Dr. Dave

2nd Sunday Screening: 4 Max the Axe videos for you!

It’s a long weekend in Canada and I chose to spend my Saturday going through video footage on my hard drive.  Every Sausagefest I take a lot of video and most of it never gets used.  What I discovered was that I had a lot of fun footage that just needed to find a home.

At the same time, I have been making videos for Max the Axe songs, so I can use them on the LeBrain Train.  I like having music videos to play so we can take breaks, and I need things that won’t set off copyright strikes.  All of this footage I’m discovering is helping me kill two birds with one stone.  Or, as Ricky might say, get two birds stoned at once.

“Gods On the Radio” is the first one I made, for the Friday May 14th show.  It’s Max’s favourite.  It doesn’t have any previously unseen footage in it; it is just a video I made to play that night.  All the footage was simply edited down from the Sausagestfest 2019 video.  Dave Haslam approved of the editing and that inspired me to make more.

I didn’t want to keep recycling old footage that everybody has seen, so I started exploring the hard drive for “Next Plane to Vegas”, which was debuted on the Friday May 21 episode of the LeBrain Train.

One of my favourite Max songs is “Overload” from the EP of the same name.  Problem is:  it’s short.  Too short for me to play on the show and still get enough of a break to make a coffee.  So I had to extend it.  I found some cool footage of Uncle Meat singing and drumming “New Orleans Is Sinking” in 2014, accompanied by Max on backing vocals.  This served as a good intro to extend the video.  Bonus:  rare footage of Max playing bass.  60-70% of the footage has never been seen before.

Another goodie but shortie is “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” from Trillion Dollar Threats.  Mickey Straight sang this one with Max at the Boat House, so although Ted Moore is credited on the album, I used a little bit of Mickey footage that I had a few times in this clip.  The video is about 60-70% previously unseen video.

 


BONUS!

I took the most footage at Sausagefest 2015, where this video was performed.  We had multiple live bands jamming and I got video of a lot of it.  Unfortunately, the audio on most of it was completely unusable due to a problem with the camera.  Also, very few songs were captured in full, thanks to a rapidly draining battery.  I did, however, capture this unique version of “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes, played improvisationally, on the fly.  Though wobbly at times, the vocal is solid, the bass outstanding, and the take on it is unique.  The soloing in the long outro is smokin’.  I’m glad I recorded the whole thing.  If you stay tuned to the end, you’ll hear Bucky complaining that he forgot the snare drum.  That was true.  “Seven Nation Army” and every other song that weekend was performed without a snare!  (It sounds like they were about to go into “Iron Man” at the very end.)

#892 Perspective 2020: With Dr. Dave

#892: Perspective 2020: With Dr. Dave

Dr. Dave Haslam is the drummer for Max the Axe. A swell guy, but also a bit difficult to get to follow simple instructions. I asked him for a Top 11 of 2020 and he didn’t get it in on time. Dr. Dave doesn’t do deadlines.  However it’s a good list, so we’re re-framing it today as a treatise on some good things that happened in a pretty shitty year.  Perspective 2020:  with Dr. Dave.  Eleven good things that happened in 2020.  A Nigel Tufnel Top Ten!

 


  1. Blue Oyster CultThe Symbol Remains

There’s life in them yet, with enough variety and new blood to maintain interest. It compares particularly well to Ozzy and AC/DC. The former needs to just go away, while the latter has, let’s face it, become the absolute epitome of Dad Rock: safe, comfortable, predictable, and boring as FUCK. BOC still has its tongue planted firmly in cheek, though whose cheek it is remains in question.

 

  1. WayfarerA Romance With Violence

One of the best things about black metal in this century is how it can incorporate different styles, and it was only a matter of time before someone spliced it with a Morricone-spaghetti western feel. Weird heavy stuff coming from Colorado these days.

 

  1. SolstafirEndless Twilight of Codependent Love

Iceland ain’t all Bjork and Sigur Ros. Their black metal scene is led by these lads who have been dialing-up the post-rock on recent albums. Black metal at its best is (barely) controlled fury, but this is not what you’re getting here; rather, it’s like the aftermath of that: the veteran barbarian, grown wistful in retirement, drinking his mead and reflecting on past conquests.

 

  1. Paradise LostObsidian

Their late-career groove continues with another consistent slab of darkly melodic metal with well-timed nods to their earlier stylistic detours.

 

  1. Killer Be KilledReluctant Hero

Supergroups don’t always stick around long enough to make a second album, and it’s great that these guys did. Troy Sanders (Mastodon), Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly), Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan) and Ben Koller (Converge) combine for an album that is both heavy and catchy. They use the three different vocalists really well, and the heaviness is a solid blend of the bands they come from. “From a Crowded Wound” might be the core of the album, but the title-track might be my song of the year; supposedly about losing a parent to Alzheimer’s, it’s reminiscent of “Hurt” (yes, that one), before Puciato takes the second half of the song by the neck to a triumphant denouement. If there is a better response to the shitshow of 2020, I don’t know of it.

 

  1. PallbearerForgotten Days

Less immediate than the one before, this album took some distracted listening in my car for it to truly sink in. Though all of the plastic in the dashboard looked and sounded like it was going to disintegrate, I found myself actually singing along to it: me, who’s all about the holy trinity of guitar, bass, and drums. When doom lets the likes of Boston and Kansas shine through, good things happen.

 

  1. Hum – Inlets 

Even more surprising than the BOC album was this. Like Failure five years ago, another promising band from the 90s that didn’t take off like they should have released new stuff. Shoegazy with thick, stonerish-riffage and sharp hooks. STILL waiting for the goddamn cd, though. Grrrrr.

 

  1. WinterfyllethThe Reckoning Dawn

Still some of the catchiest black metal out there. After an entirely acoustic album, this sees them roaring back with some of their thrashiest riffage.

 

  1. DeftonesOhms

Everything likeable about them is represented on this album. Plenty of atmosphere, groove, and riffs. A flat-out masterpiece of sonic craftsmanship from start to finish, and one of the best-produced albums I’ve heard in a long time.

 

  1. The OceanPhanerozoic II: Mesozoic/Cenozoic

Germany’s heaviest nerds complete two-album concept about the extinction of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammalian life on Earth. With one foot in the ISIS/Cult of Luna school of post-metal and the other in the hypnotic prog-metal of Tool, this is like catnip for me. A baked-up headphone album for sure.

 

  1. Elder – Omens

It’s not enough that Reflections of a Floating World is a top-ten 21st century album for me, but they had to go and do this, too. Fuckers. “Halcyon” rides a similar vibe as the krautrocky “Sonntag” from the previous album, but does so better, with more depth and commitment. It’s fitting that the weakest part of the previous album becomes the nucleus for maybe the strongest song this time out (and it’s weird that they again hit me hardest with the fourth song of the album). My top 3 this year are more-or-less interchangeable, depending on my mood, but I don’t think I’m ever not in the mood for these guys. It just doesn’t happen.

 

What’s on the teevee?

Lots of television was consumed this year, and I’ll admit it – The Mandalorian was better than I thought it would be. But it’s still just popcorn, compared to which The Expanse is prime rib, with all the fixins, with a side of even more prime rib. Star Trek: Discovery was somewhere in the middle, though I found season 3 uneven: my emotional g-spot likes more subtle manipulation, and season 3 all-too-often went straight for the aggressive fisting. Ouchie! Also of note was Britannia, which was both dark and goofy while still being committed to the overall vision. Definitely a British thing. The Boys was simply The Boys, and that’s what we all want, of course. Lovecraft Country was a very interesting spin on the Cthulu mythos in a Jim Crow-era America. Cursed was okay but pretty forgettable, and The Witcher was fun enough, I guess. The biggest single disappointment was learning that there will only be one more season of The Expanse after this, the fifth. They haven’t caught up with the books yet, and I highly doubt there will be a Game of Thrones shitting of the bed, but I just can’t accept that we’re nearing the home-stretch.

Dr. Dave

 

Max the Axe – Rocks the LeBrain Train on a Thursday Night

We promised you tunes, and we brought the tunes!  With a special interview with the guy himself, kinda a big deal, Max the Axe!  It was not an uptite Thursday night at all.  This loosey-goosey interview covers Max’s discography and history as an independent musician for over three decades.  Find out about his origins, see rare photographs, and watch the band play live!  We even get to look at the cover art and title of the new EP.  (Added bonus:  running commentary by drummer Dr. Dave.)

Straight outta lockdown, Max the Axe jammed together again for the first time in about a year.  The lockdown session was filmed and tonight we played for you three tracks:

  1. “River Grand”
  2. “Pygmy Blowdart” (NEW SONG)
  3. “Scales of Justice”

For a band who hadn’t practised in a year, filmed on a crummy cell phone that apparently only does vertical video, these were some fine tracks.  Enjoy the show!  Rock on, Max the Axe!

 

LATER TODAY

Don’t forget – the Easter special streams April 2 at 7:00 PM E.S.T.   It’s pure nostalgia as we pull from a grab bag of great memories.  Don’t miss it!

 

*Two more unaired songs were played during the session – “Uptite Friday Night” and the new “Oktoberfest Cheer”.

REVIEW: Max the Axe – “Randy” Live at the Boathouse – VinylArt.co custom picture disc

There are plenty of services online for cutting your own music to vinyl these days.  The one that caught my eye was VinylArt.co, based out of Wales.  This company will cut picture discs with your chosen artwork and (legal) music to four sizes:  5″, 7″, 10″ and 12″.  How well does it work?  Read on to find out.

MAX THE AXE – “Randy” (Live at the Boathouse) (VinylArt.co custom picture disc)

“How many times can you say Randy?”

The first thing I need to note is that I didn’t choose a song to put on vinyl for its fidelity.  The prime factor behind me spending my money wasn’t to test the product for review, it was to make something that I wanted for myself.  It had to be something that you can’t get physically — I wanted to create my own physical product for something that only exists digitally.  In 2018, I recorded a song by Max the Axe when they played the Boathouse, and a few people commented that they liked the video.  I think the live version of “Randy” they played that night was outstanding.  It had bite and presence.  Singer Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller really gives his all in this version, particularly on the chorus.  I decided to turn that version, recorded on my phone, into an “official bootleg” live record.  Sound quality wasn’t even a concern in that regard.

VinyArt.co seem to market these records as keepsakes more than a way to play music.  For example, you have two packaging options:  a coloured paper sleeve, or a frame.  You don’t buy frames for records you plan on playing.  I planned on playing my Max the Axe “Randy” bootleg.  I wanted it to sound decent.  Does it?

Actually yeah.  It sounds OK for a picture disc.  There is surface noise that you can hear during the fades.  As you can see from the waveform image below, you also lose volume with a picture disc.  By nature it is not going to sound as clean as the original mp3 file that it was made from.  However VinylArt “master” the track as part of the process, and it does sound full and beefy enough for my needs.

Unaltered vinyl at top, original mp3 at bottom

It’s a very easy process.  All you have to do is upload a photo, and a track that you own (or one from their library).  Then you choose the record size.   The smaller the cheaper, but also the less music that will fit.  A 5″ record can only handle up to four minutes, so I had to go with the standard 7″ single.  The records are one-sided with a smooth white finish on the B-side.  With shipping to Canada, the whole thing cost me $55 CAD and took just over a week.  They track the whole process for you, from photo printing to audio mastering to record cutting.

Keep in mind picture discs do not typically offer the same quality as pure black vinyl, but this is something I wanted for myself as a keepsake.  The bass is nice and fat and the vocals clear as a bell.  Except for the fade-in and fade-out, which are noisy, it sounds like a vinyl record should.  About what I expected.

Now Max the Axe can boast that he has been bootlegged to vinyl, and a decent one at that.  I can claim to own the only copy in existence, a limited edition of one!  The rarest record in my collection.

VinylArt.co aren’t going to make your music sound better than the source material, but it will sound like vinyl.  Your music, on a playable picture disc!  I plan on ordering something from them again, so if repeating a sale is a way to judge a company, then VinylArt gets the passing grade.  And so does Max the Axe!

4/5 stars

#765: “Three Yolks, Two Whites”… The Sausagefest 2019 Story

GETTING MORE TALE #765:
“Three Yolks, Two Whites” …and One Fucked Up Tent: The Sausagefest 2019 Story

It’s better than Christmas. It’s better than birthdays. It’s more rock and roll than Lemmy snorting coke off Ozzy Osbourne’s cock. It’s Sausagefest.

We look forward to this rock and roll party every year. It is the highlight of our calendars. We meticulously plan out songs, sketches, jokes, and food. Mountains of meat, sizzling to a soundtrack of pure integrity (with a couple musical exceptions). Male companionship? More like brotherhood.

Preparation is key. I started recording bits for my Sausagefest contributions late last year. All my introductions were “finished” weeks ahead of time, which gave the rare opportunity to listen and go back and fix things that were not working.  It was worth it.  The intros were well received and Uncle Meat enjoyed the Rob Gronkowski bits that I poached from Family Guy.

Meat and I left town after lunch on Friday, and as per our new tradition, stopped at Value Village to buy new T-shirts for the party.  The more ridiculous the better, for him.  He found a stupidly bright pink shirt depicting a Dr. Aftab Patla, and for me a shirt that said “OFFICER OF ROCK” on the back.

“Should have said ‘cock’,” commented my pal Jason.

This is the kind of stuff we find funny.

It was a blazing hot Friday and as soon as I had my new tent and canopy set up, I went down to the river for the first swim of the weekend.  Many of the boys had already arrived, and our glorious leader Tom pulled in at the same time we did.

There was an issue early in the evening.  Apparently the old laptop that has been playing the Countdown ever since they did the switch to mp3 has a bad audio out jack.  The backup plan was to play the Countdown off Meat’s phone, but it refused to play the tracks in the right order.  As a team we re-numbered all the id3 tags and renamed all the tracks until his phone miraculously began to do what we needed.  All of this done in a big open field on a Samsung phone.

The legendary 100 song Countdown was inaugurated this year by Styx with “Renegade”.  We were treated to a slew of classics (Black Sabbath, the Kinks, Drive By Truckers, Queensryche, Tenacious D, etc.) and a few duds (Afroman).  There is a certain, shall we say, younger element that has grown as Sausagefest expanded.  These highly respected youngsters were responsible for voting in some pretty incredible music from rock to funk.  Where they confuse me periodically is shit like Afroman.  You will hear me ranting about the rap songs on this year’s video, included at the bottom.

Afroman was one of nine songs that were given to me to introduce.  I refused to do it; instead I ranted for a bit about being stuck with a shit song, and asked my radio buddy Erik Woods to do it.  So picture that deep radio voice announcing, “this song is called ‘She Won’t Let Me Fuck'”.

I will give the young fellas credit for one thing.  When I arrived, I found out they were already campaigning for votes to get “Beth” onto next year’s Countdown.  This is, of course, because in 2015 I had to blast the song at full volume to wake up Uncle Meat, and even that wouldn’t do it.   Personally I would love if “Beth” made the Countdown next year, as a little wink to the Meat Man, who is not a morning person.  You’ll see that in the video as well.

Max the Axe wanted to grab breakfast at the Spatula early Saturday morning.  We roused the Meat Man, who was more than a little displeased to find out we arrived before they actually opened.  I took the brunt of the blame even though it was Max (his own band leader) who wanted to go!  And this is where things go slightly sideways.

The Spatula opened just five minutes later, and Max the Axe threw a wrench into things immediately by ordering eggs with “three yolks, and two whites”.  Our server didn’t seem to be in the best of moods, having already referred to Sebastien Munier as “Mr. Tattoo” when he walked in.  Max’s order was probably not the first one she wanted to take that morning.

“I don’t understand what he wants,” she said to us.  “I’m just giving him two eggs.”  The rest of us nodded in agreement.  Three yolks and two whites?  Who the fuck orders that?

“The chefs know how to make it!” testified Max in his own defence.  “They use the leftover egg white to make Hollandaise sauce.”

I did my research on this, and just to make everything even funnier, Max got that 100% wrong.  According to every recipe I consulted, Hollandaise sauce is made with yolks, not whites!

Max ate his two eggs in peace, but we were actually a bit perturbed at a new, teeny-tiny menu.  The legendary Flesherton Fillup breakfast is gone.  So is the steak and eggs.  It’s all gone, replaced by a simplified menu where you have to build your own replica Flesherton Fillup by ordering the extra meats and add-ons yourself.

“When did you get rid of the Flesherton Fillup?” asked Meat.

“Oh, we haven’t had that in a long time,” said the server.

“We were here last year and you had it then, I’m just surprised,” said Meat.

Condescendingly she answered, “Isn’t a year a long time?”

An underwhelming breakfast couldn’t derail us, though we will consider finding a new breakfast joint next year.  Here’s a fact you didn’t know:  the legendary Max the Axe is a garage sale aficionado.  Who knew that rock stars spent their weekend mornings hitting up garage sales?  We took Max to a couple garage sales on our way back, and apparently he just missed an old quadraphonic receiver ($5.00) by about five minutes.

It was a lazy afternoon spent (mostly) in the river, socializing and playing with my new waterproof camera.  With flawless timing, Zach the Lamb Lord served up his perfectly marinated side of lamb.  He outdid himself this year, with perhaps the juiciest lamb ever cooked by anyone.

The second evening’s continuation of the Countdown rewound a bit for those of us (like me) who fell asleep early the night before.  As the sun slowly began to turn into fire behind the trees, we all listened in.  Some were cooking steaks, some playing Frisbee, with the rest of us sitting attentively around the fire.

I had four more song intros on day two.  Another radio buddy, Jason Drury, helped me out with an intro for the B-52’s “Rock Lobster”.  Jason is from Ramsgate in the UK but everybody seemed to have different ideas of where he was from.  “Who was that Australian guy?” or “Who was that Irish guy?”  Day two of the Countdown had some smoking good tunes, including surprises like “Women in Uniform”, a non-album single by Iron Maiden.  When Tom posts the full tracklist for the entire Countdown, I’ll do the same.

Sausagefest may have ended, but the next morning offered its own unique challenge:  waking up Uncle Meat.  “It’s going to be pretty difficult to spin this to make you look good,” he said pointedly, and he’s right.  I’m not asking anyone to take my side in this.  However, if you don’t think it’s funny as hell, that’s not my problem.

I had to be back in town at a certain time.  “When should I start the process of waking him up, given that I want to be home by noon?” I asked his roomate Zach.

“I’d start now,” he said bluntly.  It was 8:00 am.

I gently woke him by telling him I wanted to start getting ready to go.  He could nap a bit longer but I would eventually need his help taking down the canopy.  I put on Kiss Alive II and toiled on packing up my stuff.  I stopped the album a couple times while I was working, but when “Beth” came on, I did what I had to do.  I blasted it for him.  This was his alarm clock.

I waited a while longer, asked some advice.  I shook his tent a little and told him to get up.  An anonymous man (who has an excellent real first name) suggested I remove a couple of the tentpoles.  That seemed reasonable.  It didn’t do much though.  I gave it a little more time, and then removed the final two tentpoles.  Meat lay there motionless.

“Is there anyone even in there?” someone asked.  Oh, he was in there.  Trust me.

“Maybe now you should take the top of the tent off,” said a second anonymous man.  Unnecessary.

Like an animal trapped in a net, first an arm thrust forth.  It failed to penetrate the tent.  Then an unsuccessful leg kicked up.  Then another arm, and another leg.  Then, as the frenzy built, the tent transformed into a ball of limbs, trying to smash their way through.  If you stuck that crazy rat from Stranger Things 3 in a bag, it would have looked a lot like Meat in his tent.  We watched the activity from a distance, guffawing so loudly that I have never come so close to actually piss myself laughing.  I could feel a bead of pee forming.  The futile struggle to open the tent, from a safe orbit, was simultaneously pants-wettingly funny and tear-forming sad!  Max was the first to have mercy on Uncle Meat, and opened the tent for him.

Because I gave him the tent, he threw one of the tent poles into the forest in retaliation.  That’s OK; I have lots of spares!

He was justifiably mad.  So was Chuck, for me blasting “Beth” at a still fairly early hour.  These people don’t get it.  You cannot go anywhere with Uncle Meat when you want to, unless you take extreme measures.  You are at the mercy of his whims, his hangover, and his appetite for cigarettes.  Oh sure, he’ll keep you laughing the whole way home (at least when his voice isn’t completely fucked) but actually getting him packed and into the vehicle is its own entire movie to itself.  The Sausagefest spinoff movie would have to be called Bedsheet Puptent:  The Waking of Meat.

I got home 30 minutes earlier than I had to be, which was fucking perfect.  So, thank you Meat for not bearing a grudge, but I got home in excellent time.  Thank you for your cooperation!  I cheered him up by messing with Dave Haslam on the way home, in the car behind us.  That put the smile back on Meat’s face.  Even though Haslam was completely innocent in all this, he had to pay the price to get Meat back in a good mood.

It was actually a nice ride home, spent listening to a soundboard bootleg from Iron Maiden’s Matter of Life and Death tour.  “That was their best album since Seventh Son“, he said.  I claimed Somewhere in Time.  It matters not.  It was a great listen, even though a few days earlier Meat was complaining about a live Kiss show sounding “too bootleggy”.

It was an awesome Fest, but aren’t they all?  I’ve never experienced a dud.  Our most excellent host and his companions in the shenanigans put on a great show every year.  Stay tuned for the full Countdown.  Until then, enjoy the video which captures the flavour of the Fest.  See how many songs you recognize from the Countdown!

 

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Trillion Dollar Threats (2010)

MAX THE AXE – Trillion Dollar Threats (2010 Mutant Music)

Max the Axe’s stellar new album Status Electric didn’t pop out of thin air.  Before he nailed it with that CD, Max had five prior releases.  Status Electric included a couple songs from the previous album Trillion Dollar Threats.  “River Grand” was vastly improved with Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller’s vocals.  Though it’s no Status ElectricTrillion Dollar Threats is still an entertaining slab of rock.

Trillion Dollar Threats features a variety of players.  There are several singers:  Geoff Dyke, Ted Moore, John Kelly, Mickey Straight, Ted Guirey, and Eric Litwiller.  That’s almost enough singers to staff the entire career of Black Sabbath!  Over the 16 tracks, there’s not a lot of cohesiveness, but there is a lot of rock.

“Overload” is a heavy-as-fuck opener, 80s thrash metal through and through.  It’s all about that chug, but the vocals seem like an afterthought.  “Guns to Iran” takes a spoken word approach, over a heavy riff, but when the singer (Geoff Dyke) attempts to sing…it ain’t good.  Mickey Straight improves things immediately on “Daddy Was a Murderin’ Man”.  There’s some punk rock in Max the Axe and this is where it comes out (guitar solo notwithstanding).  Maybe a little Faster Pussycat or LA Guns too.

Max is the master of the chugging heavy metal guitar.  “Labyrinth” has that, before meandering around a few different bits.  It’s a good groove that could use some editing.  “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” has a good riff coupled with entertaining lyrics.  For more amusement, there’s “Belljar Party”, the story of stuff going missing after a party.  “Whoever it was, they took my Walkman too.”  Other cool tracks include the spacey “Mutant Mind”, “Livin’ the Country”, and “Mexican Standoff”.

According to Litwiller, “Uptite Friday Night” is the exact same version as the one on Status Electric.  That’s OK because the sloppy drunk vibe is perfect.  The original “River Grand”  has Terry Guirey singing, but although this is the blueprint the Litwiller version is clearly better.  He took it in a more grungy Alice in Chains direction.

Look at Trillion Dollar Threats as a stepping stone to Status Electric.  All the band members (Max, Eric, Dave Haslam and Mike Mitchell) are there on one track or another.  Status Electric couldn’t be as great as it is without Trillion Dollar Threats laying the groundwork.  It needed to be cut down from 16 tracks (way too much for most albums), and some of the tracks need some tightening, but there is some decent rock on Trillion Dollar Threats.  If you like metal in the retro style, there will be plenty of riffs here for you to digest.

3/5 stars

#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.

 

 

 

WINNER WINNER! Max the Axe CD draw!

“Hey Winner winner, love that chicken dinner, put it in a briefcase to go!” – Max the Axe, “Next Plane to Vegas”


WE HAVE A WINNER the Max the Axe CD draw!  Congratulations to…

LEAH from Waterloo, age 8!

 

Way to go Leah!  She was even able to name Max the Axe by his real name, Mike Koutis!  We’re not saying she had any help with this, but even if she did, it wasn’t against the rules!

Your Max the Axe Status Electric CD and Nancy Vicious button are on their way!*

* Mail strike notwithstanding!

CONCERT REVIEW: Max the Axe and guests, Dec 8 at the Boathouse + CD GIVEAWAY!

The Boathouse was rocked again this past weekend as Max and his legendary Axe stormed the place with heavy riffing, some friends, and a brand new album called Status Electric.

Opening the show was singer was former Max singer Mickey Straight (“from Guatemala” as he was introduced, but I think Guatemala is Toronto).  Mickey has a rock star stage presence and together with Max the Axe, they played some of their oldies such as “Mutant Mind” and “Belljar Party”.  Mickey played bass as a trio with Max and Dr. Dave Haslam on drums, which we quickly learned was going to be a common theme going forward.

Second up was the biggest surprise of the night: Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches.  Punk rock was expected, and punk rock we had (including some Pistols and Stooges with originals).  On drums…the newly rebranded “God Damn Dave” Haslam.  Guitarist Mike “Mitch Bitch” Mitchell surprised us by ripping off his shirt revealing a corset.  But the real surprise was Nancy Vicious herself, a young powerhouse with lungs of fucking stainless steel.  Classic punk mixed with new-breed bands like Dilly Dally.  I learned that Nancy has been playing the bars for years, though only 19 years old.  No CDs for sale unfortunately — Nancy told me their first album was “really bad” but that they are working on a second one with (hopefully) about 13 songs.  They did have merch for sale in the way of stickers, buttons and postcards.

We were under the impression that the Hellen Keller Band had changed their name to the Delusionals.  This was Fake News.  What is the Hellen Keller Band?  An instrumental trio led by Mike Mitchell on guitar, God Damn Dr. Dave on bass, and Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller on drums.  Mitchell’s incredible picking was quite stunning to watch.  He’s got chicken pickin’ going on, and plenty of ability.  And it turns out Dr. Dave is even better on bass than he is on drums.  This trio was plenty of fun to watch, as they mixed covers and originals.  They closed the set with a blistering Dead Kennedys “Holiday in Cambodia”.

Finally the game of Musical Chairs came to the end when Max the Axe hit the stage.  Lineup:  Max on lead guitar, with Eric Litwiller’s voice, Dr. Dave’s drums and Mike Mitchell’s bass.  He played his entire new album, the stellar Status Electric in sequence with a break in the middle.  Now, we’ve been quite clear here how great Status Electric is.  Hearing it played live for the first time?  Brilliant.

Litwiller opened up his powerful lungs on “River Grand”, a grungy rocker.  He blasted consistently through all of “side one” while Max ripped hot licks on his Axe.  After the vocal tour-de-force “Sick of Living”, they played “Mexican Standoff” from Trillion Dollar Threats, some Black Flag, and then gave Litwiller a break as Mickey Straight was invited back for two oldies.  “Daddy Was a Murderin’ Man” and “I Don’t Advocate Drugs” (also Trillion Dollar Threats) were a treat.  The final side of the Status Electric album was then laid out, with “Gods on the Radio” and “Scales of Justice” being the obvious best tracks.  Unfortunately by this time all four band members had already played full sets with other bands, and they flubbed a few lines in “Uptite Friday Night” and “Scales”.  Not that this detracted from the show.  It seemed everybody was aware of how hard these guys had been playing all night!

4.5/5 stars

 

CD and MERCH GIVEAWAY!

WIN YOUR OWN COPY OF STATUS ELECTRIC!  Bonus NANCY VICIOUS STICKER AND BUTTON!

 

How, you ask, do I win?

It’s simple!  Just answer the easy question below by submitting it directly on the form.  All correct answers will be put in a hat and one lucky winner will be drawn at random!  Please remember to include your complete mailing address so we can send your prize!*

QUESTION:  Name all four current members of Max the Axe.

This contest will run for one week, from December 10 to December 17, when we will draw the winner.

Good luck!

*Disclaimer:  Canada Post is on strike and we can make no delivery guarantees.

MAX THE AXE CD release tonight!

Heed the “Call of the Wild”!  Max and his legendary Axe are hitting the Boathouse in Kitchener TONIGHT (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario) for the release of his sixth record Status Electric.  Though a late arrival in 2018, Status Electric is so bloody good that it’s likely to (spoiler?) make our Top 5 of 2018 list.  When nine songs get stuck in your head for weeks on end, that’s a good sign.

Opening acts include Mickey Straight (ex-Max the Axe singer), Nancy Vicious and the Nasty Bitches, and The Delusionals (formerly the Hellen Keller Band).

$5 at the door, $10 for a CD.

If you’re anywhere near the “River Grand”, you won’t need the “Next Plane to Vegas” to join Max the Axe at the Boathouse.  Even “Randy” may be there, screaming the “Call of the Wild”.  If you are “Sick of Living”, don’t go to “The Other Side”!  “You Gotta” go to the Boathouse instead.  If you had an “Uptite Friday Night” then the best cure will be to rock with Max on Saturday.  Witness the “Scales of Justice” tip forever in Max’s favour.

At the very least, you’ll hear the cautionary tale of why “Only a fool owns a deadly snake, let alone two.”  That’s how it goes…so go to the Boathouse and catch them live.