Dr. Dave

#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.

 

 

 

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#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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

 

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


9. Deathspell Omega – The Synarchy of Molten Bones

 

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

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

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


8. Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason

 

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


7. Devin Townsend – Transcendence

 

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


6. Dunsmuir – Dunsmuir

 

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


5. Alcest – Kodama

 

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


4. Gojira – Magma

 

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


3. Deftones – Gore

 

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


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

 

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


1. Abbath – Abbath

 

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


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

 

 

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

 

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

Dr. Dave

#459.4: 2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave!

One more list for 2015 arrived at the last minute!  Enjoy the rock as prescribed by Dr. Dave Haslam.

DAVE

GETTING MORE TALE #459.4:
2015 Year-End Lists, part 4 – Dr. Dave Haslam!

First of all – it had to happen sooner or later, but when it does it is still a shock. RIP Lemmy. A true lifer for the rock and roll.

10. Paradise Lost – The Plague Within
9. Drudkh – A Furrow Cut Short
8. Panopticon – Autumn Eternal
7. Mgla – Exercises in Futility
6. Iron Maiden – The Book of Souls
5. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – The Night Creeper
4. High on Fire – Luminiferous
3. Deafheaven – New Bermuda
2. Ghost – Meliora
1. Clutch – Psychic Warfare

Honourable Mentions:

  • Faith No More – Sol Invictus
  • Lamb of God – VII: Sturm und Drang
  • Failure – The Heart is a Monster
  • Baroness – Purple
  • Elder – Lore

Dishonourable Mention:

  • Slayer – Repentless (without Lombardo and Hanneman they are a shadow of their former selves.)

SLAYER

Thanks Dr. Dave for his list!  Happy new year!

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Live Evil (remastered 2 CD version)

NOTE:  This is basically a review of the Deluxe edition of Live Evil.  I own The Rules of Hell (2008) box set of Dio-era Sabbath, so I did not need to buy the later Deluxe of Live Evil.  The 2 CD edition inside The Rules of Hell is sonically the same.

BLACK SABBATH – Live Evil (1982 Warner, 2008 Rhino)

Live Evil: Not only a palindrome, but also the last gasp of the Dio/Appice/Iommi/Butler lineup of Black Sabbath.  Hard to believe that their first “official” live release was with Ronnie James Dio at the mic and not Ozzy Osbourne! This infamous live album was the last thing Sabbath did before Dio left (the first time) and it’s actually a lot better than people generally give it credit for.

Some folks may not enjoy that live, there’s only one guitar.  When Iommi takes a guitar solo, the gap is filled by bassist Geezer Butler and keyboardist Geoff Nicholls.  The audible keyboards in the middle of a heavy metal song like “Neon Nights” do take a little getting used to, admittedly.  In the end though, it’s part of the scenery.  Black Sabbath didn’t do much with live keyboards in the original Ozzy era, but they were a part of every Sabbath lineup since.  There was also apparently a lot of behind the scenes bitching about instrument levels and whatnot that supposedly lead to the disintegration of the band.  This remastered edition of the CD leaves me with few qualms about the sound.

LIVE EVIL_0004

Back in the 80’s and 90’s, you used to see a lot of fan rivalry.  “Dio sucks!” or “Dio rules!”  Today we all have the perspective to know that you can have both Ozzy and Dio, like having your cake and eating it too.  Well, until Dio’s heartbreaking 2010 death, that is.  It is true most singers that Sabbath have had couldn’t do the Ozzy material convincingly. Ozzy sounded genuinely disturbed and terrified on “Black Sabbath”. (“What is this that stands before me? Figure in black which points at me. Turn round quick and start to run. Find out I’m the chosen one…oh no, please God help me!”) Dio camps it up quite a bit, which is not my personal preference. The same goes for “War Pigs”.  I also find that Vinny Appice just can’t cop the vibe that Bill Ward got on the drums. Ward played it very subtle, almost tribal, and Vinny plays it straight ahead. But I’ve yet to hear any lineup that can do that song as well as the original album version, including the reunited (1997-2012) Sabbath with Ozzy and Bill.  (Appice also gets a drum solo on “War Pigs”; thunderous but not necessary.)

The set list for this album was pretty cool, including Mob Rules favourites “Voodoo” and an absolutely killer “Sign of the Southern Cross”. This version, melded with a long extended “Heaven and Hell”, is among the very best moments in Dio’s career. Basically, all the Dio-era material here is excellent, while the Ozzy-era stuff leaves you feeling just a little bit underwhelmed. Not to say they’re bad, they’re just…different.  Two completely different singers with their own personalities.  The fact is that Dio made it work live as best he could, and that’s commendable.

MVP:  The super slinky Geezer Butler.  The remastered edition allows us to hear with real clarity every massive note, and his bass is like a jolt of caffeine to the brain!

Since this is a 2CD set, all the between-song banter that was deleted on single disc versions has been restored. That’s important. Dio talks a lot between songs and that’s part of the album. Otherwise there is no bonus material. There are ample and interesting liner notes, and the front cover looks absolutely stunning. This is one of Sabbath’s all-time best covers (perhaps second only to their first album) and it definitely shines in this edition. (But don’t let that stop you from tracking down a vinyl copy so you can see it in its 12×12 glory!)

LIVE EVIL_0001

Shame that this was the last album of the original Dio era, but of course Dio and the band felt there needed to be additional chapters later on. And so there were. Live Evil remained a controversial album for a decade after its releasing, dividing fan and band opinions.  I asked two of my esteemed Sausagefest rock scholar friends for their opinion on it, to make sure we’ve covered all the bases. This is why they had to add:

Uncle Meat:  “As good as Dio was as a singer, I never really liked some of his takes on Ozzy Sabbath songs. He kinda over-sings them. It’s like he is bored with them and he appeases the singer in himself. Also the mix is pretty horrible as well. The truth is, the only great Sabbath live album isnt even a Sabbath album. Ozzy’s Speak of the Devil still sounds great today.”

Dr. Dave:  “I don’t love or hate it. I like it. The most interesting thing for me, besides Dio, is the Vinny Appice take on the whole thing. More of a groove, less of a swing than Bill Ward. Not saying better, just neatly different.”

Final note: The liner notes correct Dio’s name to Ronnie James Dio.  The original LP and CD had his name printed as simply “Ronnie Dio”, as a bit of a “fuck you” to the singer.  They do not, however, reinstate Vinny Appice as an “official” member, having his name under “special thanks”!

3.5/5 stars. The most historic of the Sabbath live albums.

Dr. Dave’s List: Top Ten of 2014

A brief introduction to Dr. Dave: Not only is he one of Sausagefest’s most notable regulars, but he’s a talented musician too.  That’s him playing guitar on “The Maiden Song” from 2013.  He’s brought a completely different crop of bands to mikeladano.com with his Top Ten of 2014.  Enjoy.  (For my top ten, click here.)

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DR. DAVE’S Top Ten of 2014

Due to some disappointing releases from the likes of Mogwai, Interpol, and the Drive-By-Truckers, my Top 10 is heavy on the metal. What might surprise some people is the number of bands that fall close to, if not well within, the orbit of “black metal.” Yes, this most unfashionable of metal sub-genres has a glacier’s weight of the shitty and silly behind it, but in recent years it has evolved into the most creative force in metal. The vocals are always a dodgy proposition, but I don’t care. At a time when I was bored with the same-old blues-based root-5th power chord ho-hum I’ve heard this 87000 times since last Tuesday shtick, the blizzardy blast-beating barrage of newer BM bands came as a breath of fresh air. So, without further ado…

10. YOB – Clearing the Path to Ascend

If only for album closer “Marrow.” As the title suggests, this is as much a spiritual as a musical investment. This is not for the attention deficit disorder crowd – in fact, nothing on my list is. On his playthisriff.com website, Bob Balch of Fu Manchu cites YOB as one of the most requested, and difficult to produce, sources of guitar tablature. Must be all those eerie suspended chords. This is not your Uncle’s doom, trotting out the usual second-rate Sabbath bilge. Dive in or stay home. There is no in-between.


9. BLUT AUS NORD – Memoria Vetusta III: Saturnian Poetry

Along with the mighty Deathspell Omega, BAN forms the ungodly one-two punch of French avant-garde black metal. They have as much in common with Arnold Schoenberg as they do with classic heavy metal, and it shows. This is alien music, unsettled and unsettling melodies trapped in a churning maelstrom of rhythm. Yet from the chaos emerges moments of glorious and triumphant power. MVIII features a real drummer and a more organic feel, and while I prefer MVII, this is still undeniable. It will surely alienate conventional music listeners, and that’s fine. If you want to know what Cthulu has on his iPod, well, now you know.


8. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss

Damn. For years I figured Time-Travelling Blues would forever remain my favorite Orange Goblin album. Then they came out with Eulogy for the Damned and challenged that assumption. This does the same thing. They’re not a radically different band now, they just delve deeper into their talent and influences and deliver more accomplished material. They’re hitting a middle-aged stride. Better come along for the ride. And hopefully they come back to these parts – they’re a must-see live band.


7. OPETH– Pale Communion

Wasn’t overly impressed with their last one, but this is killer. They’re not really a metal band anymore, and that’s okay. Any fan of 70’s prog should be all over this like Bill Cosby on a drowsy lady. I’ve always preferred my prog with a healthy helping of balls, and this delivers. Proof positive that metal boasts some of the most versatile and forward-looking musicians of any genre, anywhere, anywhen, anyhow.


6. MASTODON – Once More Round the Sun

As with Orange Goblin, I figured the Highway to Hell, Moving Pictures, Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, Queen II-rule would still apply – namely, that the album that first got me into the band would always be my favorite. Once More Round the Sun may, in time, dethrone Leviathan as my favorite Mastodon album. Obviously I’m not one of those dicks who argue that because they’ve gained mainstream popularity they’ve gone soft and toothless. Their use of melody has been honed to a razor’s sharpness, and they swing like pretty much no other metal band can. They are capable of anything, and where they will go from here is anybody’s guess.


5. TRIPTYKON – Melana Chasmata

Thomas Gabriel Fischer is best known as the force behind Celtic Frost. While I missed the boat on his latest project’s initial album (Eparistera Daimones), this one has had me by the short and curlies for a month now. Oozing with menace and dripping with spite, this is a lurching, gargantuan slab of primordial darkness. Album opener “Tree of Suffocating Souls” is ridiculous, but it’s the relatively subdued “Aurorae” that really hooked me. A brooding slow-burner, it adds layers and intensity in a post-metal fashion that builds to a neatly twisted guitar solo.


4. PALLBEARER – Foundations of Burden

I can understand why even some metalheads don’t cotton to the doom. It’s slow, it’s gloomy, it’s repetitive. And then comes Pallbearer, four guys from Arkansas, and everything you think you know about doom can be deposited in a small sack and buried six hundred and sixty-six feet beneath Ozzy’s decapitated bat. The melodic richness of “The Ghost I Used To Be” is a perfect example of where doom is going now because of these guys.


3. WINTERFYLLETH – The Divination of Antiquity

The most quintessentially English black metal band, Winterfylleth combines the charging rhythms and regal melodies of Iron Maiden with the blast beats and tremolo picking of black metal to create a supercharged English folk music for the 21st Century. It’s about the riffs with these guys – slight alterations in fingering create micro-melodic textures within the dominant keys, creating the “blizzardy” tremolo-picked sound of black metal. These guys have it down to a science. “A Careworn Heart” is a lot more relaxed, but you will get the drift.


2. AGALLOCH – The Serpent and the Sphere

For my money, the emergence of “post-black metal” has been the best thing to happen in metal this century, other than the “post-metal” of Isis and like bands. So, not surprisingly, Isis and Agalloch are my two favorite bands to emerge since 2000. The Serpent and the Sphere isn’t the instant classic that Ashes Against the Grain and Marrow of the Spirit were, but this is an epic addition to a nearly flawless discography nonetheless. These forest-dwellers from Oregon have perfected the folksy, pagan, post-rock mutation of black metal like no one else. Lyrical and uplifting while still rooted (distantly) in a style of metal known for the ugly and evil. As usual, it’s the build-up and crescendo that is the goal. “Plateau of the Ages” brings it, and then some.


1. PANOPTICON – Roads To The North

Blackgrass? Blue Metal? I don’t know what you’d call it, but genius Austin Lunn has combined his love of grim and frostbitten Norwegian black metal with the bluegrass of his native Kentucky, resulting in an album of unbridled originality. He’s an incredibly versatile guitarist, an insane drummer, and lays down some of the best bass ever heard on a black metal album. I envy this dude in a serious way. In order to fully grasp it, you have to hear all three parts of “The Long Road” in succession, all the way through. You can hear the black metal in the bluegrass parts and the bluegrass in the black metal parts. Fucking genius. Album of the year, regardless of genre.