ever since i first discovered them at OZZFEST in 1999, i was all about SYSTEM OF A DOWN. especially their eponymous debut record SYSTEM OF A DOWN (AMERICAN, 1998), which had the same FRENETIC bordering on MANIC ENERGY and CRAZY TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY of what i heard live that summer. and that lineup was absolutely loaded with MEMORABLE sets by DEFTONES, SLAYER, PRIMUS, FEAR FACTORY, BLACK SABBATH, ROB ZOMBIE and the emergence of not just SYSTEM OF A DOWN, but also STATIC-X and SLIPKNOT. but they stood out not just for the reasons described, but they seemed to be playing out of a completely different PLAYBOOK. it was later i learned that they were a LOS ANGELES band being of ARMENIAN descent and that their music proudly incorporated the TRADITIONAL SCALES, POLYRHYTHMS and compositional influences of the FOLK MUSIC of their ancestral homeland. for me that debut record was a TRANSFORMATIVE experience on par with discovering RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE abroad as a middle schooler because it brought to bear a fresh UNIQUE perspective and approach to METAL in general. it was ORIGINAL.
thats why when the follow-up and commercial breakthrough TOXICITY (AMERICAN, 2001) was released two years later during my senior year of high school, it felt a bit UNDERWHELMING in comparison to their debut. yes the singles from this record were STELLAR, tracks like the BROODING "AERIALS," the stop-go FRANTIC CRAZINESS of "CHOP SUEY!" and the multipart epic "TOXICITY." but other tracks like "PSYCHO," "DEER DANCE," "NEEDLES," "ATWA," "FOREST" and "PRISON SONG" all felt like paint-by-numbers retreads of the first record. maybe its unfair in retrospect but my expectations for the record were pretty sky high at the time. it felt to me like a slightly reigned-in version of their debut to market better at powerful national ALTERNATIVE ROCK radio stations like 106.7 FM KROQ in LOS ANGELES. the SYSTEM OF A DOWN sound was there but was not DISSONANT or CHAOTIC enough to stand out relative to old standbys like the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS or PEARL JAM. it reminded me that there is a reason that MR. BUNGLE and FISHBONE never got played on those stations, namely how much such confrontationally IDIOSYNCRATIC and COMPLEX songs would inevitably stood out in a playlist which is probably a no-no when selling listenership ratings to potential advertisers. TOXICITY at the time seemed ECCENTRIC, but not to the extent that it would stand out from the crowd like their debut did. i assumed such was by design.
plus in 2001 i moved from KUWAIT to SACRAMENTO and the CLUELESSLY PRIVILEGED kids at this white flight suburban high school were all into SYSTEM OF A DOWN . they thought it was pretty out there stuff and sadly that association with those losers made me instantly rethink SYSTEM OF A DOWN on the spot and especially their recently released second album at the time. that was the period that i got into POST PUNK, SHOEGAZE and INDUSTRIAL MUSIC for the first time which i cant help but believe that such outside investigation was somewhat influenced by being at a school full of NICKELBACK and GODSMACK fans. even in retrospect, that whole scene at my high school in SACRAMENTO was beyond LAME. hard to believe that incredible local musicians like CHELSEA WOLFE and NICK REINHARDT, who are roughly my age, where right next door in ROSEVILLE at the time.
time has proven that TOXICITY is one of the better albums of that era that i would put favorably in terms of songwriting INVENTIVENESS and sonic EXPERIMENTATION with the likes of peers like INCUBUS, MUSE, DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, MASTODON, DEFTONES, MODEST MOUSE and TOOL. i think it was ridiculously unfair of me to originally see them on the level of knuckle-dragging outfits like DISTURBED, P.O.D., DROWNING POOL or STAIND.
AMERICAN icon, folk hero and COUNTRY legend JOHNNY CASH was in the wilderness for decades, figuratively and probably literally, when producer RICK RUBIN resurrected his career with slew of albums for his AMERICAN RECORDINGS label that were largely SPARE, MODEST affairs that put the emphasis back on his songwriting and penchant for STORYTELLING. these records also introduced CASH to an ALTERNATIVE ROCK audience that grew to view him as a CELEBRATED elder statesman of the first order along the lines of LOU REED, DAVID BOWIE or IGGY POP.
the formula of these recordings was a handful of original songs supported by several covers. on the debut AMERICAN RECORDINGS (AMERICAN, 1994) record CASH recorded SPARSE solitary covers of songs by CELEBRATED songwriters like NICK LOWE, LEONARD COHEN, GLENN DANZIG, KRIS KRISTOFFERSON and TOM WAITS. on the follow-up AMERICAN II: UNCHAINED (AMERICAN, 1996) RUBIN decided to introduce more MODERN selections by current songwriters such as BECK, CHRIS CORNELL (SOUNDGARDEN) and TOM PETTY. speaking of PETTY, RUBIN brought in THE HEARTBREAKERS as the backing band to supplement the recordings, which i believe is the only time they ever did such for an artist (other than the follow-up AMERICAN III: SOLITARY MAN). so high was their esteem and respect for CASH.
for me the highlight of the record is his cover of SOUNDGARDEN's signature PLODDING, riff-heavy track "RUSTY CAGE" which CASH transforms into a bit of a dirge. what once felt like a POWERFUL, SELF-AFFIRMING statement instead becomes a tome to SELF-DOUBT and hard lessons gained through PAINFUL lived experience. in my opinion this late career discovery of CASH's capacity for bending established songs to his will would later hit EMOTIONAL pay dirt on his TRANSCENDENT cover of NINE INCH NAILS' peon to SELF-FLAGGELATION, "HURT." this ability served a dual purpose in elevating the material to near FABLED status through the alchemy of his voice and persona, as well as provide a vehicle for ALTERNATIVE ROCK fans of the period to discover him, his history, his artistry and especially his back catalogue.
i came across this record long after the fact. in 1996 i was in AFRICA and the internet was well in its infancy at the time, so CASH was something i associated with grandfather's record collection in NEVADA (of which he sadly unceremoniously trashed for no reason, all those SUN RECORDS 45s, sigh). i didnt even catch him on MTV when i returned stateside that summer, which was how i initially came across GARBAGE, METALLICA, NADA SURF, MEGADETH and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE among others. discovering his prison recordings would come much later in high school, but when it did i went back and found everything i could including these AMERICAN RECORDINGS which i still feel provided him with a sendoff commiserate with his LEGENDARY and near MYTHICAL cultural stature as a true AMERICAN icon.
RIP JOHNNY CASH.
following up the REIGN IN BLOOD (DEF JAM, 1986) proved to be a pretty difficult artistic dilemma for celebrated THRASH METAL titans SLAYER. how does one even go about topping one of the most celebrated BRUTAL records of all-time? do you make the next record faster, more concise, more extreme? its very interesting that SOUTH OF HEAVEN (DEF JAM, 1988) instead took the opposite tack, it went SLOWER.
aside from taking the tempo down more than a few BPMs is that fact that they experimented with lower tunings, the end result being a more plodding effort that put more emphasis on the INTRICATE mostly JEFF HANNEMAN-penned riffs, TOM ARAYA's powerful voice and quite frankly, the songwriting. with celebrated tracks like "MANDATORY SUICIDE" and the title track "SOUTH OF HEAVEN" these adjustments created a more ATMOSPHERIC but no less SAVAGE sonic experience for the listener. it very much feels like the remainder of SLAYER's career was a ping-ponging between the relative extremes of REIGN IN BLOOD and SOUTH OF HEAVEN, especially when you consider the next record SEASONS IN THE ABYSS (DEF AMERICAN, 1990) and the relative variety of tracks like "DEAD SKIN MASK" and "WAR ENSEMBLE."
like most METAL fans, i heard SOUTH OF HEAVEN after experiencing REIGN IN BLOOD. i dont believe im alone in explicitly linking those two albums together. originally i was taken aback by the style shift, but then quickly realized that the slower-paced tempos allowed for a deeper appreciation for a wider palette of sonic textures that netted a more BROODING, DELIBERATE and INTROSPECTIVE experience. if REIGN IN BLOOD is just full-bore AGGRESSION, RAGE and MANIC BRUTALITY i.e. the mind of a SOCIOPATHETIC killer in all-out MELEE mode, then SOUTH OF HEAVEN is more akin to the internal machinations and dialogue of a WARPED mind in the process of meticulously planning such. one is an unstoppable force of nature and the other feels all too human. for me personally, the idea of WANTON, RANDOM VIOLENCE (like a volcano, tsunami or hurricane) is ironically less threatening than what goes on in the mind of a MISGUIDED person seeking DELIBERATE action against the world. for me, that is the appeal of SOUTH OF HEAVEN as an artistic statement both sonically and lyrically, as the the two mutually reinforce the other.
definitely check out SOUTH OF HEAVEN, preferably in conjunction with its universally heralded predecessor.
photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
with the revelation in recent years of his diagnosis with PARKINSON'S DISEASE, the cable documentary THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE (A+E, 2020) has the feeling of a long-form EULOGY about the beloved and celebrated singer. PARKINSON'S is a long-term auto-degenerative disease (much like life itself) that attacks the nervous system and is highly debilitating. so stands to reason that now is the best time speak with the man and have him reflect on his life in depth.
to its credit, THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE is as much concerned with the narrative surrounding the iconic and massively influential career of OZZY OSBOURNE as it is with his private relationship with his family, with special attention to his wife/manager/business partner SHARON. notable participants in this documentary include three of his adult children (AIMEE, KELLY and JACK) as well as former bandmates RUDY SARZO, TONY IOMMI and GEEZER BUTLER and industry peers like ROB ZOMBIE (WHITE ZOMBIE), JONATHAN DAVIS (KORN), MARILYN MANSON, POST MALONE, ICE-T (BODY COUNT) and record producer RICK RUBIN.
i will not try to hide my adoration of OZZY. suffice to say i have dedicated not one but two radio show episodes to him and his massive influence (DEER GOD RADIO 12: OZZY OSBOURNE and DEER GOD RADIO 133: OZZFEST). i have also written in the past about watching him perform at OZZFEST JAPAN in 2015 (linked HERE), which in my opinion didnt go well (note: i was not aware of his condition at the time i wrote it). in my opinion the allure of OZZY is his ability to be an everyman. he's not a MYTHOLOGICAL figure like ROBERT PLANT, phenomenal poet like BOB DYLAN or JOHN LENNON or have a preternaturally stellar vocal range / stage presence like RONNIE JAMES DIO or ROB HALFORD. to me he has something more valuable, he makes great music seem TANGIBLE and within reach of his audience. his lyrics are immediate and direct with little need for fancy decorations to show off his cleverness. there is a reason that his work in BLACK SABBATH has influenced every generation of modern rock music since (NEW WAVE OF BRITIS HEAVY METAL, PUNK ROCK, THRASH METAL, ALTERNATIVE ROCK, DEATH METAL, HARDCORE, SLUDGE METAL, METALCORE, POST HARDCORE, BLACK METAL, etc.). and a lot of that has to do with the unique PERSONAL relationship OZZY has with his audience.
so all that being said, i thought it was particularly interesting that THE NINE LIVES OF OZZY OSBOURNE moves past the more tabloid-bating aspects of his career (biting the heads off doves and bats, pissing on THE ALAMO, snorting ants on tour with MOTLEY CRUE) and delves into his failings as a father with his first marriage and the time he was so out of his mind on drugs that he attempting to strangle his second wife SHARON. to me that relationship with SHARON is the crux of this film and the central node on which his life and career hinged. the daughter of OZZY's former manager DON ARDEN, it was SHARON that basically willed OZZY to move on with his career after being dismissed from BLACK SABBATH in the late 1970s. her PATIENCE with his ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY which included drugs and infidelity is almost saint-like in some aspects, even as recently as a few years ago. interestingly the very recent public shaming of OZZY for his dalliance with a longtime hairdresser was completely omitted from discussion in the film. that was an interesting decision since here most of his poor behavior is limited to the 1980s.
with that one omission in mind, the film does a pretty good job of providing a portrait of a legendary musician that doesnt delve into HAGIOGRAPHY as is often the case. by his own admission OZZY is flawed human just like the rest of us. maybe his extremes are further out then us mortals will ever go (example: attempting to strangle your wife while intoxicated) but it is precisely his FALLIBILITY that makes him one of the most beloved frontman of all time.
and perhaps one of the greatest as well.
parodies by nacrowe
check out HERE this recent streaming video episode of DEER GOD RADIO celebrating the influential MUSIC PRODUCTION career of the legendary RICK RUBIN!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
"DEER GOD RADIO 137: RICK RUBIN PRODUCTION" LIVE TONIGHT AT 10PM EST ON MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC
parodies by nacrowe
join us TONIGHT at 10PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC with a playlist celebrating the massively influential and eclectic MUSIC PRODUCTION career of the legendary RICK RUBIN!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO are available here at the DEER GOD website as well as in the MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC archives.
and if you haven't done so already, make sure and download the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
SPOTLIGHT | BROKEN RECORD PODCAST
photo manipulation by nacrowe
RICK RUBIN is a renowned record producer with an enviable discography that transcends genre and era. he is celebrated for his ability to tap into an artists creative mindset and challenge them to produce new material that often exceeds audience expectation. notable records he's produced include the likes of SLAYER's REIGN IN BLOOD (DEF JAM, 1986), RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS's BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK (WARNER BROS, 1991), TOM PETTY's WILDFLOWERS (WARNER BROS, 1994), BEASTIE BOYS' LICENSED TO ILL (COLUMBIA, 1986), SYSTEM OF A DOWN's SYSTEM OF A DOWN (AMERICAN, 1998), RUN-DMC's RAISING HELL (PROFILE, 1986), JOHNNY CASH's AMERICAN RECORDINGS series (AMERICAN, 1994-2010), SLIPKNOT's VOL.3: THE SUBLIMINAL VERSES (ROADRUNNER, 2004) and METALLICA's DEATH MAGNETIC (WARNER BROS, 2008) among many others. he has also involved been involved in the formation of two successful record labels, DEF JAM and AMERICAN, with each known for their diverse roster lineups.
all that being said, it comes as no surprise to anyone that RUBIN decided to start an interview podcast where he does what he does best: talk. his deft ear and inquisitive, probing questions mark him as an active listener of idiot savant levels.
check out these interview he's done over the past few years. definitely worth your time if you are a fan of modern music and the process behind their creation.