parodies by nacrowe
one of the highlights of my run of DEER GOD RADIO shows on nonprofit MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC has undoubtedly been the GRINDCORE episode. ive been back stateside now for about five years after being overseas for nearly a decade. and it has been brutal.
its been extreme in the sense that AMERICA has been bifurcated along economic, religious and (absurdly) partisan lines to the point that i dont speak with once-close relatives. since my return DOMESTIC WHITE ETHNIC NATIONALIST TERRORISM sanctioned by one the two prominent parties has found a foothold in the AMERICAN consciousness thanks to former PRESIDENT TRUMP that has reared its head in CHARLOTTESVILLE, THE JANUARY 6TH INSURRECTION and several mass murders in PITTSBURGH, BOULDER, ORLANDO, LAS VEGAS, PARKLAND, EL PASO and BUFFALO. not to mention the hate crimes and lynchings at the hands of cops against the likes of BREONNA TAYLOR, PHILANDO CASTILE, AHMAUD ARBERY and of course GEORGE FLOYD among too many others before and since.
coupled with crises like CLIMATE CHANGE, the war in UKRAINE, the impending reversal of ROE VS. WADE and the creeping slow dismantling of our national voting apparatus; it very much feels like nothing is progressing in this country. we are backsliding. we are becoming like some of the broken nations i lived in abroad where dogma and political affiliation are more important than universal jurisprudence or any sense of moral code.
when i think of GRINDCORE what i hear is a PRIMAL SCREAM. its EXTREMITY and BRUTALITY matches the deep FRUSTRATION i feel about my home at this historical, cultural and political moment. as AMERICAN abroad i wore my nationality every day in public, sometimes in inhospitable locations. and i cant help but feel anger at what we have become. its beyond embarrassment at this point. its just PATHETIC how little we care for each other. when i hear GRINDCORE bands it helps me channel that UNBRIDLED RAGE at this stupidity and those institutions (politicians, talking heads, etc.) that enable and profit from it.
GRINDCORE is mainlined ANGER in its purest form. enjoy.
i sought out the documentary AS THE PALACES BURN (9.14 PICTURES, 2014) after reading LAMB OF GOD frontman RANDY BLYTHE's memoir DARK DAYS (link to review HERE). its an interesting film in that it was originally intended to focus on the metal community and specifically fans of the band living in difficult situations (cartel violence in MEDELLIN and rigid gender prescriptions upon women in MUMBAI specifically) and using music as an outlet. what ended up happening is roughly halfway through filming BLYTHE was charged with manslaughter in the CZECH REPUBLIC for the death of a fan that happened two years before. rather than focusing on the fans, the film instead transitions into a compelling real-life drama revolving around concepts of personal RESPONSIBILITY and EMPATHY.
the fact that BLYTHE returned to stand trial after a few months after spending 38 days in the notorious PANKRAC PRISON is a testament to his character and his sense of honor and obligation to the family of the departed. it also served as a focal point for the wider global metal community to rally behind, as noted with interviews with the likes of SLASH and COREY TAYLOR. bassist JOHN CAMPBELL mentions that the album they were touring on during this whole debacle, RESOLUTION (EPIC, 2012), was named in honor of BLYTHE's mindset regarding maintaining his sobriety (the downside of which are made famously apparent in the previous band documentary KILLADELPHIA). each band member individually corroborate how the experience made them as a unit stronger as BLYTHE had absolutely "walked the talk."
what started as a documentary about FANDOM and the healing and rejuvenating power of music instead became one about the band's sense of duty to their community. this documentary is well worth seeking out or rewatching, irregardless of whether or not you have read BLYTHE's equally impressive memoir of his insane prison experience.
parodies by nacrowe
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out of their entire catalogue, ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (ELEKTRA, 1988) is unique in that it showcases METALLICA, for better or worse, in a moment of transition. you can definitely see the first three records (KILL EM ALL, RIDE THE LIGHTNING and MASTER OF PUPPETS) as an early version of the band made up of a triumvirate of talented songwriters and composers in that of JAMES HETFIELD, LARS ULRICH and CLIFF BURTON. with BURTON out of the picture due to his tragic untimely passing, essentially the rest of their career has been heralded by HETFIELD and ULRICH, with ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL their first foray.
and it shows.
BURTON arguably was the most versatile musician within METALLICA and the most open to outside influences including CLASSICAL MUSIC. this is pretty much gone and what is left is a epically brutal album filled with complex time signatures that are constantly shifting, lyrics dealing with retribution, pain and suffering, as well as (famously) little to no bass guitar. this is an album that is pretty much all about HETFIELD and ULRICH and thus primarily guitars and drums. it is almost impossible to listen to this record and not think of how BURTON would have made these collections of riffs and song ideas more cohesive and impactful to the listener.
taht is not to say that this record does not have standout tracks. "BLACKENED," "DYER'S EVE," "HARVESTER OF SORROW," "...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL" and of course "ONE" absolutely crush and are fan favorites to this day. me included. in fact i wouldnt even say that this record is a disappointment since it shows METALLICA at the their most uninhibited and least restrained peak. where it falls is only in comparison to their stellar previous two records, which arguably (in my opinion) are two of the best METAL albums ever bar none.
it is a record only made more interesting given the follow-up a few years later that largely abandoned its complexity and ambition in favor of a more streamlined sound. i agree with those that add this record with the BURTON-era albums as the essential METALLICA records, and its been interesting see the risk-taking and artistic risks the band has made since. its just that the post ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL output has been not as convincing for fans of their 1980s output.
i couldn't recommend ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL any more strongly. an essential THRASH METAL record that is absolutely required listening.
LIMP BIZKIT gets a bad name, which is probably more than well deserved. the dull-witted MISOGYNY and general WHITE PRIVILEDGE frat-boy behavior and incessant whining by frontman FRED DURST has not aged well in the least, not to say it was that welcome back when their debut THREE DOLLAR BILL, Y'ALL$ (INTERSCOPE, 1997) came out in the late 1990s.
DURST is a terrible frontman. i believe that is common knowledge at this point. so i want to go beyond him and discuss what i like about this album and LIMP BIZKIT in general, which are the actual musicians in the band.
i feel wholeheartedly that LIMP BIZKIT has one of the most talented (and criminally underrated) rhythm sections of their era. starting with WES BORLAND who is an absolute wizard at guitar. his highly IDIOSYNCRATIC style has an IMPRESSIONISTIC and layered PAINTERLY vibe that feels like a hybrid between PRIMUS, WEEN, SLAYER and THE CURE. the dude is incredibly talented (just check out his superior side projects BLACK LIGHT BURNS and BIG DUMB FACE as well as moonlighting gigs with everyone from MARILYN MANSON and FROM FIRST TO LAST to JONATHAN DAVIS and COMBICHRIST). his LES CLAYPOOL-inspired double-hand tapping technique is all over this record, most prominently on tracks like "STALEMATE," "INDIGO FLOW" and "SOUR." in terms of big riffs, there is a certain angular POST PUNK flair, which are absolutely scorching despite the fact that they are usually in odd time signatures. BORLAND is treasure that modern guitarists respect despite the mind-bending stupidity of DURST in much the same way people separate the bigoted views of PHIL ANSELMO from the stellar musicianship of DIMEBAG DARRELL.
JOHN OTTO has a FORCEFUL, hard-pounding snap to his drumming that is pretty iconic to their sound, especially on heavier tracks like "COUNTERFEIT," "POLLUTION" and "CLUNK." in later albums he would develop and integrate modern double-bass into his arsenal, but this record seems to be a bit more hands-centric in how forcefully he hits the toms and snare, and with speed and precision.
not to be forgotten are the memorable SLINKY bass-lines of SAM RIVERS which provide a sense of grounding, but also much needed FUNK to the festivities. tracks like "STUCK," "EVERYTHING" and even the GEORGE MICHAEL cover "FAITH" showcase keen sense of DYNAMICS and an artistic freedom to float in-between the guitar heroics of BORLAND and the hard-hitting groundwork of OTTO. taken as a whole, the rhythm section is UNRESTRAINED, UNPREDICTABLE and UNRELENTING.
just too bad about that singer situation. we're talking MIKE LOVE / DAVID DRAIMAN / BONO / CHRIS MARTIN / IVAN MOODY / SCOTT STAPP level terrible. although id love to hear BONO front LIMP BIZKIT. that might work.
i really believe that the capacity to appreciate and enjoy music is intertwined with the ability to have one's CONSCIOUSNESS expanded and altered. and not in some trivial psychedelic sense, but rather as a permanent EMOTIONAL marker in one's progression through life. case in point for me is the seminal NINE INCH NAILS' record THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL (NOTHING/INTERSCOPE, 1994), which honestly i did not get on any level the first ten or fifteen times i heard it as a young teenager. at that point i was not familiar with INDUSTRIAL or ELECTRONIC MUSIC and was still very much expecting traditional song structures and familiar sonic textures from rock music in general. this record was something entirely different.
its funny to me now but the track that really clicked for me is arguably the most EXPERIMENTAL and DEHUMANIZED on the record, that being "REPTILE" which is still arguably my favorite NINE INCH NAILS song period. with its repetitive, future robotic percussion and ABRASIVE and UNRELENTING slashing guitar-work, the song very much forwards the lyrical conceit of a ROMANTIC LOVE that both DEVOURS and ultimately CONTAMINATES the narrator of the song. it is a brutal song and the centerpiece of THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL record, which itself seems obsessed with calling into question the IMPURE motivations involved in ROMANTIC LOVE and HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS in general. although before it in the track-listing, i often felt that the antidote to NIHILISM of "REPTILE" was the relative SERENITY of "A WARM PLACE" which sonically attempts to mimic the emotions surrounding the hard-fought REHABILITATION of one's diminished sense of HUMANITY. it was those two songs that spoke to me as a teenager living in NIGERIA listening to it on tape as i experienced the DEPRAVITY and indiscriminate wonton PAIN on daily walking display living in a military dictatorship. this record was the soundtrack to my time seeing markets on fire (which happened when the police didnt get their regular bribes) and dead bodies on the side of the road.
i really feel that TRENT REZNOR was relaying something personally deeply DECAYED within his TORTURED PSYCHE when he wrote THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL, but for me attempting to make sense of the blatant CORRUPTION and heroic SURVIVALISM that i saw on a daily basis, this record in particular felt like an apt sonic projection of what i lived in real-time. it is definitely an emotional marker for me of not only a time in my life, but of what the concept of struggle itself feels like. whether that be UNREQUITED LOVE, DRUG ABUSE, living under a DESPOTIC GOVERNMENT or stinging personal MORAL FAILINGS. this record really gets to the heart of that feeling and wallows in it through tracks like "HURT," "MR. SELF DESTRUCT," "CLOSER," "PIGGY," "RUINER," "MARCH OF THE PIGS" and "I DO NOT WANT THIS." for me though, the emotional poles of this record show that somewhere between the INHUMANITY of "REPTILE" and the struggle for PURIFICATION of "A WARM PLACE" is the scope of human lived experience.
THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL is a seminal record that very much lives up to the hype. one of my favorite all-time records that is worth of further investigation. definitely worth checking out again.
internal band dynamics are always a tricky thing. there are tons of examples of bands that from the outside looking in seem like a consolidated front made of co-equal partners yet such is far from the case. probably no modern METAL musician is more defined by this in the popular consciousness than former METALLICA guitarist and MEGADETH frontman DAVE MUSTAINE.
his memoir MUSTAINE (IT BOOKS, 2010) written with veteran scribe JOE LAYDEN is very much defined the the shifting internal dynamics of not one, but two iconic THRASH METAL bands and provides a much-needed counterpoint to the popular narrative of this influential yet highly CONTROVERSIAL musician. i'll admit right at the beginning that i am not the biggest fan of MUSTAINE. in interviews he always comes across as a condescending BRAGGART and an unrepentant EGOIST, and that was before his conversion to CHRISTIANITY and conservative politics. his voice and his attitude towards his peers has always been GRATING, but i will say that the dude is supremely gifted as a guitarist and a songwriter. it was no doubt his sense of abandon on his instrument and his reckless behavior that initially lifted METALLICA from obscurity and helped establish the nascent THRASH METAL scene in the 1980s. MUSTAINE as a historical figure is absolutely instrumental in the evolution of METAL music. period.
its interesting how much ink in this memoir is dedicated to the internal strifes of both bands. METALLICA was a band of alcoholics that discarded one of their members, MUSTAINE, in essence for being a mean drunk. that is popular story, but its interesting that MUSTAINE points to his substantial songwriting credits during his period with the band to suggest that it may have been more about artistic control. in essence METALLICA had three main songwriters in JAMES HETFIELD, LARS ULRICH and MUSTAINE. one theme that is carried throughout this memoir is MUSTAINE's sense of being an underdog, which is rooted in his growing up very POOR, without a father figure and with a mother whose identity got taken over by the JEHOVAH's WITNESS community. HETFIELD had similar circumstances with his deadbeat father and a mother that passed on after being taken advantage of by the beliefs of her CHRISTIAN SCIENTIST community. he is portrayed as being psychologically WEAK, UNASSERTIVE and essentially a patsy to ULRICH, who in turn is portrayed as privileged, wealthy son of a bohemian DANISH TENNIS professional. ULRICH is effectively presented as being a duplicitous MACHIAVELLIAN figure (which is probably pretty accurate). METALLICA was very much a surrogate family for MUSTAINE and his dismissal echoed the rejection of his father towards his family. no doubt it was a traumatic effect and was a primal event in his career and personal relationship trajectory thereafter.
but what i found more interesting was his reaction to this dismissal, fair or not. he created a new family in MEGADETH of which he was the sole leader, whose only other longtime member (absent two breaks of which we are now living in the second) is DAVID ELLEFSON whom he deems as dismissively as "junior." the rest of the band throughout is made of a revolving cast of opportunists, scabs, legends and METAL lifers. what struck me in particular is how MUSTAINE never questions his own motives, paving over bad decisions during his many drug-addled years as MISGUIDED or MISINFORMED but not ill-intentioned. he comes across as incredibly naive and largely absent-minded or uninterested in the financial and emotional needs of his bandmates. throughout the memoir he is his absentee father. he wants the leadership and the acclaim but none of the responsibility that comes with it. its interesting that he, more than any other METAL figure, should have been aware of the trauma that comes with bad leadership in a band setting. yet he just kept the cycle going.
the biggest bummer is the whole born again CHRISTIAN nonsense at the conclusion of the book in which he considers whether it is ethical or not to play with "satanic" bands. that is just so beyond LAME. he is an artistic leader who can tour with whomever he wants, but it just feels antithetical to ROCK N ROLL in some basic core manner. it also presumes his own purity as a CHRISTIAN which is beyond DISAPPOINTING and, again, just LAME.
thats my reaction to this memoir basically. MUSTAINE is a supremely gifted musician who deserves credit for his achievements and contributions to THRASH METAL, but as a person he just comes across as an ass. even in his own memoir in which he is trying to counteract the popular opinion of him being an ass. its beyond CONFOUNDING. go figure.
parody by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the experimental and expansive brutal soundscapes of POST METAL!
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while their debut KILL EM ALL (MEGAFORCE, 1983) had a ferocious and immediate spit-in-your-eye aggression and the follow-up RIDE THE LIGHTNING (MEGAFORCE, 1984) a growing compositional and lyrical sophistication, to many fans MASTER OF PUPPETS (ELEKTRA, 1986) is the definitive METALLICA album. in many ways it marries the aggression and sophistication of their previous two releases into a cohesive yet brutal statement dealing with themes regarding ADDICTION, from DRUGS ("MASTER OF PUPPETS"), RELIGION ("LEPER MESSIAH") and SELF-IMAGE ("WELCOME HOME (SANITARIUM)") to our seeming cultural need for AGGRESSION and DOMINATION with regard to foreign conflicts ("DISPOSABLE HEROES"). in my interpretation, this record is about the price we pay at both a societal and individual level for our dependency on PROPAGANDA and SELF-DELUSION. and it still holds up.
i very much see this record in tandem with its aforementioned predecessor RIDE THE LIGHTNING in terms of its track-listing, subject matter and even its artwork. both albums have highly orchestrated opening tracks that devolved in to barn-burning torrents of absolute aggression ("FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE" vs "BATTERY") as well as CLIFF BURTON-penned instrumentals ("THE CALL OF KTULU" vs "ORION") that showcase his musical dexterity as well as compositional chops. my personal preference is towards RIDE THE LIGHTNING, but many consider the title track "MASTER OF PUPPETS" to be among the best tracks METALLICA ever produced, if not the definitive track bar none. this track is epic in its conception, as it has multiple sections that seem to mirror the stages related to ADDICTION and RECOVERY. the aggressive parts are sonically beyond brutal as if to aurally express the bowels of SHAME, GUILT and SELF-HATRED that come with the pursuit of one's addiction while the middle interlude section with its down tempo and soaring dual guitar leads presents a sense of HUMILITY and COMPASSION towards oneself and gives a sense of HOPE that RECOVERY is an option. again, this is just my interpretation since the song could be about ADDICTIVE BEHAVIOR writ large, but its musical and compositional complexity gives it that deeper MEDITATIVE quality that renders it anything but one-dimensional.
sadly MASTER OF PUPPETS is the last METALLICA record recorded with the late great BURTON, who passed away while touring this record in NORWAY in a freak bus accident. in many ways the METALLICA that came after is a different band entirely since BURTON was such a key contributor to the band and was arguably responsible for their sophisticated compositional aesthetic that made them standout from both their THRASH METAL counterparts and the NEW WAVE OF BRITISH HEAVY METAL bands that predated them. their seminal yet problematic next offering ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL (ELEKTRA, 1988) is a more compositionally complex yet less coherent statement, which really provides an apt metaphor for the band's state of mind post-BURTON. he is dearly missed to date, but in many ways MASTER OF PUPPETS is his lasting statement and legacy within the broader musical community, well beyond the confines of METAL.
rest in power CLIFF BURTON.
its always cool to see products utilized in context, and the ongoing EARTHQUAKER SESSION live performance series showcases mostly upcoming talent sweating it out in intimate venues with what are presumably EARTHQUAKER DEVICES pedals, though such are not explicitly shown (so who knows?). documenting bands for product promotion is nothing new, but where this series really elevates above the competition is the shear breadth and depth of acts involved, running the gamut from SHOEGAZE, R&B, SLUDGE METAL, FUNK and delicate INDIE ROCK to COUNTRY, CLASSICAL MUSIC and even experimental AMBIENT / PROGRESSIVE instrumentals. there are also non-traditional gear setups (including a violin rig) which is alway cool to see. it is also exquisitely professionally shot and the sound recording is mixed incredibly well (which is not always the case with similar series).
past participants include BORIS, SPOTLIGHTS, COVET, TIME CAT, RELAXER (featuring EARTHQUAKER DEVICES founder JAMIE STILLMAN), CHELSEA WOLFE, SUDAN ARCHIVES, MARCUS ALAN WARD and SAFE WORDS among many others. definitely worth checking out, irrespective of its company tie-in.
i remember obtaining PANTERA's FAR BEYOND DRIVEN (EAST WEST, 1994) album on a school trip in HEATHROW AIRPORT en route to a SEA CAMP trip in the FLORIDA KEYS. the international school i attended in NIGERIA had these foreign trips they sent the middle school kids on each year (6th grade was SPACE CAMP in FLORIDA, 7th grade was the aforementioned SEA CAMP and 8th grade was a FRENCH TRIP to SWITZERLAND and FRANCE). it was that kind of school.
the whole experience was pretty GNARLY as it took over 24 hours to reach the FLORIDA KEYS after two international flights and a long drive south from MIAMI. i mention this because i will always associate the SLUDGY, ANGULAR, almost SERPENTINE RIFFAGE of DIMEBAG DARRELL and the overall aqueous production of FAR BEYOND DRIVEN with that long bus ride over those tiny two-lane bridges looking over the ATLANTIC OCEAN from my window from key to key. tracks like "SHEDDING SKIN," "HARD LINES SUNKEN CHEEKS," "SLAUGHTERED" and "25 YEARS" had such GROOVE and SONIC DIMENSION that it very much felt empowering and all-encompassing. especially for a teenager intimidated by life itself having witnessed from a distance the cruelties of life abroad in a third world country with all the political corruption and economic dilapidation on daily display. listening to FAR BEYOND DRIVEN always gave me a false sense of control, which is probably the highest compliment i ever give a record. to my ears it is the heaviest PANTERA record bar none, especially when considering the staggering aural BRUTALITY of "STRENGTH BEYOND STRENGTH," "THROES OF REJECTION," "5 MINUTES ALONE," "I'M BROKEN" and especially "BECOMING."
that is not to say this record is perfect. there are cringe-worthy lyrics to songs like "USE MY THIRD ARM" and "GOOD FRIENDS AND A BOTTLE OF PILLS" that probably should have been edited out on the cutting room floor. they just come of PETTY and MISOGYNISTIC, which is probably where singer PHIL ANSELMO was mentally at the time. and it is that tension between the SUBLIME MUSICALITY of DARRELL and VINNIE PAUL and production of TERRY DATE with the uncompromising yet uneven lyrical contributions of ANSELMO that defined the band.
more than 20 years after their breakup i still have a complicated appreciation for PANTERA since some of their antics have not aged well (the CONFEDERATE ICONOGRAPHY, the quasi-EXTREME RIGHT PROVOCATIONS and FALSE SELF-IDENTIFYING VICTIMHOOD, the blatant, unapologetic MISOGYNY). like most people i lay all that negative energy at the hands of ANSELMO, whose more caustic and morally depraved contributions came during periods of DRUG ABUSE and DIVORCE. what people choose to celebrate is the work of DARRELL, who on every PANTERA record and especially FAR BEYOND DRIVEN was an immaculately tight and divinely inspired guitar player.
this record is most definitely worth checking out but be aware going into it that some of the lyrical content is MORALLY REPREHENSIBLE, something of which other surviving band members have conceded over the years (like bassist REX famously in his tell all book). dont say i didnt warn you.
i always loved how the music of DARON MALAKIAN (SYSTEM OF A DOWN, SCARS ON BROADWAY) seamlessly incorporated a genre-spanning, spastic, rapid-fire aesthetic a la MR. BUNGLE with a deep rhythmic sense rooted in the ARMENIAN musical traditions of his youth. MALAKIAN in essence made the most conservative of ROCK AND ROLL genres, that being METAL, somehow feel fresh and INNOVATIVE. he is also adroit at presenting the PERSONAL as POLITICAL, unafraid at using his pulpit to make his opinion heard. especially when it comes to issues regarding ARMENIA and its global diaspora.
in my mind MALAKIAN is one of the most INVENTIVE guitarists/songwriters of the last few decades. he is also highly UNDERRATED and is most definitely worth checking out by METALHEADS and EXPERIMENTAL music lovers alike.
i also wish SYSTEM OF A DOWN would just reunite and dominate the world again. seriously.
much like the ICONS and THE COLLECTION series covered before, RIFF LORDS is another string of YOUTUBE videos promoted by GIBSON GUITARS under the GIBSON TV moniker that seeks to reestablish the brands bonafides with the guitar-playing public via celebrity musician endorsements after the disastrous "play authentic" campaign of 2019.
the hook regarding RIFF LORDS is that these famous guitarists are allotted an extended-period to not only go over their most notable riffs, but the PHILOSOPHY, THEORY and TECHNIQUE behind their composition. noteworthy participants include that of BUZZ OSBOURNE (MELVINS), NICK HEXUM (311), JADE PUGET (AFI), LER LALONDE (PRIMUS) and CLAUDIO SANCHEZ (COHEED & CAMBRIA). this sort of territory has been mined for years by the likes publications like GUITAR WORLD and PREMIER GUITAR (not to mention online vendors like REVERB and SWEETWATER) for years, but the extended time and lack of an annoying an unnecessary interloctur makes this series of videos more immediate and engaging.
i play guitar so this hits me right in the sweet spot of seeing some of my favorite artists talk at length about their playing. now if they could only get DAVE NAVARRO or JOHNNY MARR... here's hoping.
one of the DEER GOD RADIO moments that really stands out to me as something particularly special was EPISODE 92 that i conducted with my friend VERONIKA about her all-time favorite band: METALLICA. i should start by thanking KRISTIN & TOM from MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC for making it technically possible behind-the-scenes, because VERONIKA was broadcasting remotely from ARGENTINA. which was so cool.
her and i met in VENEZUELA when we both worked at an international school in the petroleum-rich eastern part of the country. i moved there within six months of the demise of HUGO CHAVEZ, at what was the beginning of the disastrous regime of current "president" NICOLAS MADURO. i basically had a front row seat to the economic and political dismantling of a proud country (which in turn prepared me for the same stateside under TRUMP a few years down the road).
the thing that blew me away about VERONIKA (as well as two other local musicians i met) was how they all effectively learned ENGLISH through METALLICA lyrics. the level of PERSISTENCE and RESOURCEFULNESS to pull such off to me is still quite an incredible achievement and showcases a summit of true FANDOM i cant begin to imagine. she even flew alone to BRASIL (first time abroad!) to see them play live in RIO DE JANEIRO.
like a lot of admirers of THRASH METAL, post-CLIFF BURTON era METALLICA is a little suspect especially once they hit the 1990s, but meeting my friend VERONIKA kinda changed my view a bit on the global phenomena behind that celebrated by all-too-often derided band. at the very least i wanted her perspective when presenting their music on my show and im still happy we (and by we i mean KRISTIN & TOM at MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC) were able to pull it off.
in case you were wondering, like many VENEZUELANS with qualifications, VERONIKA was able to leave VENEZUELA in order to find economic prosperity elsewhere on the continent. in the post-CHAVEZ years when VENEZUELA has truly nose-dived POLITICALLY and especially ECONOMICALLY, many have sought refuge in countries such as CHILE, PANAMA, COLOMBIA, ECUADOR and ARGENTINA. i have other friends from VENEZUELA that have even become long-term refugees in GERMANY. its an absolutely disgrace that the UNITED STATES has not done more in this regard.
anyway, definitely check out this special past episode of DEER GOD RADIO co-hosted with my friend VERONIKA. thinking of which, i should probably follow-up and do another show with her...
PITTSBURGH's CODE ORANGE has been killing it recently. easily the most explosive and aggressive emerging METAL band to gain prominence in recent years since POWER TRIP in my estimation. since working with producer (and CONVERGE guitarist) KURT BALOU on their second album I AM KING (DEATHWISH, 2014) their sound has calcified into a potent hybrid of METALCORE with seamlessly integrated INDUSTRIAL flourishes. justifiably their guitarist REBA MEYERS has grown to prominence with that nastiest riffage this side of DIMEBAG DARRELL.
i could not recommend this band anymore forcefully. definitely worth checking out.
METAL by its vary nature is a conservative musical genre with a limited palette of sounds and textures regarded as kosher by a staunchly obdurate and increasingly niche audience. id argue there is actually a disincentive for innovation in the genre, which makes the concept and sound of SWITZERLAND's ZEAL & ARDOR that much more remarkable. they are in essence an unlikely blend of AFRICAN DIASPORA SPIRITUAL and call-and-response GOSPEL traditions with BLACK METAL.
and yet somehow it works beautifully. there is a depth of SOUL and authentic pain being channeled that dwarfs the childish operatics, lame fantasy narratives and masturbatory virtuosic stylings that have long plagued METAL for much of its history.
ZEAL & ARDOR is a revolutionary band that sound like none i have come across before. cant wait for their new record next month. needless to say, they are most definitely worth checking out.
the narrative has long been that after OZZY OSBOURNE's firing from BLACK SABBATH for vague reasons revolving around alcohol and drug abuse, that the band began a steady decline towards cultural irrelevance while the OZZ man began one of the great solo careers in ROCK N ROLL history.
METAL fans know that is a crock because OSBOURNE's immediate replacement, the legendary RONNIE JAMES DIO of RAINBOW / ELF fame, absolutely crushed it on BLACK SABBATH debut in HEAVEN AND HELL (VERTIGO, 1980). i remember the first time i heard "NEON KNIGHTS" being absolutely floored by how powerful his operatic voice sounded with some truly inspired riffage from TONY IOMMI that i hadnt witnessed since first hearing "INTO THE VOID" off of MASTER OF REALITY (VERTIGO, 1971). that said "NEON KNIGHTS" is one of my favorite BLACK SABBATH tracks from any album and any era of the band. also noteworthy are the tracks "CHILDREN OF THE SEA," "DIE YOUNG" and "HEAVEN AND HELL" which collectively showcase the vocal, lyrical and emotional range of DIO.
its almost impossible to listen to HEAVEN AND HELL and not find yourself comparing DIO to OSBOURNE. i think where OSBOURNE channeled his everyman persona into direct hard-hitting lyrics and performances that spoke intensely to a working-class audience that viewed his vocal limitations as badges of AUTHENTICITY, in DIO you have the opposite. his operatic range allows him the opportunity to have equally outlandish and over-the-top lyrical flights of fancy, often describing dream realms and FANTASY-based morality tales. the fact that both approaches worked so well within the same band lineup just goes to prove the meddle of all musicians and singers involved during both eras. this was only further cemented decades later when the namesake band HEAVEN AND HELL reemerged later in DIO's final years.
if you are unfamiliar with HEAVEN AND HELL, definitely check it out. its a gem of an album that many look past due to it not being an OSBOURNE record. they are missing out on something special.
R.I.P. RONNIE JAMES DIO.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
for any musician new gear is always fun to learn about. even an utter novice such as myself.
the naggin question is always what does something sound like in context. in middle school i remember sounding great in my bedroom with a practice amp but effectively lifeless when mic'd through the gym PA system. at the time we were only playing METALLICA covers of "FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS" and "HARVESTER OF SORROW" in preparation for a talent show, but that disconnect is something i was aware of when i started going to shows a few years later.
what the EMGtv series excels at is showcasing their pickups in context with a prominent sponsored musician (usually of the PROGRESSIVE METAL or THRASH METAL variety) playing to a backing track that allows you to get a sense of how the pickups come off in a live mix. the results are pretty stunning and the performances by DEVINN TOWNSEND and INTRONAUT are particularly spectacular.
its also interesting that some of these artists (TOWNSEND and TOSIN ABASI) have switched to the FISHMAN FLUENCE series of pickups in recent years with its multiple voicings, while others are very much EMG lifers (ZAKK WYLDE and ALEX LAIHO - R.I.P). just goes to show the nature of constant innovation in the guitar space in the past decade.
interesting to see what new products are being dreamed up right now by EMG and their celebrated active pickups (especially their 81/85 set) that are utilized by everyone from SLIPKNOT, IN FLAMES, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, PIG DESTROYER, CRADLE OF FILTH and DEFTONES to SLAYER and METALLICA. cant wait.
i should start by stating that BIRTH SCHOOL METALLICA DEATH (DA CAPO, 2014) by PAUL BRANNIGAN and IAN WINWOOD is far from a perfect book. its BRITISH authors have an unfortunate GEOGRAPHIC BIAS towards the supposed importance of their native island in the role of METALLICA's career trajectory and an even more misplaced PROXIMITY BIAS to the role of KERRANG! magazine, of which the both have written for in the past. the authors also tend to be a bit verbose to the point of obfuscation, almost as if this book was written with a word limit in mind. there are also numerous grammatical mistakes (which is hard for me, a former ENGLISH teacher, to forgive).
all that being said, BIRTH SCHOOL METALLICA DEATH does an alright job of relating the narrative of METALLICA and their massive cultural impact on the world of METAL and beyond. being familiar with their many documentaries (CLIFF 'EM ALL, A YEAR AND A HALF IN THE LIFE OF METALLICA I and II, SOME KIND OF MONSTER, etc.), most of this information i was already familiar with. i assume that fans much more... well, fanatic, than me would probably concede that much of this book is rather basic boilerplate knowledge of the band.
i think where this book succeeds is in how the authors reveal the interpersonal relationships between band members and those close to the bands orbit including family, managers and, of course, fans. JAMES HETFIELD and KIRK HAMMETT in particular grew up in broken households where music was a respite from conflict and the unfair and undue hardship of being a child dealing with adult problems. in LARS ULRICH you have an only son with a unique upbringing in that he was raised in a progressive, loving family with a wealthy, sophisticated father figure whose profession as a DANISH tennis pro allowed his son access to world travel and an education in the arts that was second to none. original bassist CLIFF BURTON likewise came from a loving family, albeit one that was working-class with no inclination for musicianship. this triumvirate (of HETFIELD, ULRICH and BURTON) after the ouster of original lead guitarist DAVE MUSTAINE, was fairly stable and artistically cohesive. its only after BURTON's untimely passing while on tour in EUROPE that these the new power struggle between HETFIELD and ULRICH is on full display and the victim of such is JASON NEWSTED.
its very interesting that the book makes clear that despite lyrics dealing with rebellion and standing up to the man, that when confronted with issues surrounding any semblance of EMPATHY, COMPASSION and basic DECENCY the leadership of the band failed miserably. HETFIELD, ULRICH and HAMMETT come across as victims of a deep trauma that is sublimated onto NEWSTED. they come off very much like small men indeed. and for all the flowery, sentimentalization carried throughout BIRTH SCHOOL METALLICA DEATH, i thought such was quite a statement of fact. no doubt in the wake of his eventual departure in the early 2000s, which is beyond the scope of this book (which ends after their fifth album at the beginning of the 1990s), there very much is an emotional awakening that traces its painful roots back to the chronology of events examined in this book.
the book also makes clear that the band in all its lineup variations was in control of its destiny for better or worse. this goes with major decisions regarding personnel, management, booking agents, record labels, touring packages and so on. the notion that somehow the band was pushed to work with BOB ROCK and construct a more streamlined commercial record at the dawn of the 1990s is absolute garbage. the band (and by that i mean HETFIELD and ULRICH) were already there. despite their internal frailties and inherent weakness in acknowledging their own pain to each other in the face of a major trauma, in terms of creative decision-making, METALLICA was their own general.
no doubt the METALLICA of today is a very different animal than this period. and kudos to them for having the courage to progress as humans by admitting and vulnerability, and doing so very publicly. its the less celebrated late-career METALLICA that i feel are truly COURAGEOUS and undeniably AUTHENTIC in a genre filled to the brim with pretenders and charlatans. this book only makes that trajectory come into sharp focus and for that i appreciate it despite its many flaws.
i am aware that the previous album NO REST FOR THE WICKED (EPIC, 1988) was his debut on an OZZY OSBOURNE record, but for me NO MORE TEARS (EPIC, 1991) is the real coming-out party for the squealing riffage and pinch-harmonic madness that is the virtuosic yet tasteful guitar playing of ZAKK WYLDE. i start out saying this because OZZY has been blessed in his career to collaborate with some singular guitar players: namely TONY IOMMI and RANDY RHOADS (R.I.P). to say that WYLDE was successful in establishing his own sonic legacy within such a storied lineage is pretty remarkable.
tracks like "MR. TINKERTRAIN," "DESIRE," "I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE THE WORLD," "HELLRAISER" and "ZOMBIE STOMP" are ripping, propulsive examples that showcase his paradoxically flashy yet tastefully restrained style. he is equal parts JIMI HENDRIX, ALBERT LEE and ROBIN TROWER. i read years ago in an interview that he was very deliberate when joining OZZY's band about not stepping on the toes of his predecessors (TONY IOMMI, RANDY RHOADS, JAKE E. LEE) and this strayed away from TRIADS, DIVE BOMBS (and WHAMMY BAR TRICKS in general) and anything sounding NEOCLASSICAL. this meant that he relied on NATURAL and PINCH HARMONICS and PENTATONICS to derive and inform his expressive style. and in my opinion it worked.
as for OZZY, this record found him in a reflective mood as he was at a stage where he had a second chance at fatherhood with a growing young family. famously the tour for this record was the ingeniously (and in retrospect laughably incorrect) monikered NO MORE TOURS tour where he played with the idea of retirement. he beat JAY-Z to that punch by a decade. given that introspective sentiment, the notable track "MAMA, I'M COMING HOME" finds him pledging to his wife SHARON that he is ready to finally settle down. it was co-written with the legendary MOTORHEAD frontman LEMMY KILMISTER (along with"HELLRAISER"). that song also showcases some tasteful DICKY BETTS-esque acoustic chicken-picking by the likes of WYLDE, again making his range very apparent.
outside of the classic RANDY RHOADS albums of the early 1980s, NO MORE TEARS is the OZZY solo record i return to most often. arguably the best produced record, it just sounds huge with a hungry young guitarist at the peak of his powers. it still holds up and most definitely worth reinvestigation.