#S18-2: Day One is Done

I sit here writing this on Saturday morning, the coldest I’ve ever been at Sausagefest.  From heat wave to chill.  Uncle Meat slept in the car.  No tent for him.  Too cold.

7:30 am.  As the sun moves into position, it’s starting to warm.

We had a great first night, though I had some lower body pain and had to lie down.  I spent two hours in the tent listening to the Countdown.

Tool.  Priest.  Willie.  Rush. Sheavy.  ‘Tallica.  Beasties.  Five Alarm Funk.  Much more.  Amazing tunes last night.

There was one hiccup.  My brand new tent broke immediately out of the box.  Not impressed.  Gorilla tape to the rescue.   My tent looks like the stunted stepchild of everybody else’s tent.

I slept well, and I will do better tonight.  Let’s do it!



Tom and Meat’s Top Whatever of 2014

For my Top Five of 2014, click here.

For Dr. Dave’s Top Ten of 2014, click here.

For the Top Whatever of No Pre-Determined Amount from two of Canada’s most knowledgeable rock gods, stay tuned right here.  From Meaford Ontario, weighing in at XXX lbs, it’s Iron Tom Sharpe, who turns it up to 11.


Tom’s Top Eleven of 2014

BEN WARD11. Various ArtistsRONNIE JAMES DIO: This Is Your Life
10. JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE – Single Mothers
9. MASTODON Once More ‘Round the Sun
8. EARLY MAN – Thank God You’ve Got the Answers For Us All
7. OPETH – Pale Communion
6. JOHN GARCIA – John Garcia
5. ST. PAUL & the BROKEN BONES – Half the City
4. sHEAVY – The Best Of sHeavy – A Misleading Collection
3. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS – English Oceans
2. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From The Abyss

Saving the best for last, here’s Uncle Meat.  For added rocket sauce he’s also given me his top movies of 2014.


Meat’s Top Eight of 2014

Copy of IMG_20140706_0857128. MASTODONOnce More ‘Round the Sun
6. FOO FIGHTERSSonic Highways
5. “WEIRD AL” YANKOVIC – Mandatory Fun
4. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
3. BRANT BJORK and the LOW DESERT PUNK BAND – Black Power Flower
2. DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS English Oceans
1. ORANGE GOBLIN – Back From the Abyss

Meat’s Top Twelve Movies of 2014

11. X Men : Days of Future Past
10. St. Vincent
9. Interstellar
8. The Lego Movie
7. The Grand Budapest Hotel
6. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
5. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
4. Guardians of the Galaxy
3. Get On Up
2. Birdman
1. Whiplash

#339: Tyler and LeBrain episode two – Monster Truck & More

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#339: Tyler and LeBrain episode two – Monster Truck & More

Missed the last episode of Tyler and LeBrain? Click here for episode one: Nickelback, and get up to speed.

Today’s subect:  Continuing our Nickelback discussion, Tyler and I turn to a controversial comparison: Do Nickelback and Monster Truck sound the same?  Listen to what we have to say, and leave your thoughts in the comments.  Enjoy.

*NOTE: I got the name of the Fu Manchu song and album wrong.  It’s “Saturn III” from The Action Is Go.  

REVIEW: Brant Bjork – Jalamanta (1999/2009 vinyl)


BRANT BJORK – Jalamanta (1999 / 180 gram vinyl 2009 reissue)

I still remember the circumstances surrounding me originally getting this on CD.  As recounted in an earlier Record Store Tale, Tom and I were at a party.  We were listening to some sHeavy, and Tom mentioned the Brant Bjork solo album as another must-have.  Being a fan of Brant Bjork’s drumming from Fu Manchu, I ordered it without hearing a single track.  Tom attempted to describe it by calling it “a cross between Fu Manchu and surf rock.”  Interesting.

10 years later, when Bjork reissued it on vinyl, he added the UFO-centric Blue Oyster Cult cover bonus track, “Take Me Away”.  Automatic re-buy.  It doesn’t really sound like the rest of the album, but who cares?  It’s Brant Bjork covering Blue Oyster Cult.  But that’s not the only reason to re-buy Jalamanta.

What a beautiful record! The first thing you’ll notice is the new cover.  All black with the Brant Bjork skull embossed.  Beautiful.  Open it up to get at the booklet with all new photos. The booklet truly is a work of art. Remember when you used to buy an LP, and you’d sit down in front of your stereo staring at the pictures, trying to make out every little detail until the record was done? Brant Bjork takes us back to that time.

The cover page is what appears to be an awesomely greasy Mexican meal, and then the final page is the empty plate — a satisfied customer. Just like with this LP.  You can really get stuffed on the grooves and tones contained herein.  There are plenty of low-key, incessantly grooving instruments.  The music is simple, repetitive, but effective.  It’s not heavy, but it feels weighty nonetheless.

The lyrics are included.  Here’s an example, from “Automatic Fantastic”:

The man shakes me down, that’s why I’m broke. Rich man’s got all the green but it ain’t the kind you smoke. So we turn up the rock, and we roll it slow. We’re always flying high, and the ride is always low.

Musically, if you haven’t heard this album before, I don’t really know how to describe the songs.  Bjork plays almost everything himself, and the vibe is laid back.  He sings on every song but “Toot” which is handled by Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson). He’s chosen to mix his vocals way back and emphasize the unadorned guitars and drums.  The mix is spare, quiet at times, loud at others, but always trippy. Imagine driving down a deserted highway on a hot summer night with the windows down. This is the soundtrack to that ride.

This is one of those album that sounds like it was just meant to be heard on 180 gram vinyl. There’s no sound like it in the world. I noticed a heck of a lot more bass, the bassline on “Lets Get Chinese Eyes” being particularly sublime. This album just sounds stunning now.

5/5 stars

  1. “Lazy Bones” – 1:29
  2. “Automatic Fantastic” – 6:59
  3. “Cobra Jab” – 3:18
  4. “Too Many Chiefs…Not Enough Indians” – 3:44
  5. “Sun Brother” – 4:45
  6. “Lets Get Chinese Eyes” – 4:45
  1. “Toot” – 5:58
  2. “Defender of the Oleander” – 7:53
  3. “The Low Desert Punk” – 5:20
  4. “Waiting for a Coconut to Drop” – 4:17
  5. “Her Brown Blood” – 4:16
  6. “Indio” – 4:15
  7. “Take Me Away” – 5:35 (Blue Öyster Cult cover) vinyl only bonus track

REVIEW: sHEAVY – The Electric Sleep (1998)

sHEAVY – The Electric Sleep (1998 Rise Against Records)

Last time, we talked about the “moment of epiphany” when I first heard this band.  This is my favourite album by Sheavy, choice band from St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.  The Electric Sleep is an intense listen, throbbing and bottom-heavy, but it’s especially striking for its similarity to early Black Sabbath.  My buddy Tom often said that this seemed like it should have been the next Sabbath album, as if Ozzy never left in 1979.  I disagreed, as I found it to be more the mold of earlier period Sabbath.  It doesn’t matter; if hearing a band that sounds pretty much exactly like the original Black Sabbath offends you in any way, then don’t listen to Sheavy.

The album opens with “Virtual Machine”, and Steve Hennessey’s distorted computerized yowl is mesmerizing.  The riff detonates, it’s a keeper, and Sheavy have kicked me in the buttocks with the first track.  “Velvet” abruptly changes the landscape to something more acoustic, atmospheric.  A Sabbath analog would be a song like “Solitude”, for example.  But then “Destiny’s Rainbow” arrives to kick your posterior again once you’re getting too comfortable.

“Electric Sleep”, the title track, recalls “Hand of Doom” from Paranoid.  “Born In A Daze” has a groovier feel.  You know how Sabbath kind of got a bit groovier on Never Say Die?  Songs like “Junior’s Eyes”?  Maybe Tom’s right, and maybe this album does sound like a followup to Never Say Die at times.

My favourite song is the stormy “Automaton”.  This one actually reminds me of early Queensryche lyrically, when they were still singing about computers and robots and other cool stuff:

If all the secrets they’ve been hoping to find,
Unlock the programs buried deep in my mind,
And am I human or just a robot slave?
They sent me here so their world I could save, yeah-ahh!

Musically, “Automaton” is also the least Sabbath-like.   The riff is swift, stout and precise, but not very Iommi, which is fine.  And there’s a cool slide guitar hook that recurs in the song which helps give it a unique sound.  This one’s a winner:  my favourite Sheavy song, period.

That’s a hard act to follow, but Sheavy do so with the mournful “Savannah…Flights of Ecstasy”.  In his best vintage Ozzy delivery, Hennessey laments the loss of someone close:

She forgot to breathe,
She forgot it was make believe,
Can’t avoid her eyes,
Never cared for long goodbyes.

If I had to compare this to a Black Sabbath song, it would actually be “Lonely Is the Word”, from Heaven and Hell.  Hennessey’s Ozzy stylings aside, musically this has the same kind of vibe…until it gets heavy and riffy close to the end.  Then suddenly it’s Vol. 4.  

“Saving Me” gets the heads banging, but “Oracle” is something else.  Beginning with a didgeridoo (an instrument that Black Sabbath definitely never used), it’s obvious that this song is a carbon copy of “Black Sabbath” itself.  The riff is the same “devil’s triad”.  Throw in some cool Jimmy Page “Dazed and Confused” wah-wah guitar licks on top and you have an idea of what this mash-up sounds like.

The album closes with “Stardust” and “Last Parade”, a duo of heaviness 15 minutes in length total.  “Stardust” itself is loaded with guitars, no less than eight players are credited on it!

I think if this album wasn’t so derivative of the original Black Sabbath, it would be worth 4.5 stars due to the sheer quality.  However, I think I have to knock off half a point simply because you can play “name that Sabbath song” for several tracks.  Although Uncle Meat says the same is true for moments of Black Sabbath’s new album 13, I’m going to give Sheavy…

4/5 stars

Part 204: An Introduction to sHEAVY


Back then in the olden days, you were actually expected to type that whole url into your browser!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 204:  An Introduction to sHEAVY

MARCH, 2000.  Saturday night.  One of our store owners was throwing a house party.  Tom, being the usual musical selector at parties, put a cassette on for me.  He rewound to the beginning and hit “play”.

“Mike,” he said, wild-eyed with excitement.  “One of my customers gave me this tape.  It’s the new Ozzy.  It’s not out yet.  This is a bootleg copy.”

This intense, guitar heavy distortion faded in.  The voice, also distorted and processed, was a dead ringer for a young Ozzy!

“Ozzy’s singing great, isn’t he?” Tom inquired mischievously.

“That’s not Zakk Wylde on guitar,” I retorted.  “I’d know if it was Zakk, and that guy’s not Zakk.”

Tom faltered.  “That’s, uhhh, the new guy.”

I called bullshit.  “This isn’t Ozzy.  It sounds a hell of a lot like early Sabbath, and it’s really good, but it’s not Ozzy.”

“Fuck!” Tom spat out.  “I can’t believe you got it so fast.  When I heard it, I truly thought it was new Ozzy at first.  At least the way the new Ozzy should be, you know what I mean?  Hear all that fuckin’ Sabbath going on there?”

I did indeed hear all the Sabbath going on.  In fact, of all the bands that people hyped to me as being “Sabbath-y”, this band came closest.

The band is from St John’s, Canada, and they are called Sheavy.  They kicked serious ass.  The album we were listening to was 1998’s The Electric Sleep.  The song:  “Virtual Machine”.  Often found on many bit torrent sites as a “lost” Black Sabbath reunion song.  It is not.  It is Sheavy, and that’s how close they nail the vintage Black Sabbath sound.

sHEAVY_0003The singer is a fellow named Steve Hennessey, and according to the CD booklet, he once had an audition with Tony Iommi and Black Sabbath’s then-producer, Bob Marlette!  What could that have been for?  An Iommi solo album, or Sabbath itself?  The CD doesn’t reveal.  “Special thanks to Tony Iommi, Bob Marlette, Ralph Baker and Paul Loasby for the audition and an experience I will never forget,” is all it says!  He nails every inflection that Ozzy used to do, it’s that uncanny.

I marveled at the music, and decided to buy it the next day.  I ordered it from Amazon along with Jalamanta, the first solo album from then-Fu Manchu drummer Brant Bjork.  (Even though I worked in a record store, there was no point in trying to order obscurities like these through our supplier.)  When they arrived, I was blown away by both.  I occasionally brought Sheavy to the store to play at work, and many people asked if this was the new Sabbath or the new Ozzy.  “Nope,” I’d say.  “This is a band from Newfoundland and Labrador called Sheavy.  They’re awesome.”

Unfortunately for a Canadian band, their albums were really hard to find!  A little while later, I picked up the next album, Celestial Hi-Fi, on Japanese import, from HMV.  The bonus track “Nine December” is an asskicker that made it worth the extra cash.  They’re just an awesome band, and they grew past the Sabbath-clone tag after a couple albums.  Unfortunately, toiling away in relative obscurity for almost 20 years has taken its toll, and the band’s future is uncertain.  For that reason I’m grateful they’ve left many great albums behind.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at The Electric Sleep in a detailed review.  Check back soon.

Part 27: Store Play

Another suggestion from Tommy Morais, my Amazon rock buddy from the east!  He wants to read about glam rock bands, and Canadian bands!  I played a lot of each at the store, especially in the earliest days.  I’m gonna throw some prog and metal in here too.  Here’s some of my fondest memories.


1996.  We had just opened our flagship store, and I was selected as manager.  This meant I’d be working alone for most of the day, and I could play what I wanted.  In the earliest days there were fewer rules.  The boss might make fun of me for playing Poison, but in the old days, he never told me to take it off as long as it was only once in a while.

I remember playing glam metal stuff like:

PoisonNative Tongue.  I enjoyed trying to turn kids onto music they’d like, but would never touch if they knew who it was.  It sometimes worked!  I think I sold one copy of Native Tongue that way, anyway.

Motley Crue – self titled.  This is in my top three Motley records of all time.  The one without Vince Neil.  A guy from the HMV store in Waterloo gave me props for playing it.  I once sold it to a guy who hated the latest Crue, Generation Swine.  I turned him onto self titled instead.  Instant fan.

David Lee RothYour Filthy Little Mouth.  I played this a shit-ton in the spring of 1995 too.  I don’t know why I like it so much, it’s so cheesey.  Dave does country!  Dave does reggae!  Dave does jazzy loungy stuff!  Dave does VH!  But Dave does write hilarious lyrics, and I did like that.

Van Halen – Any time, any where, any how.   But any time we had a copy of 1984?  Hell yeah!  And you couldn’t keep Best Of Volume I in stock for very long.  Certainly not if you played it.  The first year or two it was out, I probably sold it every time I played it!

Def LeppardSlang.  Again, much like the Poison and Crue, I was trying to turn new kids onto these classic bands that had explored new directions.  Unfortunately, Slang sold like shit.  I think it was too different for the old fans, and too old for the new fans.

And now let’s talk about Prog rock.  Ashleigh used to call prog music “smart-guy rock”.   That’s one reason why I wanted to play it every shift we shared.  I was trying to show her I was a smart guy, see?

MarillionMisplaced Childhood.  I played Marillion so frequently, that my co-workers Matty K and Ashleigh knew the words to some songs.  Unfortunately, they didn’t consider that a good thing.

Fish Kettle of Fish.  See above!

Dream TheaterImages and Words.  This came in so rarely, that when it did you had to play it.  It always sold if you played it.  We had so many musicians and wanna be’s (like me) coming into the store, they inevitably would ask what the fuck is this?  This one kid, a drummer named Curtis, loved Dream Theater.  I sold him his first Dream Theater.  Do you know how cool that is, selling somebody their first Dream Theater?  Curtis is a fantastic musician.  He’s jammed with my sister, actually.

RushMoving Pictures.  Like nails on a chalkboard to the girls in the Operations staff.  Could not play this if they were in the city, let alone the store.  But my fuck, what an album.  I remember Tom put a sticker on it that said, “Best album of the 80’s!”.  I thought to myself, “Then I need to hear the whole thing!”  I had never heard “Vital Signs” before.  I am sure Matty K remembers to this day, “Everybody got to evelate from the norm”.

And speaking of Rush!  I did a lot of Canadian themes.  We had a 5 disc changer.  A lot of the time, I would specifically pick 5 Canadian artists to take up a shift.  You’d often hear:

Sloan4 Nights at the Palais Royale.  In my opinion one of the top five live albums of all time.  It is also my favourite Sloan album.

Stompin’ Tom Connors – Anything we had in the store would work, as he didn’t come in frequently.  Unfortunately, Stompin’ Tom didn’t fare too well for store play in Kitchener.  Nobody seems to like him in this town.

Rush – duh?

Triumph – ditto.

Kim Mitchell / Max Webster – Another artist our Operations people hated.  I did one entire 5 disc shuffle of nothing but Kim and Max.  Kim was playing in town that day so I was hoping to drum up some sales.  I failed to do so, but I did try.  I was told to remove the Kim and Max from the player.

Helix / Brian Vollmer – I’d play Helix when it was in, which was infrequent.  I remember playing the Brian Vollmer solo album for Kevin, one of the guys that ended up in my wedding party.  I played the song “Good Times Don’t Get Better Than This” in the store.  I thought he would enjoy it.  Unfortunately, he did not.  I believe the words he used were, “This is not good.”  Kevin, I kindly submit that I strongly disagree to this day.

Even more rarely though came the opportunity to play the early stuff, the stuff with Brent Doerner singing lead.  Once — just once — Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather came in.  I’m kicking myself for not buying them.  But when they were in store, I played “Billy Oxygen” on repeat for about 20 minutes.

Oscar Peterson – I only had the opportunity to do that once though.

Voivod – self titled.  The first one with Newsted.  Metallica had come out with St. Anger and a lot of fans didn’t like it.  I tried to sell this, which was more traditionally prog metal like old Metallica.

Incidentally, at the same time,  I was training a new franchisee around that time.  He was amused by how excited I was that the album Angel Rat, by Voivod, had come in, with 3D glasses intact.  I explained that usually these would be missing, but the CD was mint!  And “Clouds In My House” sounded great in-store!

Voivod crosses the boundary from prog into metal (or is it vice versa?), but I certainly did play a lot of metal in the store.

Bruce DickinsonBalls To Picasso.  I played this virtually every shift during the fall of 1994.  At the time, I thought “Tears of the Dragon” and “Change of Heart” were among the deepest songs I’d ever heard.  Yeah, well.

Iron MaidenBrave New World.  I love this album.  Matty K knows every word of “Blood Brothers”.

G//Z/RPlastic Planet.  Easily the heavist thing I have ever played in store.  Even I was uncomfortable!

sHeavyThe Electric Sleep.  Incidentally, the greatest Black Sabbath album that was not made by Black Sabbath.  Every time, people would ask, “Is this the new Ozzy?”  Every time.  You could put money on it.

Judas PriestTurbo.  It was the only one I could get away with!

Man, those were good times!   I am sure I could write another dozen of these.  I mean, we played a lot of music.  From Esquivel to Brushy One-String to Pansy Division to Jaymz Bee & the Royal Jelly Orchestra, we tried and sampled everything.