Roadrunner

REVIEW: Type O Negative – Bloody Kisses (1993 – original and re-release)

TYPE O NEGATIVE – Bloody Kisses (1993 Roadrunner, original and digipack re-release)

“If you like Black Sabbath,” said the security guy at the mall, “then you have to hear Type O Negative.  They are one of my favourite bands right now.  Do you have it?”

We checked the racks, and we did — Bloody Kisses, the recent re-release in a smart looking cardboard digipack.

There were two security guys at the mall.  There was Trevor Atkinson, the laziest guard in the world, who I knew from highschool.  The other guy had more the look of the cop-wanna-be, the way you picture the cliche of mall security guards in your head.  He was the Type O fan.

The year was 1995, still early in the winter, and fresh working at the Record Store (for about six months).  I had been collecting Black Sabbath for years, and in 1995 I was still mad for them, trying to acquire the rare stuff on CD like Born Again and Seventh Star.  Knowing my infatuation with Black Sabbath, the cop-looking guard recommended Bloody Kisses.  I was also about five months since my first big breakup, and I was still bitter and angry.  It clicked.

I mean, read this dedication in the inner booklet.

I wouldn’t recommend Type O Negative to any old Sabbath fan like he did.  In fact a few months later, I saw Type O Negative with a bunch of Sabbath fans, and they couldn’t have given a shit.  But I got why he did.  The gothic imagery, the heavy guitars, the keyboard accents.  Certainly, the comically deep vocals of Peter Steele were nothing like any of the higher-pitched crooners that Sabbath have ever had in their ranks.  But Type O did sooth my angry, heartbroken soul when I hit “play” on my brand new copy of Bloody Kisses.  I didn’t know, but I had bought a recent reissue featuring a new song called “Suspended In Dusk”, while losing a lot of the instrumental bits and novelty songs on the first edition.  The reissue, with only nine tracks instead of 14, is an overall better listening experience.  (There is also a deluxe edition with all the material from both, plus remixes, and their cover of “Black Sabbath” from Nativity in Black.)

Both versions open with the same song – “Christian Woman” – although the original makes you wait through 40 seconds of metal machine music and moaning called “Machine Screw”.  Cutting to the chase is better.  Soft, subtle keyboards welcome you in.  The nine minute track is laid out in three parts in the booklet.  A: “Body of Christ (Corpus Christi)”, B: “To Love God”, and C: “J.C. Looks Like Me”.  Each is a distinct section with its own riff and hooks, with “To Love God” being a soft interlude between two harder parts.  If anything is Sabbathy here (besides the title), it’s the varied arrangement, the keys, and the Appice-like drums of Sal Abruscato.  Guitarist Johnny Hickey sings the higher vocals in contrast to Steele’s ridiculously low baritone.  This is a truly great song, though the naughty lyrics aren’t poetry.  It’s solid all the way through, which you can’t say for every long song on this album.   The track was pointlessly edited down to four and a half minutes for single release, losing all its grandeur.

The reissue and original differ drastically in running order here, but the more concise reissue blends seamless into “Bloody Kisses”, a very slow dirge that goes on for 10:56.  A bit of a slog, with highlights here and there, but get to the point, right?  In the booklet it is subtitled “A Death in the Family” and that’s exactly what it sounds like.  In the quiet parts of the song are sounds which create the image of a gothic castle during a storm, so you have to give Type O credit for caring about their craft.  “Too Late: Frozen” is another long one, distinguished by it’s goofy “too late for a-pol-o-gies-ah!” chant.  It has a lo-fi punk vibe and is quite enjoyable for all its disperate ingredients.  Of course one of those parts is a big dark dirge-y gothic breakdown.  It’s really two songs in one, with “Frozen” bookended by “Too Late”.

Type O goes for straighter riffing on “Blood & Fire”.  This is about as conventional as songs get on Bloody Kisses.  Some of the lyrics resonated with my sad-sack-of-shit broken-hearted persona that I found myself projecting.

I always thought we’d be together,
And that our love could not be better,
Well, with no warning you were gone,
I still don’t know what went wrong.

It sounds as if a natural side break was inserted after “Blood & Fire”, because there is a respite before the bizarre sitar-inflected “Can’t Lose You”.  It’s a very long buildup, but this sets up their version of Seals & Crofts’ “Summer Breeze” on the reissue.  (We’ll get to what they do on the original running order in a bit.)  “Can’t Lose You” sounds like a gothic parody of the Beatles’ “India period”, but “Summer Breeze” is more like Ozzy’s cover of “Purple Haze”!  Guitars distorted to the max, Pete croons about the jasmine in his mind.  On both versions of the CD, “Summer Breeze” is paired with “Set Me On Fire” as a sort of high-octane organ-centric outro.  Dig that backwards flute.  (Flautist: uncredited.)

A sudden break here leads to a dark cave where Peter Steele can be found breathing heavily and taking a deep drink from a bottle.  “Damn me father,” he says, “for I must sin.”  It’s the reissue bonus track “Suspended in Dusk”, a frankly dull song about a vampiric creature.  The slower-than-slow approach, paired with the spoken word vocal style does not hasten the blood.  Some clear chordal homages to Black Sabbath catch the ear.  That said, the lyrics are cool.  “Four centuries of this damned immorality.  Yet I did not ask to be made.  Why?”  Too long, too long, goes on forever.  Shame.

Closing the reissue is the other big single, “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)”, a tribute to the goth girls of the 90s.  This is a great tune, and it’s hard to believe this hit is an 11 minute tune.  Granted, it was shaved down under five for its single release, which is a shame since you miss great hooks.

“I went looking for trouble,” begins Pete.  “And boy…I found her.”

It’s all Hallow’s Eve, and she’s got a date at midnight with Nosferatu.  Peter taps into everything sexy and cool about Halloween on “Black No. 1”, named for the hair dye colour.  “You wanna go out ’cause it’s raining and blowing, she can’t go out ’cause her roots are showing.  Dye ’em black.”

Terrific ending to the reissued album.  Hit ’em hard with a single on the way out. Epic, fun, hook-laden and conclusive.  So why did they re-arrange the tracklist and cut so many from the original?  “Sacrebleu!”

The band were fully involved with the reissue, which also featured an alternative cover photo.  One has to assume they saw the potential of a better listening experience in the revised tracklist, and they were correct.  If Bloody Kisses has a primary flaw, it’s that too many songs take a while to get to the point (if they get there at all).  With all the original additional material, the album is too uneven in tone and quality.

“Machine Screw” doesn’t take long to get out of the way, but the jokey opener isn’t necessary.  The original tracklist then gets the two biggest tunes out of the way right at the start, albeit a combined 20 minute start, “Christian Woman” and “Black No. 1”.  It then segues into “Fay Wray Come Out and Play” a minute of what sounds like a woman being sacrificed by some kind of jungle tribe.  It’s a sonic filler that doesn’t enhance enjoyment of the album, just contributes to a jokey novelty quality.  As does the next track, a punk thrasher called “Kill all the White People”.  The lyrics are pretty simple — “Kill all the white people, then we be free!”  Is that why they wanted to sacrifice Fay Wray?  I’m getting confused here.  In an abrupt change of pace, “Summer Breeze”/ “Set Me On Fire” follows.  It’s a very different setup from “Can’t Lose You” on the reissue.

Back to “Set Me On Fire”, (which ends abruptly on both versions).  On the original set, the next track is the birthing noises of “Dark Side of the Womb” followed by “We Hate Everyone”.  This is a cool tune, but perhaps the lyrics were considered too jokey for the reissue.  Who does Type O Negative hate, for example?  “Right wing commies, leftist Nazis”, and most importantly “We don’t care what you think!”  The punky tempo and melody are at odds with the majority of the album, but this is one track worth having the original version for.  The song straightens out into a mid-tempo rocker by the middle, before reverting back to its punk origins.  It’s the one they shouldn’t have cut.

The final piece of exclusive music on the original album is “3.0.I.F.” which bridges “Bloody Kisses” with “Too Late: Frozen”.  It’s a bizarre sonic collage of chanting, engine noises, whispering, and the word “negative” repeated before the crash of a highway accident.  While it does serve as an interesting intro to “Too Late”, you don’t miss much by not having it in there.  The original running order goes out on the ballad “Can’t Lose You” which is cool.  And just to avoid any sort of flow or outro, it ends abruptly as the sitar peaks.  When the same thing happens on the reissued version, it sounds more like a setup into “Summer Breeze” than a sudden end.

Get both, or get the deluxe with the bonus CD, or don’t get it at all.  It’s almost like they never wanted you to buy it in the first place.  On the back of the original CD, instead of a tracklist, is just a warning:  “DON’T MISTAKE LACK OF TALENT FOR GENIUS”.

Original:  3.5/5 stars
Reissue:  3.75/5 stars

1. “Machine Screw” 0:39
2. “Christian Woman” 8:57
3. “Black No. 1 (Little Miss Scare-All)” 11:14
4. “Fay Wray Come Out and Play” 1:02
5. “Kill All the White People” 3:23
6. “Summer Breeze” 4:49
7. “Set Me on Fire” 3:29
8. “Dark Side of the Womb” 0:27
9. “We Hate Everyone” 6:50
10. “Bloody Kisses (A Death in the Family)” 10:55
11. “3.0.I.F.” 2:05
12. “Too Late: Frozen” 7:50
13. “Blood & Fire” 5:32
14. “Can’t Lose You” 6:05

REVIEW: Fish – Kettle of Fish 88-98 (1998)

scan_20170105FISH – Kettle of Fish 88-98  (1998 Roadrunner)

Kettle of Fish, the “best of” Derek W. Dick, is the first and only CD I’ve ever had stolen from me.

I got it cheap, something like $7 brand new, from one of our stores.  Then a year later, someone stole the CD player from my car, with the Fish CD inside.  Emotionally distraught, I sought to replace it right away.  The best I could do was $30 for a replacement copy shipped from Fish’s official site.  How crushing.  I wondered with bemusement what the thieves thought of Fish’s progressive rock poetry.  I imagine they tossed the disc into a snowbank.

While Kettle of Fish is no replacement for Fish’s debut solo album Vigil In a Wilderness of Mirrors, it is a fine collection of the man’s first decade as a solo artist and an enjoyable listen through.  It also boasts a nice colourful booklet with all the relevant singles covers, photos, lyrics and liner notes by Derek W. Dick.  Incidentally my original copy was missing pages.  I wonder if that is how it ended up in our store?  A defective run, sent off to a clearance somewhere, that eventually found its way into one of our warehouses.  Missing pages notwithstanding, it’s an excellent packaging job.

Since the album is made up of singles (and two new songs that we’ll get to), you will always find that critical deep album cuts are missing.  “Vigil” was not a single, but it’s one of Fish’s greatest achievements.  There’s no “The Company”.  “I Like to Watch” is missing in action.  Instead the CD is arranged to give roughly equal time to all of Fish’s output to date.  Tracks from Internal ExileSuits, Yin, Yang and Sunsets On Empire are given fair representation.

Some of the best tracks are the lesser known variety.  “Brother 52” is hip and modern, yet still obviously Fish.  The loopy drums are perfect for the track, lending it a 90’s groove with a rock integrity throughout.  The spoken word parts of “Brother 52” are sometimes distracting, but are by and large incorporated as part of the song.  A vibrant violin solo goes for the kill and that’s all she wrote.  The Celtic jig “Internal Exile” is another immediate favourite.  The lyrics evolved from a song Marillion were working on for their unfinished fifth LP called “Exile on Princess Street”.  It was the kind of stuff Marillion were getting sick of. According to Dick, “The lyrics started to follow a more political lean with a distinctly Scottish nationalist tone. The band weren’t happy.”

I saw a blue umbrella in Princes Street Gardens,
Heading out west for the Lothian Road,
An Evening News stuffed deep in his pocket,
Wrapped up in his problems to keep away the cold.

Grierson’s spirit haunts the dockyards,
Where the only men working are on the documentary crews,
Shooting film as the lines get longer,
As the seams run out, as the oil runs dry.

The finished lyrics make you feel it. Yes the music for “Internal Exile” is bright and chipper, with a tin whistle to take your worry away. It sounds nothing like the morose music Marillion coupled it with. Maybe that’s what made all the difference.

Tracks including “Credo”, “Big Wedge” and “State of Mind” are varied and of very high quality.  You might think you put on an unknown 80s Phil Collins single if you play “Big Wedge” unannounced.  Of the two new songs recorded for the album, “Chasing Miss Pretty” is the most enjoyable.  It’s simple silly light rock for the summer time.  Fish seems to have dropped the ball a little bit on the lyrics, but “Chasing Miss Pretty” is still far more poetic than anything Jon Bon Jovi has ever written.

First of all, I caught her reflection in the window of the pharmacy store,
There I was locked up in my pick-up in the rush hour on the Delaware road.
It must have been the scent of her perfume or the glimpse of that French lingerie,
A product of my imagination, I blame it all on a hot summer’s day.

Unfortunately the other new song “Mr. Buttons” is forgettable musically and lyrically.  A song about hackers and e-crime in 1998 is going to sound quaint in 2017.

The weight of Fish’s early career casts a large shadow on everything the man has done since.  Vigil was a triumph in every way for the singer.  The early songs generally outshine the later songs.  You will find favourites in the later material, but the early stuff will probably keep you coming back for another listen.  The new songs are a nice add-on, and the packaging makes it worth a go, especially if you don’t own any Fish.  Proceed!

4.5/5 stars

 

Roger doesn't appear happy with his Fish CD.

Roger doesn’t appear happy with his Fish CD.

REVIEW: Queensryche – Dedicated to Chaos (2011 special edition)

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QUEENSRYCHE – Dedicated to Chaos (2011 Roadrunner special edition)

Dedicated to Chaos will probably go down in history as the album that broke up Geoff Tate and Queensryche. The ironic thing was that Tate and the band hyped this album as a collaborative effort, with songwriting efforts from the whole band.  It seemed from the early press releases that there was a conscious effort to have the original members contributing as equal members.  Even Scott Rockenfield sounded genuinely psyched:

“It’s huge rock but with a great dance vibe to it, real modern dance. It’s kind of like Rage through a time tunnel, bringing it into the now. There are a lot of electronic elements to it. It’s a big rock thing that is going to have a lot of color to it — it’s good and really intense.”

Hearing that, I was excited. Not for the idea of “modern dance”, but for the Rage For Order vibe through a time tunnel. That could have been good. Unfortunately those are just words. Dedicated to Chaos may have elements from Rage and Promised Land (samples) but it is lightyears away from anything “rock”…certainly not “a big rock thing” as Rockenfield claimed.

Is it progressive rock? Who cares. It’s not good enough for a band of Queensryche’s stature. Tate’s friends Kelly Gray, Randy Gane, and Jason Slater also collaborated, watering down the attempt at re-integrating the band members. The impact of Jackson, Wilton and Rockenfield can barely be felt, even on the songs they co-wrote.

So here we are with Dedicated To Chaos, supposedly a rebirth but actually a funeral. It could have been my favourite album since Promised Land, had they delivered what they promised. The guitar patterns are more drony than riffy. There are electronic effects, as indicated. There is a huge emphasis on rhythm, but not necessarily groove. To its credit, much like Promised Land and Rage, there are unfamiliar sounds coming from everywhere. Some are percussive, others are more musical, but this is another true headphones album from Queensryche. If you actually wanted to hear what they were up to. Which I do not, I’ve given it a chance. I listened intently when it came out, and initially gave the album a rough grade of a 4/5, assuming it would grow on me. It did the opposite, and I liked it less with each listen.

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This layout annoys me to no end.

My biggest complaint with Queensryche was Geoff Tate’s aging voice. It seems to have lost so much range and power over the years to the point where I can’t listen to Take Cover at all. The voice isn’t getting any better. At least it was recorded better than Take Cover. He’s using more of his own voices too. This is done particularly well on “Got It Bad”.

The positives: “Get Started” which sounds almost Empire-lite.  Melodically strong was “Around The World”, which also has a nice positive message. You’ll hear more of Tate’s sax on “Higher” which is a modern sounding song with just a pinch of funk, yet with dual guitar solos. Lyrically, we’re all over the map. “Retail Therapy” is just pissed off at the world. “Around The World” has a kum-bay-a peace and love message. We’ve even got some civil disobedience and the hint of a conspiracy theory in “At the Edge”: “Time to look at what’s behind closed doors, Got gasoline, ammunition, like 911, a controlled demolition.” It also happens to be one of the best and longest songs on the album.

The negatives:  Most of the bulk of the album.  It’s just forgettable.  Go ahead — tell me how “Luvnu” goes.  Can’t remember, can ya?  This piece of crap was written by Tate with his buddies Randy Gane and Kelly Gray.  Surprised?

The “special edition” had three bonus tracks. They are mellow and atmospheric, but worth having only to the fan and collector.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ratt – Infestation (2010 Japanese and iTunes editions)

RATT – Infestation (2010 Roadrunner Japanese and iTunes editions)

Ratt needed a comeback. Lineup changes galore, deaths, poorly-received changes in sound — forget all that stuff.  The band has since stabilized.  Pearcy’s back on lead vocals, and Carlos Cavazo (ex-Quiet Riot) has taken over guitar duties from John Corabi. Corabi’s a rhythm player, not a soloist (and that’s not a knock on Corabi).  Cavazo rocks out quite a few solos on this album. The difference is noticeable, and it’s a welcome return to something like the Ratt sound of yore. Do you like twin leads? Cavazo and Warren DeMartini rip out a few, each with his own distinct sound, but meshing well like they’ve been doing this forever. Cavazo also contributes strong co-writes to about half the album. Surely, you can’t imagine a better match than this for Ratt.

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[Note:  Since this release, original bassist Juan Crocier has also come back, replacing Robbie Crane.]

Pearcy’s in great voice, the passages of time disguise-able. But be forwarned, if you never liked Pearcy’s style before, this album is not going to change your mind. His vocals are augmented by some nice, but not overdone, backing vocals from the band. Longtime bassist Robbie Crane supplies backing vocals while holding down the bottom end.

INFESTATION_0005The sound of the album is pure Ratt, but modernly produced; surely the best sounding record they’ve done so far. Picture a heavier Out Of The Cellar. There are nods and winks to other eras of Ratt as well: I hear a little bit of “Way Cool” here and there, and damned if “Best Of Me” wouldn’t have fit right in on Detonator. Yet this is no retro-fest, as much as it does echo the 80’s. There are still sounds here that sound tougher and more modern, like the fast and heavy opener “Eat Me Up Alive” (my second favourite song).  There’s filler here, but even the filler is worth holding your finger off the skip button.  All except perhaps the dreadful “A Little Too Much”.

There Japanese bonus track is a cool slow groove rocker called “Scatter”, with a great memorable chorus. This is the best song to me.  Itunes got the track as well, but because I always prefer a physical edition, I bought the Japanese for my physical copy.  You will have to judge the value of that expenditure yourself, however I deemed it worthwhile.

There are also three live bonus tracks on the iTunes version, worth getting. These songs are “You Think You’re Tough”, “Tell The World”, and “Way Cool Jr.”, all previously unreleased and with Cavazo on guitar, “Live from the Rockline Studios”.  “You Think You’re Tough” is my favourite song from Ratt EP.

If you have ever liked Ratt, pick up Infestation if you’re curious what the band sounds like 25 years later. This is a solid Ratt album, not classic, but song for song among their better records.  They’ve retained their signature “Ratt N’ Roll” sound, but also what dignity and integrity a bunch of Ratts have. Well done.

3.333/5 stars