Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The same line up on consecutive albums for the first time in sixteen years? Portentous.
"Kingmaker"--Moans and croaks from the struggle with addiction, but instead of tackling an intimate experience from the past head-on, Mustaine posits himself as the outsider, commenting on the abuse of Oxycontin, so-called "hillbilly heroin." It's less about the target demographic of highly-addictive prescription opioids and more to do with controlling one's life via drugs that have been given the A-OK to purchase OTC.
"Super Collider"--How could you make a song with this title and have it be just decent? Defy the odds, fellas! Spit up the nostrils of conventional wisdom! Write a song that sounds quite reminiscent of firework rockets exploding out the ass of a double-headed dragon's ass.
The "Super Collider" is another name for the Large Hadron Collider, which desperately wants me to call it the Hardon Collider. It is the world's most powerful particle collider, and in July 2012 investigators excitedly announced that LHC experimentation had led to the discovery of the so-called "God Particle." All of this is far more interesting than a mere Megadeth album, but, I have chosen to write about the music, and so I must advise you to seek the proper search utilities to quench your intellectual thirst.
Mustaine was tempted to call this album God Particle, but foresaw an unholy shit-storm and demurred. Dude, you are such a…I won't say it. Only that I have one, you are one.
"Burn!"--Blues-y metal fit to assemble a table to. A metal table? Is James Hetfield the table?
"Burn baby burn." Soulless ginger prick actually recites those words, which just reminds me how much more enjoyable, substantial and honest of a song "Disco Inferno" is compared to the likes of this gut-swiped hornswoggle.
"Built For War"--With all the galloping menace of a Killing Is My Business-era demo, Megadeth grab hold and squeeze. The macho men make a big deal of, and put massive stock into, one's mental and physical capacity for belligerent action/reaction. Whereas I am among those more impressed by how a person handles themselves during days of placidity.
"BFW" wants to be the Dupont Circle Metro Station escalator, but ends up closer to the one at Wheaton Station. Capital humor! Vague, panted threats of violence ain't barely up to a butter knife's job.
"Off the Edge"--"Lately it seems the world is going crazy." Oh fuck off, you walking Semmelweis reflex.
An excess of doomsaying makes for dull art from a dull artist.
"Dance In the Rain"--Big Brother cloaked and lurkin', slippin' the chips into the newborn babes, as per codes found on paper currency. When I read that Mustaine took lyrics from a fortune cookie, I was not surprised whatsoever. Amused, a lot. Disgusted, a bit. But utilizing what passes for dessert at the end of what is essentially Chinese-American fast food in your serious art is a move I'd expect from an old guy so far removed from his days of glory that the distance can be measured in light years. Because light years measure distance, not time. Lots of people don't realize that. I bet Dave Mustaine is one of those people. This guy fell for the widely-circulated photoshop of the "Welcome" sign in Kenya "proving" that Barack Obama was born there, so I wouldn't trust him to toast bread.
I admire Dave's resilience, if nothing else--drug addiction, radial neuropathy, stenosis, hemispherectomy.
"The Beginning of Sorrow"--A mid-tempo drudgery that rhymes "sorrow" with "tomorrow." Also, about tomorrow? There will be no. Just so you know.
The poppy parasite that latched onto the MegaBeast with Cryptic Writings should have been cleansed long ago--say, after Risk nearly destroyed the band's legacy. Clearly, manager Bud Prager was not the villain of the piece. Obviously, he was but an enthusiastic champion of Dave's desire to dumb down for domination.
"The Blackest Crow"--As far as "Cali-metal-band-tries-Southern-balladry" goes, which thankfully isn't far, "Blackest Crow" is better than Metallica's "Ronnie." But so is being catapulted headfirst into a tree.
"Forget To Remember"--A metallic Journey, but at least it's Escape-era Journey.
Dave drew upon his mother-in-law's struggles with Alzheimer's Disease, which is a heart-wrenching topic for sure, but this song never gets off the ground. This is a common malady of modern Megadeth.
"Don't Turn Your Back"--Betrayal and the disharmony of the soul, outlined in a multitude of cliched words and phrases, but ooh we got some Rust-ed chromatics to top off the verses, so I'll stick around. Risk-y chorus, though.
We're almost through Super Collider, and the drums have been playing hide-and-seek the entire time. Try kickball next time, fucker.
"Cold Sweat"--Metallica put their Thin Lizzy cover on a throwaway Garage record, but Megadeth puts their Thin Lizzy cover on a proper studio album! And it's actually good! Finally, a song that kicks ass on here, and all it took was a different band to write it. Totally macho but endearing to the end--that was Phil Lynott's charm. Mustaine lacks charm, but can sociopath it up with the best.
Soooo, Super Collider. Bleh. This album is prison breakfast.
With the release of this laborious shitcicle, Megadeth are officially the most ignominious major band in thrash metal history. Their decline has been more painful to witness than Sir Laurence Oliver in The Jazz Singer. Mustaine's the guy who writes an album about anamnesis. Mustaine's the guy who knows what anamnesis is to begin with. And that album would be top-to-bottom wretched. Maybe 63 seconds of salvageable material, and not consecutive seconds either.
In 2011, Europe's months-long Sonisphere Festival announced a major coup: for the first time ever, the Big 4 of American Thrash Metal would be playing together. I don't envy anyone who attended a Big 4 gig because, as I am fond of saying, if your festival doesn't begin with the letters A, T and P, fuck your festival. I'm gonna brave the elements, squirm through the natural and unnatural aromas of my fellow man, fork over the exorbitant moolah to receive enough nourishment so I don't lose consciousness and get violated by some blitzed-out shit-bags in Twilight shirts, all so maybe I get to hear "Evil Has No Boundaries"? No thanks. I saw Slayer live in 2007 at a standing room only venue with a capacity of 1200 and despite the lack of "Boundaries," I had a great time.
No matter my feelings, the shows were massively successful. While part of me is happy that these one-time harbingers of a new, exhilarating genre are still being graciously rewarded for their services, part of me is pissed that a nostalgia show is all they're basically good for anymore.
Yes, Metallica's last album was quite good. If the new song that they debuted in concert a few days ago is any indication, their new album will run in the same vein. Whether or not that's good news or bad news is entirely up to the standards of the individual listener.
Scott Ian swears Anthrax are done with the revolving door of lead singers. Joey Belladonna is telling media how he has never felt totally comfortable as a member of Anthrax. Yes, their last album was quite good. I'm not betting on a new one.
Slayer's last record was damned good. They're still touring and planning on recording the follow-up to World Painted Blood. Normally such news would give me the giddies, but the best of the Big 4 have had the worst fate befall them.
January 2011, Jeff Hanneman was relaxing in a buddy's hot tub when he was bitten on the right arm by an insect carrying necrotizing fasciitis--which is a flesh-eating disease. Leave it to someone in Slayer to get the flesh-eating disease.
He returned home a week later, and showed his arm to his wife. By this time the limb had swollen to approximately three times its normal size and was bright red in color. She was unable to convince her husband to visit the ER until the next morning, when he'd sobered up.
Hanneman was admitted for emergency surgery, after which doctors induced coma. After four days he was able to breathe on his own, and so began the "recovery process": more surgeries, skin grafts, physical rehabilitation. Meanwhile, Slayer continued touring, with former Exodus guitarist (and Hanneman pal) Gary Holt. Jeff was able to join Slayer for a two-song encore at a Big 4 show in Indio, CA on 4/23/2011, but a real return to action was obviously a long way off. Later that year, Tom Araya told Billboard.com that Slayer would not be recording any new music until Jeff was back: "There's no way we'd go into a studio without him….We require his musical skills, his writing skills."
2012 came and went. 2013 a sinkhole appeared and began swallowing the structure.
On Valentine's Day, Dave Lombardo released a statement informing fans he would not be performing on Slayer's imminent Australian tour. He had recently discovered some chicanery involving the group's income. Apparently, 90% of their 2012 earnings had been deducted as expenses. Spurred to action, he sat down with Tom and Kerry prior to rehearsals for the Aussie gigs and "proposed a new business model." Kerry, the giver of no fucks, told Dave to can it or get canned. Sure enough, near the end of May, Slayer announced that Dave was gone and Paul Bostaph was back in the band--and Dave found out along with the rest of us.
Incredibly, that was only the second-worst news for Slayer fans that month. On May 2, the world learned of Jeff Hanneman's death. Although speculation ran rampant that the insect bite was the culprit, the actual cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver. A long-time drinker, Hanneman's physical tribulations only served to accelerate his dependence on the bottle. Loved ones say his recovery wasn't going well enough or fast enough to suit Jeff, and he began losing hope at ever playing guitar at the proficiency and speed required to make a return to Slayer.
Lastly, there's Megadeth. Not long after the release of Super Collider, Dave Mustaine told 93X Radio that fans could expect a follow-up sooner than later: "Time is short….You see what happened with Jeff Hanneman, so I wanna write as much as I can while I can."
Oh. Cliff Burton getting crushed by a bus at the age of 24 didn't clue you in as to the ephemeral nature of existence on Earth? Gar fucking Samuelson's death didn't imbue you with a sense of urgency?
Is there a compelling reason (or reasons) for any of the Big 4 to go on as anything other than nostalgic cash-printing machines? What do any of them have left to prove, to themselves or anyone else? Anthrax will always be the Joey Fatone…Metallica will always be the mainstream behemoth whose albums automatically debut at number one…Megadeth will never have a number one album…Slayer will only damage their legacy. Honestly, the first three can do whatever the hell they want. Anthrax, make a country-rap album. Metallica, perform a concert on Mars. Megadeth, do an album comprised of nothing but "A Tout La Monde" in a dozen different musical styles, up to and including jazz fusion. It doesn't matter. But Slayer? I can't abide this. No offense to Gary Holt and Paul Bostaph, talented dudes both, but this band calling themselves Slayer are not Slayer. They are now the Tom and Kerry Show. Maybe they'll make a good record, maybe a great one (I sincerely doubt that, however). Maybe it will be a disaster. Conjecture shouldn't even be happening at this point, because after the death of their creative epicenter, Slayer should've called it a day. So long and thanks for all the Hail Satan!
There's a possibility the new Slayer album will feature at least one song written by Jeff Hanneman, and sure, I'd want to hear that. But what if it's a diamond surrounded by rock salt? Conjecture again!
Fuck it. Thank you very much for reading and experiencing the fantastic (even when it wasn't). Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and take solace in what actually transpires.
Monday, March 17, 2014
Initially made available on iTunes on 12/13/2011 before being given a physical release a month later, Beyond Magnetic is comprised of the four songs that were excised from the final tracklisting for Death Magnetic.
"Hate Train"--"Fuel" with a forced smile. Hetfield's cadence reminds of me Lenny Kravitz on "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" Hey, remember that chick drummer Kravitz had? What's her name…Cindy Blackman! Yeah, did you know she's married to Carlos Santana? Bet ya didn't. Did you know she's a better drummer than Lars Ulrich? Bet ya did.
"Just a Bullet Away"--"Dry" is not a negative adjective for a piece of music so long as there is power in abundance. Determination prevails over poor production, or there wouldn't be any punk rock records worth listening to.
While the title Death Magnetic was inspired by the rise and demise of Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley, the track most explicitly about him didn't make the final cut. Not entirely sure why; fuck guns, this is one of the faster, grittier bouts of hand-to-hand combat 21st century Metallica have taken part in. And while James Hetfield remains unsophisticated in his empathy, addicts lamenting other addicts sure beats addicts publicly mocking other addicts.
"Hell and Back"--A small insect crawling up one's back isn't an unpleasant sensation if you don't know or think about what's causing it. Likewise, these new Metallica songs aren't at all bad if you can overlook Hetfield's constipated vocals.
"Rebel of Babylon"--More Deathstyles of the Poor and Lowly. Eight minutes of glorified oblivion, four of those in the mutating forms of highly-charged crescendos. Get discombobulated to this.
It would be ideal if Metallica's newest full-length is a continuation of the Death Magnetic sound (minus the God Static, that is). Would also be ideal if Metallica released said full-length before half of its current fanbase is dead.
* I wrote this review back in July 2013, and wouldn't you know, the day I begin to prep this review for publication is the day videos begin circulating from the band's March 16th show in Bogota, Columbia. The setlist seems pretty basic, with the marked exception of a new song, the eight-minute "The Lords of Summer." The running time is neither here or there (a rule of thrash metal) but that title is rotted carcass levels of hideous and if I don't hear the lyrics "Out on the road today/I saw an Exodus sticker on a Prius" I will be both relieved and ashamed. No, I won't be sharing my opinion on the track here, as I have a personal "six month" rule when it comes to these reviews. (Also, it's a friggin' live version.) Believe I am wishing for the best.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
(The only occasion to date that two Big 4 bands have released records on the same day in North America. Megadeth outsold Metallica by 29,000 copies, but then again Lulu is not just Metallica, so ha ha, thwarted again, you soulless ginger prick.)
Yeah, Lulu is not a Metallica album. It's Metallica and that "Walk On the Wild Side" guy pairing up for a project that sent their respective fantasies into apoplectic fits and I'm somehow supposed to seek out a reason to avoid reviewing this?
Performing together at the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary show in 2009 planted the seed. Initially, Lou thought it would be dandy to work out new renditions of his older, unreleased material with the world's most famous heavy metal act, but then honed in on songs he had composed for Lulu, a theatrical production of the Frank Wedekind plays Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box. These works feature mariticide, unrequited lesbian love, prostitution and Jack the fuckin' Ripper. All of which sounds too fascinating to be put (even partially) in the hands of modern day Metallica. But as Lars Ulrich said: "Lulu is almost like two languages. We have m-e-t-a-l in our name. But we can go fucking anywhere and do anything."
See? It's not an album, it's a fucking episode of Reading Rainbow!
"Brandenburg Gate"--Let's kick it off with some rehearsal! No no, put that pesky electricity away for now.
How to describe that feeling that shoots throughout my body approximately a minute into "Brandenburg Gate"? See, this high-fiber diet, low-calorie diet has multifarious benefits, but no small number of detriments as well. Several late nights during the week I'll be lying in bed, trying to entice sleep, but the solar plexus pull proves too great, and I find myself stumbling towards the kitchen. I enter the darkened area without bothering to fumble for the light switch--the refrigerator draws me to it with magnetic ease. I reach out a hand, grasp, pull…the light emanating from the interior of the appliance is nothing compared to the light in my eyes. A festival of digestibles rests on the shelves--cans and bottles of quenching liquids; tightly-wrapped dishes holding an array of meats, vegetables and sauces. All of it is immensely appealing. Any of it would satisfy my urge. But nothing quite so fully as that slice of red velvet cake hiding underneath some plastic. I grab it and bring it to my breast. I am one step closer to completion.
"SMALL TOWN GIIIRRRRLLLLL!"
"The View"--Lars, would you seriously with the cymbals?
Discussing the highs of the Lulu experience, Lou told Rolling Stone, "The drums are no joke." Lou, the drums are all the jokes. "Knock-knock" to "practical" to "poor taste ethnic." You, on the other paw? Golden. I adore Lou on "The View." His coffeehouse tone and delivery over the brick-brained chord pattern keeps me intrigued, even as James Hetfield tries to ruin it with his fantastical proclamations.
"Pumping Blood"--Chewie, hit the throttle to activate the hyperdrive 'cause kee-rist, this got weird quick.
Lou quavers out some winners: "Oh Jack I beseech thee." "I will swallow your sharpest cutter like a colored man's dick." Throughout time, women have said some odd things to bring their sex partner to orgasm.
The guitars here are pretty perfect--for the midsection of another song. The result here is what I feared it would be for the majority of the record: Lou Reed recites nonsense, Metallica goes CHUNK CHUNK CHUNK. Obviously Metallica didn't need to adopt the "Legatos Or Bust" mentality to make this oddball collabo work, but they definitely needed to know when and how to sound like more than just Lou Reed's backing band. Here, they sound like Lou Reed's backing band.
The drums, I swear…if Lars Ulrich were a waiter, he'd only refill half of your glass. I hope those wasps get him but good.
"Mistress Dread"--As I just bitched about how rote and "stock"--har har--the guit-fiddles on the last song sounded, so must I praise them here for taking no prisoners. If only they weren't an anomaly in the bigger picture!
The repetition makes me genuinely warm from laughter instead of boiling from rage and for that reason I recommend "Mistress Dread" for the next time you need a hilarious distraction (apply as needed).
Lulu wants a mouthful of spit and shit? Absolution via degradation, you say? Cool, 'cause I just got back from a secret rendezvous with the late-night menu at Taco Bell. I guess a crap is as good as a kiss to a filthy whore. Wait, am I being a gender traitor? I'm just saying, of the two of us, Lulu's odds of being found dead in a hotel room with her intestines draped over the headboard are far greater than mine.
"Iced Honey"--Why did Lou and Johnny Cash never collaborate? Two raconteurs, one masterpiece. Guaranteed.
The bad boys and their treasure map with the singed corners prove a bit much for Lou, who sounds in dire need of a straight line to a bench. If nothing else, really, the title is stupendous. Winnie the Pooh in a parka, look of unbearable anticipation on his precious ursine face. That's what I see.
"Cheat On Me"--Men adore a woman who care nothing for them beyond the occasional fleshly escape.
"I want lovers like the rain." No way, I want lovers like the snow--just lay there and look pretty.
"Frustration"--This one goes out to you, Metallica fans convinced your heroes have lost their friggin' marbles! This one goes out to you, Lou Reed fans convinced your hero is engaging in the most pathetic pandering possible!
I hate songs that tell me what and/or how to think and/or feel. I loathe songs that nail my thoughts and feelings to a "t." That's a violation of the creator-consumer trust. There needs to exist at all times a barrier of great tensile strength between us, Art. If you want to screw, and I want it too, fine. But let's get a sheet and a pair of scissors first.
"Lexicon of hate"--that's pretty metal. (You could sell it on Etsy.) "Puke my guts out"--that's pretty Metallica. Think back to when Jason Newsted had just left, James Hetfield was seeking professionals to assist in the fight with his demons, and the future of the band was in doubt. All of that uncertainty was like a virus churning in the gut of Metallica. The only way to get better was to vomit all the bad stuff out. And that vomit…was St. Anger. Subsequent to this purgative puke, Death Magnetic showed the band at renewed health.
Lou Reed, you astute bastard.
"Little Dog"--Banana pudding without vanilla wafers. Is what this is.
"Dragon"--Some rabidly brain-deficient members of the Metallica famileeh sent Lou Reed threats of violence for aiding and abetting in the horrendous crime of Lulu. Did they not realize that the man they were promising to pummel had, decades prior, made himself persona non grata in the mainstream music scene for daring to release the wordless feedback-fest known as Metal Machine Music at the height of his commercial success? Poor pitiful creatures, indeed.
"Opium white bathrobe"? Dude, I used that in a Thurston Moore parody poem years ago!
"Junior Dad"--It is possible to make a good nineteen-minute song. It has been done.
With Vangelis composing the guitars, apparently, Lou proceeds to relay the desultory tale of a boy who grew up hating his father only to become like his father as he progressed deeper and deeper into adulthood. Thus, a "Junior Dad." (James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett were apparently brought to tears in the studio.) My father died several years ago, and this didn't make me cry. Or even sniffle. I suppose it wasn't meant to, but I'd love to hear a song by a female artist outlining the myriad of depressing, unsavory ways she's becoming just like her tormented father. No, wait…probably I wouldn't love to hear that.
Lulu is nowhere near the self-indulgent disaster it had the potential to be (and that some people insist is is), but nor would I call it a true success. Lars Ulrich claimed, "This makes …And Justice For All sound like the first Ramones album." The best parts of Lulu can hang with some of the better moments on Justice, but no individual song (okay, maybe the agonizingly delightful "Mistress Dread") is better than that albums nadir. Likewise, the worst parts of Lulu make a Ramones chopped and screwed album sound like a fantastic idea, could some high-off-his-ass motherfucker in Texas please get on that one posthaste?
Accessibility is overrated when the masses are such opiate-laced asses, but so is experimentation. Too often here band and singer sounded at loggerheads. Rather than cite that as a reason to say, "Fuck this album with a long rusty thing," I'll concede that if Lou Reed and Metallica had decided to do a true collaboration right there in the studio, with fresh lyrics and music, pushing and pulling, acting and reacting, giving and taking, well, the results could have been highly enjoyable.
By all means--innovate the model. Experiment on the specimen. Explore the realm. Deviate from the well-worn path. Just don't forget to poke some holes and let that beautiful thing breathe, eh?
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Yuck. 13, you are not number 1, no matter what your release date is trying to tell me.
2010 was a great year to be a literate metalhead. Dave Mustaine's autobiography was released and proved to be the easy, entertaining read that I demand all books about "the rock life" be. You would do far better to read that enriching tome than listen to this poor album. Actually, here's a list of 13 books you should read instead of listening to the album 13*:
The Great Santini
The New Centurions
Hammer of the Gods
The Merciless Book of Metal Lists
The Handmaid's Tale
Fast Food Nation
Pick up a book. Read it. 'Cause that shit is massively edifying.
Dave Mustaine--vocals, guitar
"Sudden Death"--One thing about 13--these sing-along choruses miss the mark more often the cross-eyed Asian sharpshooter in the "Whip It" video. I hope the collapse of civilization will not be as pointlessly cacophonic as this Grammy-nominated mess.
"Public Enemy No. 1"--Sounds like every Judas Priest song I would rather be listening to. I guess I'll take it. Guess I'll also take a six foot robot with racing stripes along the sides and a remote-controlled penis. This was nominated for a Grammy as well? Good God Lemon.
"Whose Life Is It Anyway?"--Either about a girl, or about drugs. ("Never Let Me Down Again" made it so I question everything.) Double bass aside, the general sentiment is one of punk-rock sediment…you know, in the style of a sloppy bang on an unmade bed.
Another Grammy nod. Triple Crown!
"We the People"--Grab a brush and march in step. More snarling about the "one world everything," more barking about problems without offering any solutions. Dave Mustaine has basically become every crotchety shirtless old bastard punctuating his paranoid rants with Old Milwaukee belches that I avoid at family reunions.
"Guns, Drugs & Money"--All I could think about was how much I want to see a viral video of Ted Nugent accidentally firing a .375 caliber bullet into his crotch and emitting a sound which combines the Wilhelm Scream and the Goofy Yell.
"Never Dead"--This is what Megadeth do, now? Write undistinguished songs for video games I'll never play? Borders disintegrate, colors blur together, but all I feel is exasperation.
"NWO"--The origins of "NWO" date back to 1991, and the song first appeared on 1999's Duke Nukem: Music To Score By soundtrack compilation. What will the world see first--a new Megadeth album worth buying, or Duke Nukem Forever?
Perfect music for when you want to just walk a few steps…then flex a muscle. Walk a few steps…then smirk. Walk a few steps….
"Fast Lane"--Well if this here ain't parked right in the middle of my alley! More than the speed of a mobile machine, I feel the weight. Slow it down, but don't shut it down. Mind the lash.
"Black Swan"--More brown than black, yet still more raven than swan. Mere rock 'n' roll is more than okay.
Mind you, that doesn't make "Black Swan" anything more than inoffensive. I'm not going to overrate the track just because it doesn't activate my gag reflex. Be friends with context; don't enter into a co-dependent relationship. You won't see me calling "Castles in the Air" one of the best songs I've ever heard just because "American Pie" is one of the worst.**
"Wrecker"--I wouldn't cross the bass line on an empty street. I would beat the snot out of the rest of the song, though.
"Millennium of the Blind"--Constipation blues. Just sittin' in the house, specifically on the couch, lamenting the feminization of America while loading the guns.
"Deadly Nightshade"--Hallucinations of grandeur.
"13"--Another meticulously-picked creation that I would forget under threat of death or dismemberment.
Gah! Megadeth continue to make their fans feel "accidentally grabbing the 'L' capsule and losing the spread gun" levels of disappointment.
*Consider yourselves fortunate. You almost read the list of Top 13 Objects I'd Rather Have Shoved Into My Arid Womanhood Then Listen to 13.
**People who know me understand how serious I am when it comes to "American Pie." Anyone in the same room as me who plays it, sings it, hums it, whistles it, taps the melody out with their foot is asking--nay, begging--to be the Gypsy Joe to my New Jack.
Friday, March 14, 2014
Worship Music is a return to form after a lengthy streak of deep brown. I could not have predicted such given a thousand guesses. It wasn't just my observance of the trend downward that made me so dubious, but also the rather nasty bout with LSD Anthrax had in the eight years between albums.
In 2004, the guys released the somewhat interesting The Greater of Two Evils, a covers album featuring a fan-selected tracklisting of pre-John Bush songs as sung by Bush. (Not featured in my discography series because there's only so many ways I can express how woefully ill-suited Bush's vocal range was for nearly every one of those tracks without boring even myself.) The next year, a reunion of "classic lineup" was announced, and Bush had to take a break while Anthrax went out on tour with Joey Belladonna. The reception was such that rumors began circulating about the possibility of new material with Joey at the mic, but there was a big difference between getting some nice change to play old stuff for a loyal crowd, and trying out the old formula on new consumers. Especially when old wounds had not truly healed. When the prospect of a 25th anniversary tour featuring both Belladonna and Bush essentially "splitting" vocal duties was shot down, the "Joey Returns!" chapter in the biography was considered finished. So too, it seemed, was the "Big John Stud" chapter, as Bush's wounded pride would not permit him to return to the Anthrax camp.
Enter Dan Nelson. From 2007 to 2009 he performed with Anthrax, and the band was able to write and record a new album, titled Worship Music, tentatively scheduled for a May 2009 release. But then…drama. Did Dan Nelson quit? Was he fired? That one's gonna go down alongside such mysteries as the Black Dahlia murder, except there are actually people who give a fuck about the Black Dahlia murder.
Anthrax promptly cancelled all upcoming gigs, save for one at the UK Sonisphere Festival, when John Bush returned and there was much rejoicing. An online "Bring Back Bush" campaign sprung up, one that found a very important supporter in Scott Ian. But Bush's heart wasn't into returning to the studio just to belt out a bunch of songs he had no hand in creating, nor did he find the prospect of extensive touring as appealing as it may have been in the past.
Enter, one more time, Joey Belladonna.
Anthrax got back in the studio, re-did Worship Music, and there was much rejoicing, yet again.
"Worship Music"--Or at least after the useless sound collage of an introduction was over with.
"Earth On Hell"--Fiercely tethered displeasure will not stay forever. Show the beast fresh meat, release, and once freed the hunger subsumes all other needs.
"The Devil You Know"--Catchy and resolutely non-cornball. You never know how much you miss something until it spits in your face.
Anthrax with John Bush was virtually a different band. One element that went (largely) missing along with Joey was the ability to shine bright lights into dark nooks. I'm talking storytelling. I'm talking choruses with their own effect lines surrounding them. The passion that puts the color in your cheeks instead of draining the color out of them.
"Fight 'Em Til You Can't"--Just like every other great song here, "Fight" is terse, tense and frill-free. Throw in some Scott shouts and you've got tracks that are redolent of Among the Living without bearing any of the dreaded dreary nostalgia. Shit, maybe Anthrax themselves are the zombies.
(None of the tracks from the Dan Nelson version of Worship Music have leaked to the masses, at least not that I could locate, and only a live version of "Fight" exists to give a taste. Just based on this relatively scant evidence, the controversial departure of Nelson from the band was a blessing. Dude sounds like the type of shameless Phil Anselmo wanna-be that Anthrax--of all fucking bands--did not need.)
"I'm Alive"--Joey opens Anthrax up to a new world of possibilities. (What gives you greater chills, a picture of Ted Bundy glaring through his five o'clock shadow or one where he's squeaky-clean and blinding the world with his smile?) His undeniable chops carry "I'm Alive" from an appealing yet common macho anthem to a voracious song for the gods.
Ye who seek the definition of a payoff shall find it here. Follow the gleaming mile-long path to a voluminous building with a nondescript exterior that doesn't fool you in the slightest. You know that place houses something incredible.
"Hymn 1"--"I am pumped right now! Those strings sound all dramatic and demented!"
"Dude, it's like William Shatner giving somebody their last rites!"
"In the End"--No florid elegiac language needed or required. This is as hard as crapping in a shot glass. All good thrash metal hatefully replicates the crushing weight of despair and disbelief that visits upon us all at various points in our journey. "In the End" is real fuckin' good.
"The Giant"--Cincinnati Bowtie to all the doubters! (For the haters? Alaskan Pipeline.) Not the Beowulf-styled epic that I'd initially hoped for--too jerky--and the chorus seems better suited for Bush, but this still gives me warm happies. Y'know, like a chicken pot pie does.
"Hymn 2"--"It's a drum solo?"
"No. It's a drum showcase."
"Judas Priest"--A band goes and names one of their songs "Judas Priest"--they cannot come up lame. Such an outcome is strictly forbidden. You screw it up, well, you're no better than a trash-eating dog molester.
The acolytes in Anthrax eat naught but the choicest slices decorated with the most flavorful toppings, and they would beat you hairless if you dared even sneeze on a puppy. The thrills to be experienced here are plentiful and abrasive. Get that surprised look off your face, it's the tenth song already!
"Crawl"--I am a lover of any tune with a mighty bardic knock.
"The Constant"--The least memorable actual song on Worship Music is still quite good. Inspired by a Lost episode of the same name. I never watched that show, so I don't especially care. Really I'd rather spend five minutes alone with a horny dolphin.
"Revolution Screams"--In this here century, very few real-world events deserve artistic celebration like the 2011 "Lotus Revolution." Unfolding over two weeks throughout Egypt, this massive uprising saw millions of protesters utilizing traditional tactics of righteous truculence against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. These people were enraged. They demanded respect. They wanted to feel as if their voices were strong and significant. Through actions both civil and violent, they got what they wanted. They overthrew the fucking government. I guarantee you not enough of us appreciate that, and I don't just mean my fellow Americans.
Eleven minutes in is a cover of the Refused song "New Noise." Joey's a bit out of his depth, but the message remains--we all need new noise.
Primed for pension collection, Anthrax embraced the past and belly-suplexed it into the present.
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Not red. The shade must be specific.
The first Slayer album to be written in the studio proved a successful experiment; Jeff Hanneman just ekes Kerry King with six song credits , but his punk-metal spirit permeates the project deeper than Kerry's metal-punk spirit. (That's the difference between screaming and yelling, if you need an example.)
"World Painted Blood"--The introduction takes the muttered voices of "Hell Awaits" and the brusque knocks of "Raining Blood" and slaps 'em with a new coat.
The sonic serration meshes unpleasantly with Tom Araya's vocals, but this is Slayer. Unpleasantness is expected and welcomed. How could I ever resist the delectably sinister temptations offered within? It's not about what's right, it's about what's left. If I want to shave my body hair with a machete, I'll do that.
"Unit 731"--A song about a World War II-era biological and chemical warfare research and development unit responsible for the deaths of thousands of Chinese people? Human experimentation, chemical exposure, "educational" amputations? Surgery with no anesthesia? Yessir--it's another Slayer gem from the wicked pen of Jeff Hanneman. More delirious verses for bastard behavior. (Those are the reasons behind all those seemingly inexplicable stink-eyes I level at my fellow public transport passengers.)
Guitar solos are to Slayer songs what Cappadonna verses are to Wu-Tang Clan songs.
"Snuff"--Seasons In the Abyss soloing over Reign In Blood guitars at the very beginning of the song. Well, I came.
A tune about being tortured to the point of madness really should never make me want to jump rope with two surgically-fused king cobras in place of the rope, but some things in this world we aren't meant to make heads nor tails of.
Tom sounds better on World Painted Blood than on any of Slayer's last four albums, realizing that his voice is a partner in crime and not a reluctant ally. Tom at his best can bark out the side-dish menu at a BBQ joint and mesmerize a crowd. "Barbecue baked beans! Cole fuckin' slaw! Mac and cheese, collard greens, death to you aaaaallll!"
"Beauty Through Order"--Huh. Now there's a word I never thought I'd see in a Slayer song title.
'Bout goddamn time the greatest metal band of ever wrote a song for the most evil woman in history, considering how often the Countess Elizabeth Bathory has been referenced in the genre (including a song on Venom's seminal Black Metal). The legend claims that this inbred woman of dark desires tortured and killed peasants and servants in Hungary over twenty years spanning the 16th and 17th centuries (totals ranging from 32 to 650 victims), often bathing in a tub full of their blood to stay young. Whether the Countess really was one of the most vile and prolific serial killers in history, or the victim of a royal conspiracy as some have alleged, will never truly be known. In the absence of definitive answers, the sensationally sanguine perception persists.
(Jeff struggled with writing from a woman's point of view until he embraced her evil. Then the words just flowed. "Eternity waits for you to drink." Piss off, eternity. I'm nursing this.)
"Hate Worldwide"--How about another song for the ladies? Let's send this one out to Polyurethane Pam.
My mom worked in a bakery for two and a half years. Near the conclusion of year number one, she had transformed from being an ardent fan of the sacred treat known as "the donut" to blanching at the mere thought of one. If my mom were a metal band, she would not be Slayer.
"Public Display of Dismemberment"--Do "Dittohead" again, but like Judas Priest! Gruesome and ghastly, this easily goes awry in the hands of lesser masters.
"Human Strain"--I care about this as much as the band did.
"Americon"--Everywhere around the world…"it's all about the motherfucking oil!" The dumb is powerful here. Reese's Pieces powerful. "Americon" barely qualifies as a one-dimensional experience. Everyone is holding back, including the producer and engineer.
"Psychopathy Red"--Two straight snoozers after a string of blazers, Slayer better recover quick. As "Psychopathy Red" was the album's first single, I knew ahead of time they would.
You don't see the world "psychopathy" slung around a great deal, so check in their column. Slayer deliver with an ape-shit intro--BAM BAM--assemble the pebbles, spray blood on them and slap people square in the puss if they dare rush over and exclaim "Ooh Skittles!"
Those guitars follow you around like a wizard's familiar. Uncontrollable note-relay races. Chorus that doubles as a cause of death. Audible bass! That part ruled.
"Psychopathy Red" is about the infamous "Red Ripper," Andrei Chikatilo. I would've loved to sit down and shoot shit with Jeff and Tom about true crime books. Not just the ones everyone knows (The Stranger Beside Me, In Cold Blood) but the lesser-celebrated tomes like Bestial and Buried Dreams. Why does no one want to give Earle Leonard Nelson his just due as a jaundiced dude?
"Playing With Dolls"--The relationship between tormentor and tormented is the definition of a "crush."
"Not of This God"--Thought they'd close the album out with a moody track, but nope. Instead we get li'l baby "Angel of Death," with a dry diaper and pinched, beet-colored face. The chorus has some "Fundamental Friend Dependability" thing happening. Definitely a ditty for the delinquent at heart.
The booklet of World Painted Blood has probably my favorite picture of my favorite Slayer member ever: Jeff Hanneman onstage, clad in his omnipresent Oakland Raiders jersey, left hand on the guitars neck and his right hand held triumphantly skyward. He stares out at the crowd, his mouth wide open, face twisted in an expression of devilish glee. And of course the pic is tinted blood red.
Looking inward instead of outward would serve a band like Megadeth well; Slayer have done this for the last three records and gone from strength to strength as a result. Their glory days are behind them, but the gory days go on and on.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
In 2008, Dave Mustaine appeared on The Alex Jones Show. That is a thing confused people do with their lives. Alex sent Dave a copy of his 2007 documentary Endgame: Blueprint For Global Enslavement. Did you know that the Bilderberg Group meets at various places worldwide to plot the extermination of 80% of the world's population and the enslavement of 20%? Did you realize there is no way we can stop this, and that being a fear-mongering, brow-beating, insult-hurling, hyper-speculative, argument-derailing modern-day Paul Revere is the only sane response?
Dave Mustaine--vocals, guitar
"Dialectic Chaos"--I can't believe I had to type that blustery malcontent's name multiple times on this blog. I need to hop in a dumpster and crawl around in hopes of cheering myself up, now.
Aliens came in ambivalence, aware of mankind's cynicism. Forth and back ensues.
"This Day We Fight!"--Two straight albums where the second song ends in an exclamation point. In this case, I feel the punctuation is justified. The solos in particular sound like a requiem for that crazy muh'fuh who thought he could suplex a moving train.
Imagine Mustaine wearing medieval body armor. Armor that would crush his bones if he wore it for longer than three minutes. If you can suspend disbelief for the sake of this song, you may enjoy yourself.
"44 Minutes"--A rote rundown of surreal life events. I didn't cotton to this angle when Sepultura tried it for "Manifest" on Chaos A.D. sixteen years prior to this, and that was Sepultura at the height of their powers, so you can guess what I make of 2009 Megadeth.
The specific event is the 1997 North Hollywood Bank of America robbery. Two heavily-armed (and armored) young men entered the establishment, snatched some cash, and exited blasting. No hostages, no demands, just bullets; ultimately, over 1,100 rounds were ejected from their illegally-modified automatic rifles as the police fired back with an arsenal so relatively puny that some of the cops had to appropriate AR-15 assault rifles from a nearby arms dealer just to level the odds somewhat.
If Dave's point is that the inadequate police weaponry exposed how the government does not value its law enforcement, thus creating an environment for criminals and criminal activities to flourish while the peacekeepers flounder, thus endangering more lives, well, that point was made at the time, a dozen years ago. The Department of Defense supplied the LAPD with surplus M-16s and state legislators passed a law permitting officers of the law to purchase assault weapons.
Finally, the only fatalities on that day where the two bank robbers. So…what was the point of "44 Minutes"? What ultimate point was Mustaine trying to make?
"1,320'"--Some guys, they just wanna fuck their cars. Stick it right in the fill spout and power that bitch up.
"Bite the Hand"--A welcome return to Megadeth's copter-blade days, when they were young and ready to tilt the world. "When it's dog eat dog, you are what you eat." In that case, Dave, lay off the Shi Tzus.
"Bodies"--"One day you're here/And then you're gone." A goal of any writer who loves their craft is to confront the cliches--because you cannot avoid them--and cast them in a brighter linguistic light. Sonically, "Bodies" is a stale Snickers bar some nut-bars homeless person kicked free from a Port Authority vending machine.
"Endgame"--Smell that? That is Tea Party paranoia. You can be forgiven for assuming it was rotten guacamole.
I would never be so naive as to claim the government would never ever devise a plan to imprison citizenry en masse. I would never be so naive as to believe a well-armed citizenry would have any real chance of thwarting a determined government. Unless they make armored tanks affordable to the average person, and adjust garages and parking spaces accordingly, we will be screwed. If the sociopath's utopia is imminent, if we were born to be screwed in the New World Orgy, why are the likes of Alex Jones making movies and airing podcasts complaining about how much it hurts?
"The Hardest Part of Letting Go…Sealed With a Kiss"--Whatever happened to the common slash?
"If you love someone you have to let it go." If "it" is referring to the tension-fraught situation you and your paramour find yourselves in--that is a correct sentence. I feel bad for Dave at this point, as he seems to be a person who takes Alex Jones seriously, so I'll assume that is what he meant.
"Head Crusher"--Medieval torture is not only a topic I'd rather hear Megadeth sing about than political paranoia, it's something I'd rather endure. Dunk me, stretch me, anyway you want me, as long as you kill me, it's all right.
"How the Story Ends"--Thank you, band. Thank you for waiting until the end to sound interesting. Guess that kinda fits in with the album title, though. Oh HA HA. Expertly navigating hoary trails and ascending peaks marked with threadbare flags, yeah, well done. (That's how I used to order my steaks until the Hibachi chef made fun of me.)
"The Right To Go Insane"--This is boring. I am bored. Is this edgy? Are Megadeth on the edge? Could someone push them off, please?
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
St. Anger was packed sick with hate-worthy things: the lack of focus, the pretension passed off as reinvention, the omission of guitar solos, "experimental" drums, and allowing Montresor to handle the mix. Seeing that the follow-up was comprised of ten songs totaling 74 minutes didn't fill me to overflowing with the good vibes.
However…Death Magnetic is a very good album. A classic? No. But given the last few records in the Metallica discography, I will accept a very good album with a smile and plate of warm chocolate chip cookies, thanks. Metallica has whipped up a gumbo yet again but this time I don't detect the odor of rotted okra.
What is discernible, unfortunately, is a stench that permeates many modern musical releases. Whether it was the idea of the band themselves, or producer Rick Rubin, the fact is Death Magnetic was fed compression like Homer Simpson was fed donuts in Hell. This is just another salvo fired in the so-called "loudness war," a battle for listeners being shamelessly fought by studio warriors determined to create a product that can make a nuclear bomb detonation sound like a baby's sneeze. The emphasis on super-compressed dynamic range leads to distortion and clipping, and while everyone's ears hear thangs differently, over 22,000 fans signed an online petition to have the album remixed (not to be confused with the petition to have St. Anger re-written and re-recorded).
Did the band care? No. Their management even played up this crushing of musical notes against each other in a most inconsiderate orgy as an exciting new sound. Given that many articles concerning the "loudness wars" cite Oasis' (What's the Story) Morning Glory? as arguably the first prominent example of this volume-worship, Lars was probably honored.
Do I care? Mostly, I'm not bothered. I have heard better music recorded worse. (See: Sleater-Kinney's The Woods.) It is unquestionably fucking loud. Soundgarden's Superunknown is a record I have long held up as an example of production that deliberately aims to level city blocks, and Death Magnetic makes that sound like a Nick Drake album.
"That Was Just Your Life"--A disarming, tenuous beginning builds momentum until finally nuking a volcano. The riff ninety seconds in is basically the main of "Frantic" tamed and surrounded by drums that wouldn't send a wounded ape into a flinging frenzy. Hetfield is not the beast behind the microphone he once was--that's just the way things go.
A heartbeat is the most complex "simple" thing I can think of.
"The End of the Line"--No mommy issues. No ill-advised country-western excursions. Just lotsa ugly. Richard Kiel and Andre the Giant extreme fuckin' close-ups.
Gotta love Hetfield and that "Creeping Death" vocal delivery (one word, then a line). Dude's pushing 88 like Marty McFly but it's 1985 forever in his lion heart.
"Broken, Beat and Scarred"--More awesome unpleasantness. No-nonsense, stop-start, terse and tense. The abandonment of randomness was a wise decision. The sandy production actually helps cloak the questionable angst in a grayer shroud than on St. Anger, and colors influence perception considerably.
"What doesn't kill ya makes ya more strong" works here, where it would have failed on the last album, because James was allowed multiple vocal takes, thus his voice actually fits with the band playing along with him. Kirk and Rob apparently provide backing vox, but I'll be damned.
"The Day That Never Comes"--"Fade To Black" with a promise of something on the other side. I can dig that. I appreciate the emotion, as it appears to be organic and I didn't even have to squint!
Any piece of art that deals with domestic violence piques my interest. I judge them less on merit and more within the spectrum of tastefulness. "The Day That Never Comes" is an overwhelming experience, the promise of a boy-turned-man who will one day free himself and his mother from the fear that's sapped the color from their days. One day at a time. One day, in due time.
In due time…I suppose so. The "what-if" game is so popular, and so pointless. Forget leaving after the first time, or the first year; if my mother had left my father after putting up with fifteen years of abuse, I still would not have been born. For a nice aural facsimile of how reflecting upon that makes me feel, enjoy the parasitic riffing that dominates the song's second half.
"All Nightmare Long"--Damn near their happiest riffing in years. Which goes great with the title. Big smiles, everybody! Somebody run up on Kerry King and ask what he thinks about Rick Rubin producing for Metallica!
Shadow marauders out on a mission, wearing Goodwill clothing, bearing hot 16's. Blackest, sketchiest.
"Cyanide"--Terrible lyrics, but the music races out of the dragon pen. Call it Volvagia, 'cause it eats Gorons and their hammers of would-be justice. Once bubbling under, now boiling over. They never found that guy in Chicago.
"Unforgiven III"--Nine minutes? Nein!
This is basically The Godfather III of the series. (Convenient!) The instrumentation and production has been pored over to lend gravitas to what are essentially ridiculous proceedings. I would have been devastated by Michael Corleone's silent scream upon witnessing his daughter's murder if Sofia Coppola had shown any acting ability at all. As it is, when the big scene went down, the only thing that upset me is that it wasn't a headshot.
Likewise, maybe "Unforgiven III" would have had some inspired some response from me other than a piggish snort if Hetfield didn't come off like a whiny, bloated grandpa who has to be super-conscious whenever he farts. When you sing, and it ends up sounding like Billie Joe Armstrong doing a James Hetfield impersonation, you should stop. And think about what you're doing. Especially if you are James Hetfield. It's that real.
"Judas Kiss"--So metal. The palm-muting, the fills, the transitions. Just enjoy.
"Suicide and Redemption"--Their first true instrumental since "Orion" is a ten-minute 101 course not in CPR but in the most vital step of that procedure.
Grooves in a manner older Metallica never did, or perhaps never considered. The parts flow into each other with ease, and no individual section overstays its welcome. It's not that St. Anger lacked artistic self-awareness; it just had too much of the deleterious kind. This is the kind that works.
During recording, Kirk Hammett brought a picture of late Alice In Chains singer Layne Staley to the studio. James Hetfield wondered why Staley, and so many of his peers, seemed so drawn to self-destruction and death when they were blessed with the talent to make what would be to most people a "successful" life of renown and financial security. There are no answers here, or anywhere. But I would always rather ask "I wonder why?" than "I wonder if…?"
"My Apocalypse"--An undistinguished speed-run that sounds rather Slayer in terms of musical accents, lyrical structure/content, and vocal performance. (Not the drums, however. Never the drums.)
I noted earlier on that I could handle the clipping and distortion on Death Magnetic, even though it would be an even better album if it had been treated properly as a piece of music to be sat down with and savored instead of another group of files to transfer onto yet another piece of technology. "My Apocalypse" is nigh unlistenable. If the mix throughout is comparable to two fingers up the ass, well here's number three jammed and crammed for ya. A poor way to finish what is a surprising return to form.
Death Magnetic sold well, making Metallica the first band to see five of their albums to hit the number one spot on Billboard's Top 200. (Megadeth is close behind, with zero.) Fiercer, smarter…welcome back, bastards.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Dave Mustaine--vocals, guitar
Nothing can stop the imperialist terror that is the United Nations! Unless it's an armed Glenn Danzig taken over by the Devil gene!
"Sleepwalker"--Arpeggio dust causes rhinos to cough. That's why I like metal music, that sweet soul-taker music. Bits of dragon there and here spice up the stew, to some avail.
"Washington Is Next!"--Government-perpetuated ignorance cannot be truly combated with goonish drums, or solos that show their gleamers. Honestly I feel more inspired to pop a racing game into the nearest console than defend my liberty.
"Never Walk Alone…A Call To Arms"--Dave and Jim Hellwig can both shove their ellipses up their asses. Take turns till it burns. If there's room to spare, Dave can cram up that Bon Jovi's Greatest Hits CD he's been keeping under his pillow every night while writing the songs for United Abominations. I admire vows of personal loyalty, especially when the intent is to adhere to them; I prefer they not smell like New Jersey.
"United Abominations"--Once you get past the hackneyed fake-news report--if you get past it--you find yourself vis-a-vis a crackling indictment of the United Nations. A chip? Nah, Mustaine has a "party bag" on his shoulders.
"Gears of Wars"--Written, sans lyrics, for the video game of the same name. Riff so dumb, it'll make the average armchair soldier's balls swell three sizes.
"Blessed Are the Dead"--More so than the sick?
Reference to horses. Reference to pestilence. Furthermore, famine. Apocalypse, additionally. Wait…hold on…"Won't you four horsemen ride again?" I do not know if this was intended to be an olive branch or a middle finger, and it is difficult to care when the cognitive dissonance engendered by the song makes me want to snort an entire bottles worth of crushed Motrin up both nostrils.
"Play For Blood"--Pantera worship time! Pretty rich from the guy who once went on MTV and called out the "spanish panthers" for ripping off his band. Boy, you are as soft as duck poo on down pillows.
"A Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free)"--One of Megadeth's few great songs post-Rust gets remade, with Lacuna Coil's Cristine Scabbia helping out on vox. She and Dave actually sound amazing together, in that super-bombastic way so much metal can sound amazing. Like you know you should be ashamed for being so eager to bite onto such blatant bait, but you just can't resist.
Introspection that opens up the path to humility serves Dave (and his music) far better than embarking on a trip to the darkest recesses and returning with I WANTED TO KNOW THE MEANING OF LIFE AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS STUPID SHIRT as your sole souvenir. It took a lot of courage to get off that Greyhound to begin with, you know.
"Amerikhastan"--Why just the one 'K'?
Portmanteaus are hit-and-miss. As are preachy war songs. Wait, scratch that; preachy war songs are an all-the-time miss. (Slayer do not preach, Slayer tell the truth.) Singing your confused thoughts over guitars and drums doesn't suddenly unjumble them. Rock lyrics are by their very nature muddled at best and doggerel at worst.
"You're Dead"--I love baby double bass. I imagine the drummers are playing with booties on their feet and binkies in their mouths. Dave is far too scrawny, both on record and off, to scare even me, and I'm a black belt in paranoia.
"Burnt Ice"--If this is what mainlining and snorting drugs sounds like, I'm grateful I've only ever drank mine.
United Abominations continues the template: two-thirds soulless plod-trod, last third rapid-fire attack punctuated by showy solos that evaporate from the listeners memory even quicker than the notes themselves dissipate into the ether. Other than the remake of "A Tout Le Monde" (necessary only in the sense that this record needed at least one song I'd willingly listen to more than once) this article from UN Dispatch re: the title track is the only good thing to come out of Megadeth's eleventh album. I admire that writers patience, 'cause frankly I find this all to be so much faux-inflammatory hooey from an aging rock star flailing in all aspects of life.
Sunday, March 9, 2014
Originally set for a 6/6/2006 release, but the dream was crushed when other, lesser bands announced their identical intentions. Ridiculous that such shenanigans were deemed permissable; that date was clearly made for Slayer and Slayer alone, all other racket-gangs fall back, but oh well. 6/6/06 was still International Day of Slayer.
For their first new full-length in five years, Slayer brought out the big gun--or rather, brought it back: Dave Lombardo. You done good, Paul Bostaph, but the master just returned home.
"Flesh Storm"--Twinned guit-fiddles make robots flat-line. What is on display here is every Slayer riff ever to be fighting war, total war, corrupting our souls and bodies sans compunction. It ain't just the youth that's expendable. America in toto is a glorious melting pot of disposable waste.
"Catalyst"--Trods a trail so many have stomped down before…but fuck it, Slayer's boots are bigger, and festooned with spikes.
"Skeleton Christ"--The riff stutters worse than me at a job interview. Emaciated religion is killing the world, one desiccated tissue at a time. God sucks, y'all. "Hail Satan!" Eh, sounded better in '86.
Jeff's one solo here slaughters both of Kerry's whammy-bar parties.
"Eyes of the Insane"--The guys ease up on the gas, prompting me to start whining and writhing. I kick at the back of the drivers seat in a pitiful protest. Finally, Kerry whips his snake-head around and hollers, "Calm your ass down or I'll make you hold the Grammy we won for this song for the whole rest of the trip!" Borderline child abuse, but it works.
"Jihad"--One of the most unique note progressions in the band's history opens up the album's most controversial song, which looks at the events of 9/11 from the terrorists POV. Why pull punches when you can push 'em through someone's skull? ("Fuck your God, erase his name.") Tom's rapid-fire delivery ain't perfect, 'cause nothing deserves that distinction, but it's damn near to my ear.
Unbelievably, Kerry King does not have a songwriting credit on this song.
Christians and Muslims, united in gullibility, their insane desire to assuage someone they can't see to assure a future they might not have. Earlier in this series, I spoke about Slayer being the ideal soundtrack for my personal revenge fantasies. Meaning, revenge against people I knew for personally wronging me, to satisfy me. Not this other stuff.
"Consfearacy"--Portmanteaus-a-poppin' for what is essentially "Dittohead Pt. 2" (or "Necrophobic Pt. 3). Unoriginal, yes, but I'm a contented gondolier nonetheless.
Dave sounds like he's snapping bones on the chorus. Mine. Hurts so fucking good.
"Catatonic"--Slayer slow it down, but a quick finger to the pertinent spots reveal a heart rate fast as ever. Skin and bones both crack from the pressure.
"Black Serenade"--I can tell Jeff wrote the music here. Transitions, y'see. The guitars shadow the lyrics so I keep waiting for the whish of the blade.
"Cult"--"In God I distrust." Ah, well done. Also, thanks for comparing religion to rape. Wholly equivalent. This is just four minutes of "No shit!" Tom sounds better on the whole of Christ Illusion than he has in quite some time, perhaps inspired by lyrics like "infectious imbecility" (which as of now can consider itself stolen).
"Supremist"--The flesh is weak. The music is strong. My head hurts, though. Either I'm getting too old, or Slayer is, but both of us are refusing to reconcile that fact if it is, indeed, a fact.
"Supremist" urges me to play hopscotch on the gravestones of people I've murdered. Ha, I'm just kidding, none of those people had proper burials.
Yeah, not really too much more to add. Christ Illusion's heights aren't as mountainous as the ones on God Hates Us All, but it is more consistent, and more mature. Slayer makes me proud to be a human being--even while informing me, over and over, how hopeless the entire race is. That is some true art, right there.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
The Megadeth album that almost wasn't.
Late 2001, Dave Mustaine was admitted to the hospital to have a kidney stone removed. The pain meds he was administered triggered a relapse. While rehabbing at the La Hacienda Treatment Center in Texas, Dave took a seat and fell asleep, his left arm hanging over the back of the chair. Upon awaking two hours later, he felt numbness in his left hand. The sustained awkward positioning of his left arm had compressed the radial nerve, leaving him unable to grab objects with his left hand or make a fist. Doctors told Dave that while significant recovery was possible with enough time and effort, his career was all but over.
One of the most beloved and influential bands in metal history, ended by "sleeping in a chair funny"? (I thought going on the DL because of "injuries sustained by sneezing" was bad!) That could have been the case, if Mustaine hadn't thrown himself into physical therapy and weight training. Thirteen months after the initial injury, he was able to play his guitar again, if not precisely ready to rock large crowds once more. Slowly and surely, he was on his way to defying each and every odd.
When Mustaine was able and willing to make music again, he set his sights on a solo release, but Sanctuary Records pointed out that he was obligated to deliver a record under the name "Megadeth." So Dave reached out to the classic Rust In Peace lineup, but negotiations with each former member fell through, including Dave Ellefson, who you will recall has been Megadeth's bass-man since the beginning. Things went so disastrously wrong between the two Dave's that two months before the release of The System Has Failed, Ellefson sued Mustaine in federal court for fifteen million bucks, alleging delinquent profits. Mustaine, never one to be out cock-headed, countersued. Neither man got shit.
So, roll call!
Dave Mustaine--vocals, guitar
Chris Poland--guitar (in a minor coup, Dave was able to convince his original P.I.C. to contribute solos to the album)
"Blackmail the Universe"--A female newscaster informs us that the President's plane has been shot down "somewhere over the Middle East," and the U.S. is officially at DEFCON 3. Bitch, hush! Dave and the session guys are doing a really decent "Polaris" cover!
"Die Dead Enough"--Spoken-word dramatics aside, I really liked the first song. The riff was tight and chunky with some agreeable mood shifts so of course the next song will have none of that. It's a bird! It's a plane! It needs to drop out of the sky and die already!
"Kick the Chair"--Everything about this indictment of the U.S. justice system is subtle as an awl to the eyeball. The first fifty seconds--basically, before Dave speaks up--just never stop chopping my throat.
One nation, at a time, indecisive, with liberty and justice controlled by an elite few, that if we wanted to rise up and overthrow, we could.
"The Scorpion"--I imagine this is how fucking with a condom on feels.
I've been scared of scorpions ever since Diamonds Are Forever. (Didn't give me a phobia of gay guys with ugly haircuts, though.) Oh wait, the scorpion here is a metaphor.
"Tears In a Vial"--"I just don't care/I just didn't care." You fuckernutter, you sound like you don't care still. More of the dull-faced and mid-paced old-man metal I've come to expect. The difference between 1986 Megadeth and the 2004 version is the difference between second and third degree burns--blazing and blistered vs. dull and leathery.
"I Know Jack"--A spider's spit of an instrumental that features U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentson's famous takedown of Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential debates. Could have easily sustained a proper song, but wasn't even given the chance.
"Back in the Day"--Good thing I'm not an arachnophobe.
Salute to the good ol' times that actually were, least if we concentrate solely on the artifacts. Not the photos, not the interviews, not the conspicuous consumption, but just the music.
"Something That I'm Not"--Rock; no real roll. Naturally, I began to doze off. Thankfully a friend nudged me and proclaimed, "Jenn, this is about Metallica! Dave was really mad about being including in their documentary and he's going at Lars, it's great!"
So I listened again.
The music is uninspired, but like any good overly emotional boulder-boaster, I love me some pointless verbal sniping. Especially when the word "enissophobia" (the fear of criticism) is used. Dude, that seriously took the song from a zero to a one. Woulda been 2.5 if Dave had used the same fiercely pissed voice as on "Liar." It's hard to argue with the righteousness of his attacks--Metallica are isolated egomaniacal backstabbing opportunists who make garbage music--but you can definitely beef with the ballistics.
"Truth Be Told"--Then again...music doesn't lie, but it can't tell the whole truth.
"Of Mice and Men"--My main criticism of this song is the very same one I leveled towards Steinbeck's novel: needs less of the lumbering retard.
"Shadow of Deth"--That willful misspelling is cool as Fonzie's jacket. Which is in the Smithsonian. Which is in Washington D.C. President lives there. One nation under God. You might recognize God from such books as the Bible. Which features the Psalms, including the ever-popular Psalm 23, which many people quote to sound profoundly brave. Aware of the verse's ubiquity, Dave adds a vocal effect that makes him sound like a character from a Lord of the Rings parody.
I can fathom a supreme energy that is without identifiable form, which creates, sustains and ends all life, easier than I can fathom a forthcoming Megadeth album that will contain two consecutive listenable songs.
"My Kingdom"--Halfway through, trips, falls and lands on a good song. What is with this fear of speed? Is it because it reminds Dave of his demons? Is the drummer that inept?
Two songs near the beginning dared to Irish up my coffee, and I thought as I sipped, shiiit, maybe Dave is rising up like a phoenix (from Arizona!) and Megadeth are a fucking force once again. Nope! I have nothing for The System Has Failed but high derision and low praise. And I'm all out of low praise.
Friday, March 7, 2014
In the six years between Reload and St. Anger, Metallica began to fall apart.
1998 saw the release of their second-ever "covers record," Garage Inc., which featured takes on tunes by the likes of Black Sabbath, Mercyful Fate, and Killing Joke, as well as a dreadful version of Thin Lizzy's "Whiskey in the Jar" that, because it was by Metallica, got massive play. The next year, the band hooked up with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra for the "concert experience" called S&M. Not content to de-bone just their classic material with the assistance of over one hundred classical musicians, Metallica composed two brand new songs for this revelatory event. Stunningly, both of them stank worse than a Cincinnati chili crap.
A new century, new signs of tarnish.
If cooking up a new album seemed far off on the horizon, the guys were still able to converge and cobble together "I Disappear" for the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack. When word reached the Metalli-camp that a demo version of the track had hit radio, they were able to trace a trail back to the peer-to-peer file-sharing service Napster. Aghast that people were sharing officially-released music, at no cost to them and thus of no profit to the artist, Metallica hired NetPD to monitor Napster for a single weekend. On April 13, the group filed a lawsuit, alleging copyright infringement and racketeering. They also presented a list, some 60,000 pages long, naming over 335,000 users guilty of "sharing" Metallica's music. Their demands were for Napster to remove all Metallica songs from their service and to ban all of those users. The judge ruled in favor of the band, but in the court of public opinion, their reputation took a massive blow. Devoted fans felt betrayed and even those who sympathized with the artists assertion that they should be duly paid for their efforts bristled at the direct attacks on specific people. Not to mention Lars Ulrich posturing in the media as though his band represented an almighty hammer ready to strike the death blow to all thieving geeks on behalf of capitalism.
Less than a year after this shitshow, bassist Jason Newsted announced his departure from Metallica. The reasons why became a bit clearer two months after the news first broke, with the appearance on newsstands of Playboy's April 2001 issue. If the decision to conduct interviews with the members individually was intended to have an internecine effect--mission not only possible, but accomplished. Kirk and Lars took shots at James for his conservative lifestyle and opinions, while Jason saw fit to bitch out James for cock-blocking his side project Echobrain, demanding absolutely loyalty to the Metallica family. Basically, the guys used the pages of Playboy to absorb their nagging frustrations. Something a lot of other guys do too, really.
July 2001, James Hetfield skips off to rehab for his addictions to alcohol and…other stuff. He returns nine months later, on a strict work schedule. With tensions simmering and the future uncertain as ever, producer Bob Rock proposed the extemporaneous approach for the next album--he encouraged the guys to "jam out" and not worry themselves sick over "being amazing." Rock also took over on bass, at least for the studio recording. They'd still need to find another new guy, hopefully one that their hopefully matured selves wouldn't treat like a ginger stepbrother.
They would also need to work on that maturity thing! Enter "performance-enhancing coach" Phil Towne (for only 40 grand a month!) and documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. Exit common sense.
The whole group is credited as songwriters (including Bob Rock). Communal creation will bring back that family vibe! But a democracy? No, Metallica are never that. There are no solos anywhere on the album, at the behest of James and Lars but not the man who normally plays them. Lars argued that if the new album was to signal a new age for Metallica, the hoary tricks of the past (like solos) should be abandoned. Kirk argued that omitting them would make the band sound like trend-chasers. Guess who won?
Another outdated musical standby Lars saw fit to jettison from the arsenal: turning on the snare drums. This unorthodox decision proved a bit unpopular with listeners, as the resulting ringing sound from a struck snare can drive a person to autoerotic asphyxiation while forgetting the "erotic" part.
This is what happens when you order your Metallica "guerilla style."
"Frantic"--Risk and St. Anger are the two shittiest Big 4 albums, but what puts St. Anger a step above (below?) are the literally dozens of moments that cause the chair a person is sitting in to break and send them falling to the floor as they listen.
The first few seconds of "Frantic" are the perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with the album. Riff played by people wearing ill-fitting gloves caked in mud. Smack on an aluminum trash can lid. Oh fuck no, ho, put your clothes back on and go.
"You live it or lie it! My lifestyle! Determines my death style!"
That's never going to cease being hilarious. Those lyrics are like an anti-meme.
Looked cleverer on paper.
BASH BASH OOF
BASH BASH OOF
Six minutes of this insufferable jammy thing? I'd rather watch my grandparents smoke crack.
"St. Anger"--Wherein some assholes jack the main from Korn's "Blind" and say, "Let's build on it."
Seven minutes. Y'know, sometimes sex goes on a bit too long. Things become raw. Ooh baby I don't like the chafing. No matter how into it you are, no matter how caught up the moment has you…you gotta know when to breathe and stop. For real.
Dual James on the chorus! I'm so impacted by the force of his integrity. The references to "Hit the Lights" and "Damage Inc." lead me to think James is telling us that music is the real religion in his life. Like God might exist, and he might be chill, but does he even listen to Skynyrd? Does he know how to count the points on a buck? Has Waylon Jennings ever told God a really cool story about getting eye-fucked by someone asleep in their car?
Another toothless wonder (also the sobriquet of a hooker who lives two buildings over from me) that won a goddamn Grammy, no doubt due to the devastating climax (double-bass-AH!) that hears Hetfield proclaiming "I'm madly in anger with you!" over and over.
Would it have killed them to put some gating on the metal chair?
"Some Kind of Monster"--You have a monster here? I am here to kill your monster!
When I call this track "fire," I do not mean in the hip hop parlance. I mean it eats up all the oxygen in the room. So even if you can't manage to escape, at least you'll die before it finishes.
Funny I bring up hip hop, given Hetfield's semi-rapping. Gah. "Nu-metal" is just metal missing the lower half of its body. Never forget.
"Dirty Window"--These drums are what a serial killer's victim hears as the last few seconds of life ebb away. Whether they fell to the gun, the knife, the rope, the chain, the wrench, the hammer or the hands--"This house is clean, baby."
At some point, Hetfield just commences with shouting words that rhyme. How much of his larynx needs crushing?
"Invisible Kid"--Even the singer from Stain'd found this overly earnest.
Five songs in, I am no longer able to discriminate good from bad, helpful from harmful. I just ate a quarter.
James aims to evoke naked fear while surrounded by all the emperor's henchmen. Guess what, download generation? Metallica thinks Metallica are super-rich and out-of-touch too! Madly in anger with invisibility!
Oh, Metallica. Y'all and me need to discuss some things. Y'all just ran up into my domicile wearing nothing but a backpack full of random shit. I have neighbors, you self-absorbed nitwits.
"My World"--Strum-strum-STRUM! Let it ring, baby. Like…freedom! No, I mean let the chord ring, not the snare drum! You unrepentant shit-vats.
I ain't your mama, kid, but I can tell you this: it's raining in your room because all those years of chucking drained beer bottles at the ceiling have chipped away at the material and created openings for the elements to invade your space. Further, while it may seem like you are the only one whom the rain is drenching, you gotta realize, honey--you are not the only one. I have walking pneumonia right now.
Now that I have explained some things to you, little Jimmy, perhaps you can enlighten me. Why are all these songs so long? What? They're stretching out in the studio? They're taking it back like Stretch Armstrong? Stretch Armstrong had a weak heart! He had no heart! He was a doll!
Fuck you, Mego Elastic Metal Band. I don't want your world. You put ten riffs in a song, four of which are identical, and all of them about as interesting as a book on the history of boiling water. Back in the Eighties, James woulda tossed any of them into a garbage can filled with crushed cans, Chinese food containers and splutzed-on centerfolds. But this is the new, invigorated Metallica! You haven't heard? They got the chocolate, the marshmallow creme, and they brought the heat! Let's make some fuckin' s'mores we just need the…wait, no! The graham crackers are soggy. The graham crackers are soggy. Oh, foul the cursed thing! What demon from the depths of hell created thee?
Yet another Big 4 band is half-assing it and calling it "experimentation." You can suck my dick as soon as I strap it on, okay?
"Shoot Me Again"--Now the drums sound like a broken pogo stick. James Hetfield seems really proud of that voice.
A "fuck you" to "the haters" who don't seem to realize that a foolish consistency is the hogoblin of oh go fuck yourselves. Does it truly count if the victim gets popped with their own gun? Static-X went harder in the paint than this.
"Sweet Amber"--Muddy-ass blues-rock that bores me to sociopathy. Ambien is pretty sweet, too. Makes you fall asleep standing up. Then you wake up and find out you just gnawed all your fingernails down to the quick.
"The Unnamed Feeling"--This one's as awesome as having itchy tits. Another pastiche of ideas that are either undeveloped or underdeveloped. "Can you help me uncrazy?" Can you?!
CHUGGA CHUGGA SCRAPE SCRAPE
BASH BASH CRASH KICK KICK BASH
MY PAAAINNNN UHHHH!
Oh walk it off on the second floor of your mansion, dude. If you're not at the mansion, then just put some hundreds on it.
"Purify"--I have a condition known as "drum-dread." If I ever hear the clatter of organ pipes hitting pavement, I may never recover.
"All Within My Hands"--Inconsistent volume on the drums is the least-pressing of all the issues confronting St. Anger's final song.
Clearly, "All Within" means a great deal to Mr. Hetfield; his caterwauling is among the most heartfelt I've ever grimaced through. His attempts to embody ruthlessness reverberate in my humerus.
The guitar parts as written suck enough without being panned like they're at the center of a custody dispute. Congrats, Metallica. Each and every song on here elicits exasperation.
People complained about St. Anger's mix, for a legitimate reason: said mix was handled by a five-year-old suffering post concussion syndrome.
People complained about James Hetfield's vocal performance on St. Anger for a legitimate reason: his range starts at defecating lion and peaks at climaxing stray cat.
People complained about Lars Ulrich's drum sound on St. Anger for a legitimate reason that I already addressed in the introductory piece because it's one of the most legendarily poor decisions made in the history of recorded music.
Even if a clear-headed adult had been seated at the mixing board…even if James Hetfield had convinced Bob Rock that multiple vocal takes would not spell the end of Metallica…even if Lars Ulrich had decided to beat on an actual drum kit instead of a steel ladder…even if Kirk Hammett had added a solo on every song…St. Anger would still be cherry-red butt cheeks. Sure, the competition between it and Risk for the brown crown would be closer, with these changes…but we're still talking about two terrible albums full of thin, watery metal for middle-aged motorcycle marauders and their moronic "mamas."
Yes, it has its fans, but St. Anger's reputation as a hideous album is well-deserved. Score one for conventional wisdom.
No way I'm leaving without talking a bit about the documentary. No. Way.
Some Kind of Monster is the justification for St. Anger's existence, a two-and-a-half hour long endoscopy that reveals alarming narrowing and swelling. In addition to struggling with their artistic raison d'être and slogging through endless therapy sessions, the band members are seen away from the studio as well, selling art for millions and attending ballet recitals. Dave Mustaine comes by to whine, bassists are auditioned, prisoners are entertained, James Hetfield does an impromptu "Rock Lobster"--how did this shit not win an Oscar?
Torben Ulrich! How did I almost forget Lars' dad? Amazing. Why they never developed a "Torben Check" for writers is beyond me. When finished typing up a piece, just click the bearded icon. It scans your text, highlights certain words and passages and when you press on them you hear, "I would say delete that."
You can live without hearing a second of St. Anger, but you cannot be said to have lived a full life without devouring Some Kind of Monster including all the deleted scenes featured on the DVD. I personally guarantee you will not regret watching driftless old men say "fuck" a lot while probing their souls with the help of some dork in a Cosby sweater. Then just marvel at what the passage of time and the presence of money can do to a person.