Dr. Dave

#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!

 

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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.

 

REVIEW: Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)

MAX THE AXE – Status Electric (2018 Mutant Music)

Two simple words:  “You gotta”.

Max the Axe is back with possibly his most potent lineup yet.  Led by Max and his thrilling axe, the band now boasts Dr. David Haslam on drums, Mike Mitchell on bass, and powerhouse lead vocalist Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller.

Full disclosure:  I know these guys.   I love these guys.  But I also just love hard rock and heavy metal.  So, out of integrity, I swear that if I did not like their new album, Status Electric, I would be straight up and tell you.  But I do like it.  A lot.  How much of that is due to friendship?  I don’t know.  Read the review and decide for yourself.  This is a good album.  I have bought way worse albums, for way more money.

I’ll give you some honesty right from the start.  “River Grand” is a good song, but not for an opener.  I rarely like when an album opens on a slow grind like this.  It’s enough to throw some people, but the song kicks by chorus time.  Eric Litwiller pours it all on, his lead vocal being the highlight of the track.  What’s he sound like?  He’s like an amalgam of many.  You can hear some Tenacious D, some Anvil, some Maiden.

As for Max, his solos are simple, memorable and to the point.  Pure rock and roll with a side of Ace Frehley.  His lyrics almost steal the spotlight though, as many are clever for the genre, and catchy as fuck.  “Next Plane to Vegas” is one such example, a pure blast…win place or show.

Who is “Randy”?  What’s your real name, Randy?  One of the weirdest choruses you’ll ever hear also happens to be one of the catchiest.  I can’t help it though.  I was sitting at my desk going, “Randy!  Randy!  What’s your name, Randy?”  Musically, we’re at debut-album Maiden, or reasonably close to it.  This is one of two semi-epic tracks on the album.

Max the Axe goes pop metal on “Call of the Wild”, nothing but a Motley Rokken good time.  The decent chorus is mashed up with a verse that doesn’t quite mesh.  But then things go full-on metal with “Sick of Living”.  This fuel-injected track has Eric singing at his most Bayley with a dash of Dickinson.  Litwiller’s roots include thrash metal, and there are healthy doses of that along with his best David St. Hubbins screams.  “Sick of Living” smokes the competition, besting several tracks on the great new Judas Priest album!  More great metal:  “The Other Side”.  The lead riff sounds as if bequeathed by Lord Iommi himself, with a modern slice.  And like any good Iommi track, it boasts two solid riffs, and a smokingly Sabbath solo.

Sometimes you hear an album and know right away which song should be the single.  That is “Gods on the Radio”.  Punctuation error aside, this track is winning 110%.  It shall henceforth be known as “You Gotta”, since that is the vocal hook that will be rattling inside your head for days.  The lyrics (Litwiller’s first writing credit) are borderline genius for being so goddamn memorable.

God’s on the radio,
With the world in his video,
Phil Collins in the studio,
Phil Collins in the Su-su-su-su-sudio.

The song itself is punky Queens of the Stone Age, with vintage 1977 Ace Frehley lead guitar and maybe a hint of Mike Patton.  Yes, this is the single, absolutely.  I’ll say it’s one of the best songs to come out this year.  At least, if the amount it’s stuck in my head is anything to judge by.  In fact I’m gonna go back and play it again.  “You gotta,” as the man says.

Yeah, even on repeat listens, it remains as fun as the first.  I only wish for a better sounding recording; it would be brilliant with full-on studio fidelity.  “You gotta turn it up louder,” says the man, so that helps.

Garage rock is embodied with the sloppy “Uptite Friday Nite”.  Stupidly catchy, it’s not one of the best tracks but it’s the noisiest.  This is the kind of jam you’d put on before going out for the night.  It sounds like the guys shoutin’ out the chorus are already halfway there.

The second, and superior album epic is “Scales of Justice”, Litwiller’s other co-write.  Vintage 1976-era Judas Priest (circa Sad Wings) meets a slick Zeppelin groove.  Jimmy Page definitely sounds like an influence in parts, while others are jagged riffs of metal.  Max uses his Axe to carve music from pure granite, and it’s all very satisfying.  The song snakes in and out with different sections and grooves.  As a closer it is suitably climactic and leaves you wanting more.

I played some tracks for some friends.  One disagreed with my praise of “You Gotta” and thought “Scales of Justice” was far better.  Another commented, “You know what this sounds like?  A bunch of 40 year olds in a basement.”  And I responded, “What’s wrong with that?”  Here are some guys in their 40s that are still passionate about rock, and after many years, have written a collection of nine good songs.  With regular-Joe money, they made an album.  And it’s a good album.  I hear things on this album that keep me coming back.  I ask myself, “am I biased”?  Of course I am.  But I wouldn’t have to listen to it if I didn’t want to.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve played this album in totality.  It’s a lot.  You don’t do that unless you like it.  Whatever it is that I am hearing on Status Electric by Max the Axe, I can only hope that you can hear it too.

4/5 stars

#S18-4: “Who Gives a F*** About Transformers!” — Sausagefest 2018 was More Than Met the Eye

On Friday I was itching to go.  I made a post here, critiquing my passenger Uncle Meat for wanting to stop at both Walmart and Value Village before hitting the Sausage Road.  He’s a grown man and could be a little better prepared…but I too am a grown man who can admit when he is wrong.  And I was wrong.  The Walmart and Value Village stops were actually two of my favourite things that happened.

WALMART

“I wanna stop at the Walmart up by St. Jacobs,” said Meat.  Cool.  I try to make a point of checking the toy section at every Walmart, because it’s the out-of-the-way ones where you can find the rare stuff.  I made a beeline and lo!  One, two, three, four, FIVE brand new Transformers figures.  I grabbed all five and hit the checkout, so excited about my excellent find.  These are toys that collectors are having a hard time finding anywhere.  This led directly to…

VALUE VILLAGE

“I want something ridiculous,” said Uncle Meat as we hit the T-shirts.  Immediately, I spotted an Optimus Prime shirt waiting right there for me, the first shirt we saw.  My size!  I then found rather quickly a bright orange George Jones “The Living Legend” shirt.  It had to come with us to Sausagefest.  Finally, after going through just about every shirt in the store, Meat found it like destiny:

These two stops really set the tone for the whole weekend.  They were:

1. Everything coming together perfectly, and
2. Dr. Dave Haslam’s hate-on for Optimus Prime.

I love when a plan comes together.

One plan that did not come together was my tent, which broke immediately just out of the box.  Fortunately you can always count on certain Sausagefesters to always bring gorilla and/or duct tape.  The tent weathered both nights.

DAY ONE

The Countdown began promptly at Whenever O’clock and rapidly ticked down 50 + 2 tracks in one night, plus numerous bits and sketches.  50 +2?

We lost one of our own this year and Rush’s “Dreamline” was played in his honour.  Many were decked in neon orange in honour of his old orange boiler suit.  Troy was a truly good soul, a human being with a solid heart of gold.  He always made me feel welcome from my first Sausagefest on, and many years before that too as we had friends in common.  “Learning that we’re only immortal for a limited time” was a poignant lyric, but what really made it special was a tribute that Jeff Woods himself recorded for it.  The Legend of Classic Rock participated in a sketch/tribute that made eyes wet and some bellies laugh.  The tone was flawless and it is truly good to know what integrity looks like up close and personal.

“Dreamline” was not part of the official countdown, nor was a bit that I snuck into my own intro as a part of The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreaming”.  I sandwiched my personal introduction into Jeff Russo’s “Main Title” from Star Trek: Discovery, a show I’ve been hyping all year long.  Russo (of the rock band Tonic) composed a dramatic, striking piece working in elements from the original show.  I’m glad to have a chance to showcase it in its entirety, albeit with a long interlude of my shit in the middle.

Don’t forget the two minutes of “improvised scatting”, precisely because Troy would have hated that kind of shit!  And it was so funny that I couldn’t breathe for two minutes straight.  The Countdown (all a blur to me now) ran from #100 to 91 (10 songs total) with no comedy bits, because Troy always said “Less talk, more rock!”  They cut the crap and just played the tunes.

I can tell you that we heard Styx that night (“Mr. Roboto” and “Light Up”), some Five Alarm Funk, Beastie Boys, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Willie Nelson, and…a blur of songs and comedy.  There were a few rap tracks this year, certainly a record number.  Afroman and Cypress Hill made their debuts.  A list is forthcoming.

DAY TWO

50 more tracks to count down.

Uncle Meat was up early (for him) at 9:30, and in great spirits despite a bad back the night before.  We made our way to Flesherton where Uncle Meat destroyed the men’s toilet at the Flying Spatula.  Emerging from the washroom he announced to the world, “Don’t use the one on the left!”  He annihilated the toilet again on our way out, and that of an outhouse on the way back to the farm.  I felt bad for the next guy in line waiting to use the outhouse, but Meat made it out of there really quick.

But I digress.  The Flying Spatula was a great ol’ time even though the Lamb Lord got mad at me for taking a picture of his food.

 

Back on the farm, we played a cool game I call “Knife Chucking”.  It’s kind of like axe throwing, but more special because those daggers were hand-forged by our very own Chuck.  And it was way fun!  A knife actually got lost in the dirt, and then plowed over by mistake by tractor.  But we found it as a team with a metal detector (for real!) and a rake!

I goaded Dr. Dave to rant some more about the Transformers. Man, he really hates the Transformers.  Do not watch this video if you are easily butthurt!

The second night commenced with lamb, perfectly marinated and cooked to medium by our chef the Lamb Lord.  It was gone so fast that Uncle Meat didn’t even get a slice.

The rock resumed.  The Blues Brothers was #1…Clutch #2…and Twisted Sister at #3 with “Burn in Hell”.  More Five Alarm Funk, Queen, Tool…just a blur of songs.  But probably most impressive to some of us:  “Grendel” by Marillion, in its entirety.  A 17-minute track within the top 20, and yet momentum was strong.

I have a literal Meat-ton of a video to sift through, but with perfect weather and setting, Sausagefest 2018 was once again utopia on Earth.

And a big, big, big thank you to Jeff Woods, the real Legend of Rock and Roll, for helping us out this year.  Meat sent you a personal gift as well.  I know you’re about 40 kilometers downriver from us in the valley.  Uncle Meat kept having to shit that day sir.  Meat took a shit in the river, and his shit signal should be with you by now.  Mr. Woods, you are a huge inspiration and truly a man among men.

And woman!  One woman.  Sausagefest has its first woman and she is one of the guys!  A massive first that may have been overdue!

My sun baked skin is aching for the comfort of a shower.  Enjoy the photos.  Lots more to come.

 

 

 

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

#663:  Going to the (Metal) Extreme!

By Dr. Dave

 

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

 

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

 

“Taking the Black”

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

“Choose Death!”

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Peace out, bitches!

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

 

 

Dr. Dave’s Top Ten for 2017

By Dr. Dave Haslam

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

Anywho, where was I?

 

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

 

10 – Power Trip – Nightmare Logic

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

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

 

9Paradise Lost – Medusa

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

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

 

8 – The Necromancers – Servants of the Salem Girl

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

Song selection: “Salem Girl, Part 1”

 

7 – Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis

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

Song selection: “Disappear”

 

6 – The Obsessed – Sacred

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

Song Selection:

 

5 – Mogwai – Every Country’s Sun

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

Song selection: “Old Poisons”

 

4 – Wolves in the Throne Room – Thrice-Woven

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

Song Selection:

 

3 – Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

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

Song Selection: “Steambreather”

 

2 – Elder – Reflections of a Floating World

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

Song Selection: “Sanctuary”

 

1 – Pallbearer – Heartless

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

Song Selection: “I Saw The End”

 

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

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

 

Dr Dave