overwhelming. Especially when Lynch was only given two hours with which to tell a five-hundred page novel. This is easily the weakest aspect of the movie. Much of the exposition is crammed in at the beginning of the film, and its delivery can best be described as clunky. The scene in which Emperor Shaddam IV explains his plan to destroy House Atreides to the Spacing Guild is so poorly written that it calls to mind a moment from Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs in which the evil Lord Helmet turns to the camera after excessive exposition and asks the audience if they caught it all.

The sloppy exposition is exacerbated by the literal interpretation of Frank Herbert’s use of internal dialogue. Lynch’s decision to literally adapt the book’s internal dialogue by having the actors narrate each character’s thoughts and motivations is belligerent and awkward. The film too often relies on this internal dialogue that robs the movie of surprise and subtlety for the sake of clarity that it ironically fails to bring. Much of the dialogue is used to further the plot, as opposed to developing the characters. Certain characters are simplified out of necessity due to the relatively brief runtime, such as the formidable Harkonnens of the novel being turned into the disgusting cartoonish characters seen in this film. However, at only one-hundred thirty-seven minutes, the story could have been much more incoherent and disjointed than it ultimately was, but that doesn’t excuse it from being an underdeveloped mess.

While the story falters somewhat in comparison to the novel, it works surprisingly well taken on its own. Many of the theological questions of the book remain unexplored in the film adaptation, but the complex themes of political strife, globalism, and corruption are all addressed in the conflicts between the many groups gifted with power.  Each entity mistrusts the other, but must form uneasy alliances to stay afloat or to destroy common enemies covertly. The film balances these relationships remarkably well. Every group’s selfish motivation is made abundantly clear, yet each motivation prompts thought over their individual plans within plans.

Another area that the movie excels at is its tone. The novel had a very regal atmosphere, which the film captures in strides. It does a remarkable job at humanizing the bombast of the occasion. In a society where humans are trained more and more to act and perform like machines, the protagonist Paul Atreides triumphs with his innate sense of human morality and communal bonds with the Fremen. Kyle MacLachlan perfectly captures the innocence, the exuberance, and the pride of the character in the novel. Dune has a rich supporting cast including Max von Sydow, Patrick Stewart, and José Ferrer that help to elevate the material and capture its humanity.

Part of the film’s emotional success can be credited to the excellent score, contributed by Toto with one beautiful piece by Brian Eno. Toto fused orchestral arrangements with their instrumental rock prowess to create a hybrid score that is surprisingly exciting. It frames the most overblown scenes in a way that seems triumphant instead of pompous, and prevents the quiet emotional moments from buckling under the weight of the jargon. At the heart of all this technical jargon and political strife is a story about human characters, filled with human virtue, human emotions, and human desires. This score pulsates with humanity, and is something that Toto and Brian Eno should look at with pride.

The film also succeeds in its unique visual aesthetic that perfectly brings the spiritual and transcendental aspects of the novel to the screen with style. Thanks to the surrealistic tendencies of its director, this film is full of striking visual moments, particularly those that depict Paul’s prescient visions. The scene in which Paul takes the water of life in the desert and unlocks his full mental potential is especially breathtaking. It lacks the narrative depth of the novel, but makes up for it by explaining visually what the film’s clunky dialogue often failed to clarify on its own.

Dune is by no means a great film, and it doesn’t live up to the timeless reputation of the novel it’s based on. It is a cult classic from a decade known for producing its fair share of cult cinema. While many fans of the book and members of the general public look at this movie with disdain, I always walk away from it having been entertained, if left yearning for a better adaptation. We may get this adaptation now that Dennis Villeneuve is directing a new version of the film set to release in 2020. This 1984 version is flawed, and even its director calls it his worst film (I disagree; I think 1990’s Wild at Heart would take that position). The fact that I originally sought out the Dune novel because I was such a big David Lynch fan and wanted to read the book before seeing the film may paint me as a biased source, but I consider the positive attributes of the film Dune to (just barely) counteract the many negatives.

3/5 Sandworms

Author’s Note: Get the Blu-Ray if you’re going to watch it. It is a substantial improvement over any other version of the film. Dune was always a bit of an ugly duckling, but this Blu-Ray edition has gone the distance to clean up the visuals to present what is by far the best looking version of this film ever released. And whatever you do stay away from the 3 hour extended/T.V. cut that is so bad the director removed his name from the credits. It’s a butchered mess that mixes up the musical cues and needlessly edits material back in from the cutting room floor. The theatrical cut is the only version available on Blu-Ray, so it shouldn’t be too hard to avoid the bastardized extended version.

 

* Because of its generous detail and epic world-buildingLeBrain

 

 

GUEST REVIEW: Van Halen – Balance (Derek Kortepeter vs. LeBrain)

VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner)

By Derek Kortepeter

I was perusing Mike’s blog like I sometimes do (what can I say, I’m a fan). I stumbled upon his review for a Van Halen record that means a lot to me, and frankly, is the one I love the most among all of the Hagar years AND Roth years. I was really surprised with just how harsh Mike was on what I’ve always regarded as the pinnacle of Van Halen’s creativity and musicality.

After discussing it with Mike, I decided to write somewhat of a rebuttal to his 3.75/5 review.  I plan to try to explain why this record means so much to me as a Van Halen fan and professional composer/musician. I will quote from the original review to make this sort of sound like a discussion rather than me just being a dick and touting my opinion as better. If anything, I just want detractors of this record to give it another view and possibly a second chance.

Ready? Let’s go!


Balance takes Van Halen into a highly polished, commercial direction. This is “balanced” with heavier grooves and a couple more “serious” lyrics.   The result turned out to be one of Van Halen’s most pop outings.

Right off the bat I will disagree with you Mike. I argue that this is Van Halen’s most EXPERIMENTAL outing since Fair Warning. The melodic phrasing and song structures on some of these songs are incredibly progressive, and additionally, I believe that there are enough instrumental pieces that push what people’s perception of the band could be.

As for the polish, that isn’t a negative, the band has never sounded better. The way Alex tuned his drums is brilliant and crisp, Eddie’s tone never sounded more varied (at least until Van Halen III), and the band sounded incredibly tight and focused (Mike’s bass in particular is fucking blistering). The record being heavy is 100 percent a positive as well, as this applies not only to the slamming instrumental but also the lyrical content.

This is hard rock, metal, and avant-garde with pop overtones. Not pop.

This is “The Seventh Seal”, and Sammy’s voice is in top form. Michael Anthony’s bass rolls and hits the notes at just the right moments. This is truly a great song, completely different from Van Halen of old, but surely a triumph.

No argument from me here. The Buddhist monks chanting in their low vocal register leading into Sammy’s fever dream about the End Times as described in the book of Revelation is a beckoning call to fans that Van Halen is in its most mature incarnation. Balance is established right off the bat as a theme involving spirituality, but that isn’t the only type of Balance pursued in the record. I see many of these songs as mirrors of one another, focusing in on a true sense of balance. I will extrapolate on this as I go on.

“Can’t Stop Loving You”, is an embarrassing foray into pop. While Van Halen wrote pop stuff before (“Love Walks In”), this song lacks cojones of any kind. The guitar is really thin, Alex Van Halen cha-cha’s his way through the drum fills, while Sammy sings a lyric that David Lee Roth would have used to wipe his ass.

Hoo boy. As I have already stated, I think the production on Balance is brilliant so we won’t retread that issue here. I always found this song to be sad, to me it is about the kind of longsuffering love that only couples who have been together for decades will understand. It shows an evolution in Van Halen’s views on love, which before were often juvenile in the sense that it was more about the start of the relationship before things get hard. The theme of commitment never really factored into the equation until this track, just the hormones in your body exploding when love is raw and new to you. David Lee Roth could never have come up with something like this, ever.

“Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do)” is anything but a love song. Sammy tackles drugs, faith, youth in crisis, and the 1990’s. Hagar has never sounded more foreboding, or mature for that matter. Eddie’s riff is simple, but dark and rhythmic. Michael locks onto the riff, creating this unstoppable wall of groove.

We agree here, this song is fucking genius in its execution and is the closest to metal Van Halen get until they write “Humans Being” a little later. Also here is where we begin to see the theme of Balance, which I argue permeates the record, take shape. The prior track is about a fulfilling love, this track is about the absence of love and how the dejected react in situations of pure despair. Pay attention, pretty much every song on the record has a directly opposing relationship to the song that it follows.

There is nothing wrong with this mid-tempo rocker (“Amsterdam”) with spare Eddie riff, except the lyrics.

Look the lyrics are in a party song, which as I recall, are not required to be Shakespeare. Do you really think that any DLR era gems known for partying like “Take Your Whiskey Home” are any more profound? Lyrics aside, this song is setting up another element of Balance by exploring sins of the flesh and addictive behaviors that can be found in so many cities. It is about losing control and giving into your desires, especially in this case with regards to alcohol and drugs. This is one part of the Balance equation, as the next track deals with sins of a different kind. Greed.

I’ll give VH a C for trying, but “Big Fat Money” is a C+ at best.

“Big Fat Money” is a raucous psychobilly freakout of a song. Every member of the band loses their fucking mind by giving all their energy into this burner of a track. Sammy shreds his vocal chords as he rapid-fires phrases, Eddie brings up-tempo blues and ragtime sounds to the forefront, Alex plays double-time almost punk rock beats, and Michael Anthony just slays you with his furious basslines. Furthermore, the element of Balance in relation to the prior track is the other most focused-upon sin in society (Greed). The song shows the destructive nature in a way, however, as you feel like the lyrics hint at somebody losing their mind to their desires that began in Amsterdam and continued to spiral downwards into pure insanity. The balance is the lure of desire and then the destructive after-effects of such desire.

“Strung Out” is a jokey opener to the ballad “Not Enough”.

I look at this track as an example of “chance music.” Much like the music of John Cage and other contemporaries of his, the aleatoric nature of “Strung Out” is based on numerous factors. It is essentially Eddie fucking around with piano strings, but it isn’t a joke in my opinion. If anything, it shows Van Halen willing to ask their listeners what music is, and more importantly, what they should define Van Halen as. It is in every way an experimental, not pop, foray into a new direction.

That fades into “Not Enough”, another ballad… Tunes like this made Van Halen seem completely out of touch with what was happening in the 1990s. Within months of its release, Shannon Hoon would overdose, Layne Staley locked into a dance of death with smack, and Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers went missing (presumed dead) after suffering long bouts of depression.

OK, a lot to unpack here. “Not Enough” isn’t a conventional ballad at all. It is about love and, more importantly, the loss of love. It doesn’t show a band out of touch at all, if anything, it shows that they are more in tune than ever. “Not Enough” is about the heart wrenching aspect of loss of someone you love. Period. The music video is somber and yet it also gives you hope. Eddie’s chorus-washed solo is a work of genius and as a whole the song remains the most mature expression of love and loss that I can possibly find in their catalogue.

As for the mentions of Layne Staley and Richey Edwards, I feel that I must interject that Alice In Chains and Manic Street Preachers are two incredibly important bands in my life. Layne spoke to my pain as a longtime sufferer of mental disorders and Richey looked at the world in the same cynical way that I do (plus as a Welsh-American, the Manics are a part of my culture and thus very important on another level to me). This is frankly a low-blow to the album that is unwarranted and patently false.

 “Aftershock” is another hard rocker, nothing embarrassing here, good riff, good melody, good song. 

As a drummer this is one of my all-time favorite songs to jam to. The entire song just blows the roof off of everything in its vicinity and remains a testament to just how hard Van Halen can rock. It also, however, brings in that same element of Balance that I speak of. “Not Enough” is about the raw and compassionate feelings of loss, namely in a relationship, but Aftershock is about the rage and bitterness that is likely to follow in the grieving process of a relationship. Both essential. Both a part of Balance.

A pair of instrumentals follow, an interesting touch seeing as Van Halen didn’t do too many instrumentals post-Dave. “Doin’ Time” is Alex messing around on the drums, which segues straight into “Baluchitherium”. 

These two songs are another part of me arguing about the experimental nature of this record. To devote so much time to instrumentals, especially the way they are structured here, is to push the band out of the Billboard 100 arena and into the “thinking” arena. The band is showing they are incredibly versatile and willing to take risks. Furthermore, guitar and drums are naturally instruments needed in order to balance out the equation of a rock band. Taken a step further, the instruments are played by brothers who are in many ways needed in their personal and professional lives to achieve balance.

Nothing on this record is haphazardly added.

“Take Me Back (Deja Vu)” is a pop song that I don’t mind at all, accented with acoustic guitar. 

It’s a brilliant song with brilliant instrumentation and vocals from Sammy. Also, it fits into the balance equation as it is about longing for better times. The reminiscing for the good times is here because the next track is all about the ugly of the present times.

“Feelin’” is a morose song but with an epic, powerful chorus. It is very different from anything the band had done prior.

The song is a masterpiece. Sammy is singing of a world on fire in every aspect of society as we know it. The song twists and turns with dazzling instrumentals and lyrics that are screamed at the heavens. It is the band completing its evolution into the mature incarnation of the band once known for wanting to “Dance the Night Away”. This would be the last song on the record unless you got it in Japan (more on that in a second), and it brings everything to a close. It is the end of the record, and unfortunately, the beginning of the End for the Hagar years.

If you’re lucky enough to be in Japan, there was one bonus track: this is the groove laden, oddball “Crossing Over”.  It’s a song about the afterlife and lyrically it’s probably the best tune of the bunch.

I am often called an experimental composer, so I suppose it is no surprise that I love this song and was so disappointed that it took me years after purchasing Balance to find it. I believe that this track completes the cycle started in “The Seventh Seal”. Notice how I talked about every song on the record being related in a balanced symmetry? I believe that “Crossing Over” is the mirror to “The Seventh Seal”. The album opens with nightmares of spiritual chaos, and this track is the completion of such chaos.


So, what do I have to say in closing? This record shows Van Halen at its highest possible output of creativity, and most importantly, its ability to show a deep philosophical approach to its writing never seen before or since. Balance is the culmination of everything that Van Halen was destined to be, and for that reason, it is the best record they ever wrote. Even if you disagree 100 percent with me, or just really hate Sammy Hagar, give this one another chance.

You might be surprised what you find.

5/5 stars

CONCERT REVIEW: Claypool Lennon Delirium – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, April 10 2019

CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM – Danforth Music Hall – Toronto, April 10 2019 

By Uncle Meat

 

Sometimes you go to Rock shows and are blown away by the venue, or the sound of the band, or the band itself, or something extra special happens.  Usually you are lucky to be subjected to one or two of these wonderful things.  It’s rare when all these things happen at once to make truly iconic memories you could never possibly forget.  This happened for me last night.  Music is the gift that keeps on giving.

Found out yesterday morning that I was going to see Claypool Lennon Delerium at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.  Special thanks to friend and fellow Sausagefester Aaron Stepaniuk for inviting me.  I had never been to the venue, nor had I ever seen Les Claypool perform.  I found it interesting as well that it was the very first show of their tour, showcasing their new album South of Reality.

Walking into the venue during the opening band, instantly I loved the Danforth Music Hall.  Very cool place to see a show.  Warming up the proceedings was someone by the name of Jim James.  All I knew was that he used to be the singer for a band I know nothing about called My Morning Jacket.  I was informed on the way to Toronto by Aaron’s girlfriend Rachel that there is an American Dad episode basically dedicated to “the angelic voice of” Jim James.  Gonna have to check out some American Dad.  The few songs we caught I deemed as “whispy”.  It wasn’t bad but didn’t resonate with me.  Jim James’ look reminded me of Daryl Hall dressed as the Joker and I was kinda glad when it ended so we could go out and smoke a huge joint.

As I am hauling off of this Buck-constructed, Buck-approved monster of a spliff, a door opens beside me, (I was too concerned with smoking this massive joint to even realise we were standing right beside an equally massive tour bus) and while I’m taking a healthy drag out walks Geddy Lee.  Yes…THAT Geddy Lee.   I almost exhaled the drag right into his nose, he was that close to me.  Instantly I started wondering if he could be getting on stage, but that stuff never actually happens for real…Right?

The show starts off with Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”.  I knew they might do some covers since they released an EP of covers in 2017 called Lime and Limpid Green.  On that note, the covers played that night were epic songs that most bands wouldn’t dare even try.  “Astronomy Domine”, “Boris the Spider” and “The Court of the Crimson King” are songs that you MUST play well live to even consider such an idea.  Interspersed throughout the covers were songs from their 2016 debut album Monolith of Phobos and their newest album South of Reality.  I enjoyed everything I heard that night.  First of all, Claypool and Sean Lennon can both sing very well and both comfortable in a high vocal range. The keyboard player also sang backup vocals.  No matter if it was Lennon or Claypool taking lead vocals, the background vocals were top-shelf fucking glorious.  This aspect was a definite highlight of the show.  I was there to see Claypool and he didn’t disappoint whatsoever.  However Sean Lennon was a bit of a revelation to me.  He is an amazing singer and a much better guitar player than I would have imagined.

The stage banter between Les Claypool and Sean Lennon (or “Shiner” as Les kept referring to him as) was comfortable and cool.   After some more of their anecdotes, the drummer breaks into a very familiar drum pattern.  I turned to my buddy Bucky and said “They aren’t really gonna play this are they?” The rest of the band started to join in and yeppers , they are playing Tomorrow Never Knows, written by the guitar player’s father.  You may have heard of him.  I can see off stage as a stage hand is standing there with a bass in his hand.  He hands it to an emerging shadow and out walks Mr. Geddy Fucking Lee, possibly still on a contact high from the joint smoking he walked through earlier.  Now I am watching Sean Lennon sing his late father’s song with two of the greatest bass players of all time on stage.  You cant make this shit up.  This kinda stuff never really happens and now it is happening.  As they are jamming out the song hard, Les Claypool does one of the coolest things I have ever seen.  He takes off his bass and starts kinda bowing to Geddy Lee with a huge smile on his face, gives a little “see ya” nod to the audience and walks off stage, leaving now only Geddy finishing “Tomorrow Never Knows” with the band.  For a couple minutes it was actually The Lennon Geddy LEErium.  The respect and tribute that Claypool shone upon Geddy by the nod and walking off stage will be a top 5 (Or higher) concert moment for me.  I had the utmost respect for Claypool before this night.  With one little wave to the crowd and the walk-off, he made my Rock & Roll heart melt.  I so wish Tom Morwood was there.  He would have cried like a big bearded baby.

The band walked off and came back for an encore.  Claypool says something like, “Gotta love when guys like Geddy Van Halen just walk on stage.  That’s what still gets my dick erect”.  The Delerium then went into their lone encore song, Primus’s “Southbound Pachyderm”.  It totally kicked ass with a sensational bass groove.  What a show.

What more could you ask for?  Did that really just happen?  Mind…Blown.

 

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: KISS – Toronto – Scotiabank Arena March 20 2019 by Uncle Meat

UNCLE MEAT:  Well…I guess tonight I experience the controversy head on.

LeBRAIN:  What’s tonight?

MEAT:  Members of Black N’ Blue and Badlands.

LB:  Kiss?  You are going?  If so you are REQUIRED to write something for me. Or else!!

MEAT:  Old buddy, Scott Hunter, who I saw Kiss with twice in 1982 and 1983, messages me out of nowhere and has a paid-for ticket. Him and his buddy have VIP but only two, but who cares.  They had the Vault Experience with Gene last year too.

LB:  Go go go.

MEAT:  Only been 36 years since I saw Kiss live.  Mid-arena, 20 rows up.

LB:  It’s gonna be sad I think. Just my feeling.

MEAT:  Fairly good tickets. But yeah. The spectacle is the part to enjoy I guess.

LB:  I hope you have a good time.  But seriously if you don’t write this up for me, I am going to probably hurt you very badly. You won’t see it coming. Maybe we will be driving to the farm and I will punch your nuts so hard that you bleed from your ears. Just saying. Not that you “owe” me anything, you just have to. Or have your nuts tenderised. Your choice! You won’t see it coming but it will happen!

 

– Toronto – Scotiabank Arena, March 20 2019
Review by Uncle Meat

Kiss in 2019 was the best “show” I have ever seen.  Easily.

What about the singing?  I had watched a cool video the other day, where a guy pointed out in each song where Paul is lip syncing and where he is actually singing.  Which was good because before that I thought it was pretty much all tape. That being said, I could notice both last night.  It’s like he is trying some songs’ verses (or what have you) on different nights. But, 60% of the vocals (at least) were the same as they had been on other stops. I have heard the “Love Gun” track several times, how the verses have been re-recorded, and he does exactly the same inflections within the verses.

BUT!!!

Truth is? 20 seconds in, and I didn’t give a shit.  And while I hold the same opinion about it, it literally took ZERO away from a show I can only describe as almost perfect.

Gene sings 100% of his vocals, at least on the verses, and was kinda goofy all night.  More aloof than he usually is. Less Demon. More Mike Myers.  He is getting fat in the face though, wow…he looked like Bea Arthur in Gene makeup.

Paul still is on the very top shelf of frontmen, as per between-song banter.  He had me right in the trenches, clapping along, laughing out loud several times, just fuckin’ entertaining.

Eric Singer was a great drummer.  LOVED his voice in “Black Diamond”, and really really enjoyed “Beth”.  Like alot.  Surprising.

I was really blown away by Tommy Thayer’s guitar tone.  Fucking powerful, and creamy.  He changed just enough of the Ace solos to put his mark on it, but leaving the important parts of the solo in to suit the songs.  Great set list too.  “100,000 Years” and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” were serious highlights.

4.5/5 steaks 

The missing 1/2 steak only because of the lip-sync stuff.

 

 

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: A Shaft & Two Balls

This one comes from sometimes-contributor Thussy!


Do companies not pay people to look at what products look like before they release them?  I can just hear them all in the boardroom.  “See, you hold it by the shaft and rub the balls on your face.”

 

 

#729.7: The Mighty Tom’s Top 16 of 2018

Before we get going on our final list (which is a good one I assure you), I’d like to say a few words about irony.

Every year before we went to a new on-site voting system, Tom would rant and rave about getting our Sausagefest lists in.  “PAY YOUR ROCK AND ROLL TAXES”, went the mantra.  He’d make posts and memes about it.  Hell, I’ve posted some of his memes!

 

So the irony is, Tom the Taxman was last with his 2018 list for me this year.  That’s all.  Tom, the guy always wanting the lists in early…was last with his list.  

In his defence he said, “Whoa…there was no timeline or due date…as far as I’m concerned I have until the 31st at 11:59.”  He then goes on to throw Uncle Meat under the bus!  “Meat stole most of mine, he didn’t even have a list two weeks ago…”  

That almost sounds like “the dog ate my homework!”  More irony?  Tom’s a teacher!

Onto the mighty list!


 

TOP 16 OF 2018

16. King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
Late comer…just got it yesterday…might be higher on the list after a few more spins…Nothing like this…Devo on coke…and other shenanigans.

15. Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto
Let down? Yes….But if I can hear J.B. belt out , “I’m the Daddy Ding Dong” I’m in!

14. Mos Generator – Shadowlands
Doomy, stonery, riffy, heavy…revolutionary? Nah…just rawk!

13. Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe
A return to form…Wished I liked the Alex Lifeson track more, but it’s a meandering mess…

12. Yes – Fly From Here (Return Flight)
Originally recorded in 2011, this version has Trevor Horn on lead vocals and a couple more bells and whistles. With Horn at the helm it features the lineup that produced 1980’s grossly under-rated Drama album. Any fan of that masterpiece will find much to like here. (But probably not Steve Howe’s vocal debut “Don’t Take No For An Answer” which would work much better as a B-side, or better yet a No-side.)

11. Brant Bjork – Mankind Woman
Is there a cooler dude alive? Probably not. He was a driving force in both Fu Manchu and the mighty Kyuss for fuck sake…This slice of classic heavy rock is direct yet it does have flavours of blues, jazz and even bit of funk that spices it up. Solid rawk!

10. Ghost – Prequelle
Love the sax…hate their homage to Asia, “Dance Macabre”…Overall, Satanic ear honey…which they’ve done better before.

9. Magpie Salute – High Water I
Is it the Black Crowes? Not really…But it comes from the same rock’n’roll, Americana and southern blues spring…And it has Marc fucking Ford on it…looking forward to High Water II this year.

8. Adam’s House Cat – Town Burned Down
One of the odder releases this year…since it was recorded over 20 years ago. The little rock ‘n’ roll acorn that would grow into the mighty oak that is the Drive-By Truckers. Not just a curio however, but great, gritty American rock (with smatterings of early R.E.M.).

7. Necromancers – Blood & Wine
Sophomore slump? Only if you compare it to their phenomenal debut (my #1 last year). A heavy dose of guitar riffage from Satan’s apothecary.

6. John Prine – Tree of Forgiveness
My favourite songwriter. Darkly comic with a heart of pure gold. Writes about the essence of a situation, and sings them in a way that you know it’s the truth. I love this man.

5. The Sword – Used Future
Played the shit outta this…Love how they’re stretching out with their sound and finding ways out of the metal box…but still retaining the noodly rock greatness that keeps them heavy.

4. Voivod – The Wake
I just knew this sucker was going to be good…their last few have been great (Target Earth a gem)…but I didn’t think it was going to be this good. Thrash, punk, prog, jazz…King Crimson at there most pissed off and ragged…You know you’re listening to a Voivod album and that these francophone fucks are still giving a shit! I love the variance of the tempos and textures of the songs that allow the riffs to burrow deep.

3. Clutch – Book Of Bad Decisions
God damn! These guys cannot make a shitty album. Heavy groove merchants with wickedly fun and fucked-up lyrics that always put a smile on my face as I belt them out. This album would make this list for the strutting horn-driven “In Walks Barbarella” alone… Making heavy metal fun and in-the-pocket funky…

2. Orange Goblin – The Wolf Bites Back
These guys should be huge. Their diverse influences are expanding their heavy metal pallet, and it is all so fucking cool. Orange Fucking Goblin baby!

1. Crazy Bull – The Past Is Today
Thanks to Classic Rock’s July free CD I was turned on to this album of southern fried heavy riff rock at it’s groovy gritty best. Skynyrd, Hatchet and more than a few nods to Brits Wishbone Ash. Sumptuous riffs, and leads and solos that put a smile on your face….

 

 

 

 


Thanks to Tom for his awesome list.  I’m placing an Amazon order for Tenacious D and Voivod right now!

#729.6: Dr. Dave’s Late 2018 List

A couple lists arrived late this year, so let’s keep rolling with ’em!  (The lateness of the lists will be addressed next post.)

I witnessed Dr. Dave Haslam play in four bands this year:  1. Mickey Straight 2. Nancy Vicious & the Nasty Bitches 3. The Helen Keller Band 4. Max the Axe.  He has the rock and roll skills and credentials, so pay attention.  Here’s the good Dr. Dave!


 

DR. DAVE’S TOP “TEN” FOR 2018

When I glance over my (extended) list for this year, I must admit to being a little underwhelmed. There are some pleasant surprises, but other than the last few entries of my list nothing much really kicked the pants off me. Mind you, I might have slept on an album or two that I may hold in high regard a year or two from now because that’s how I roll. If last year was the year of progressive doom for me, this year is more all over the place. There are some usual suspects and a few true outliers.

First, a few “close but no cigar” awards go to:

  • Sleep The Sciences
  • Fu Manchu Clone of the Universe
  • Sargeist Unbound
  • Yob Our Raw Heart 
  • Orange Goblin The Wolf Bites Back

tl;dd (“too late; didn’t digest”):

  • Ihsahn Amr  
  • Uncle Acid and the DeadbeatsWasteland
  • Rivers of Nihil Where Owls Know My Name (shit, this one is insane – proggy death metal that all of a sudden drops into slow jazz bass lines and then a sax solo – WTF?  I will be listening to this a lot over the next year…4 and a half minutes into this album – what the utter fuck? WOW.)
  • FailureIn the Future Your Body Will Be the Furthest Thing From Your Mind (LOVE this band – didn’t hear this much, and it’s not as immediately engaging as their last one, but anything new by them is a real treat).

Starting at the bottom…

12.    Judas Priest Firepower

I’ve pretty much avoided Judas Priest in recent years. Of course I respect the hell out of them as one of a handful of bands that invented heavy metal, but I have a bone to pick with them. A band like Black Sabbath has given birth not only to metal itself but to various sub-genres like stoner metal and doom (even thrash, see “Symptom of the Universe”), and anyone familiar with my recent lists knows that I loves me the doom, particularly when it gets pushed in more progressive directions, like Pallbearer and Elder. And I’ve certainly indulged in the stoner over the years. BUT – other than Manowar (a band I have never cared for), Judas Priest is perhaps most responsible for spawning “power metal.”  And therein lies the problem. Power metal is easily my least favorite type of metal (well, besides tungsten, because fuck tungsten). And so, in my own petty, meagre, utterly irrelevant way, I have been punishing them for that. The thing is, Firepower is a really good album. That new kid has learned his lessons well! Respect.

 

11.   DrudkhThey Often See Dreams About the Spring

So this gets a little fucky because, in terms of their discography, this album sits solidly in the bottom half in terms of quality. But it was a nice surprise (they are Ukrainian, and I had no idea that it was even being made, let alone released). They’ve still got the kind of skewed, deliciously dissonant riffage that made me fall for them in the first place, but the last couple of albums have presented a diminishing returns problem.

 

10.   WinterfyllethThe Hallowing of Heirdom

The best thing that ever happened to English black metal (as far as I’m concerned) decided to throw a curveball and release a totally acoustic album full of plaintive, melancholic, beautiful songs based on old English poems and folktales. This is some prime Hobbit-diddling music (if you’re into that sort of thing – I prefer dwarf-tossing and elf-peeping, like my good friend Peeping Tom Bombadil). Definitely Game of Thrones soundtrack-worthy, and it’s great to have on in the background when doing chores, or you want to grade student papers without approaching that particular task like Ramsay Bolton.

 

9.    ClutchThe Book of Bad Decisions

As Tom Morwood once said, “Clutch just don’t make bad albums.”  Agreed!  This album is a bit of a let down still, because I simply haven’t loved it as much as the previous two. But fuck it, it’s Clutch. “In Walks Barbarella” is one of the songs of the year.

 

8.    The Ocean Phanerozoic I: Paleozoic

These German science nerds write concept albums about ENTIRE EPOCHS OF EARTH’S FUCKING GEOLOGICAL AND BIOLOGICAL HISTORY.  I didn’t think they were going to top 2013’s Pelagial, and I don’t think they have.  This album has a song on it called “Age of Sea Scorpions” and all I can picture is Klaus Meine, leather glistening, striding out from the prehistoric sea towards some damp scorpion the size of a Winnebago, which awaits him, on the leafy beach, to do battle.

 

7.    GhostPrequelle

Let the roasting begin!  Ha. I really only love half of this album (“Rats,” “Faith,” “Witch Image,” the instrumentals). It’s a shame that the band is such a dictatorship, but they wouldn’t be Ghost without it. Tobias Forge’s more saccharine tendencies are let loose on this album, and unless you are in the right mood they can really make America grate again. But it’s intrinsically cheesy, and they (he) were always looking to be bigger, and more, than just a metal band. But if it really is him writing the riffs to “Rats,” then I say hats off to him (not that it’s rocket surgery, but still). There IS too much fluff on this album, and I can’t really object when people say the first album is their best. Now, if “Square Hammer” had been on this album instead of “See The Light,” then this would be a different conversation. Come to think of it, why wasn’t it?

 

6.    Immortal Northern Chaos Gods

An Immortal album without Abbath? How is that going to work?

Quite well, actually.

I loved Abbath’s first solo album (it was my #1 last year), and if this doesn’t quite have the highs of that album, it is, if anything, more consistent. One thing Abbath can do better than Immortal-without-Abbath is groove in mid-tempo, though this album does try to do that in songs like “Gates to Blasyrkh.”  But they basically end up repeating bits from Sons of Northern Darkness. But NCG doesn’t care much about the mid-tempo, and the drummer is the same axe-wielding cave-dweller, and this has blast-beats all over the place. When you are riding in to do battle against the trolls on the back of a huge wolf, this is what you want or your iPod.

 

5.    PanopticonThe Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness

Not the first time Austin Lunn has featured on my list, and probably not the last. If you’re going to combine black metal with bluegrass/Americana, and do it incredibly well, then at some point you’re going to have a surfeit of material, and start thinking about releasing a double album. But you’ll split the black metal side and the hillbilly pickin’ into separate albums and release them as one package. It’s like if the Odd Couple had to make an album, but instead of collaborating on songs they made their own distinct albums. But they really were in love the whole time, and despite the glaring disconnections they belong together. Just, you know, in separate rooms. But the black metal part is not to be denied because all of the traditionally obnoxious stuff (well, not all of it…) is minimized, and it has a very organic feel, particularly in the drum department. And the countryish stuff on the second album is completely convincing.

 

4.    Lubomyr MelnykFallen Trees

And now for something completely different. Lubomyr Melnyk was born in Ukraine and came to Canada as a wee lad and has earned himself the title of fastest pianist in the world. But if you think that sounds like Yngwie Malmsteen shred-wankery on a piano you’d be missing the mark by a wide margin. The compositions are quite beautiful, and from what I can tell the density of the notes come from each hand playing intersecting arpeggios with the sustain pedal on all the time, resulting in what Melnyk calls “continuous music.” The result is a complex cascade of notes that is more mesmerizing than indecipherable. I can almost feel brain cells re-growing as I listen to this stuff. It’s hard to find actual recordings of him, which is a shame since he has spent time homeless (in Winnipeg, no less), and deserves far more attention as a Canadian musical treasure.

 

3.   High on Fire – Electric Messiah

Matt Fucking Pike. This shirtless metal titan has made many a year-end list either for Sleep or High on Fire. I’m sure the 28-year-old me would have jizzed all over The Sciences, but for several years I’ve preferred to board the High on Fire train, and like Clutch they never disappoint. They really took it up a notch with Snakes for the Divine in 2010, and there are moments on this album that recall the mammoth and indescribably awesome title track of that fantastic album. That can only be a good thing, but I also get the sense that Pike is steadily progressing as a guitar player and songwriter. It’s as vicious as ever, but there’s more science to the heaviosity now.

 

2.   VoivodThe Wake

Snake and Away are doing their thing just fine, but it’s the new guys who own this album. Rocky’s bass guitar tone is mid-rangy but still has balls, and his ear for what the riff requires is impeccable. And Chewy? How do you innovate without alienating the ancient ones? How do you pay homage to tradition without sounding derivative? Chewy has all the answers. Best thing they’ve done since The Outer Limits.

 

1.  SlugdgeEsoteric Malacology

Slugdge has been a small obsession of mine for the past year (along with Failure, and if you don’t know them then you need to get with the program). Hail Mollusca! How can “technical death metal” be so catchy?  Take a bunch of Akercocke, a good bit of Carcass, throw in some Mastodon and Gojira for spice, and you’ll have all kinds of slimy, invertebrate fun. Now that they’ve acquired a human drummer, I can’t wait to see where they go next. Perhaps on the road, and not just in England? Please?


 

Other random entertainment mentions:

 

The Expanse – it might be a tad pat to call it Game of Thrones in space, but it kind of is, and it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than the last couple of Star Wars movies. Just more evidence that long-form television can kick the shit out of Hollywood almost any day of the year, and the exceptions are increasingly fewer and farther between.

Failure – I remember 20 years ago when you couldn’t cruise the bargain bin of any music store without seeing a copy of Fantastic Planet, and now I’d pay top dollar for one of those things. They are back and mean business, picking up right where they left off. Spacey, arty, but still accessible, they were covered by A Perfect Circle way back when, and they are just as good a band. 2015’s The Heart is a Monster is itself a monster. This band needs more love.

Solo – Don’t know, haven’t watched. Do I want to? Frankly, I don’t know. If it’s too much like The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi then I might just pass. Why is it so hard to use some of that insane Disney money to hire someone that can write a script that is interesting, creative, and compelling, and doesn’t rip off the earlier movies over and over again? Why is it so hard to write dialogue that doesn’t have me rolling my fucking eyes every three minutes? Is that too much to ask? Fun fact: 75% (at least) of any screenplay is people talking to each other. If you can’t do that well, then your script sucks. Pretty simple math, actually. Either start over, or delegate the task to someone with talent.*


* Way to rant about a movie you’ve never seen Haslam!  At least he hates tungsten.