Wednesday, September 28, 2011
I've recently made a decision that will change my life, and it's not something that I'm particularly excited about. You see, I've been struggling like a fool to start a metal band here in Austin, TX for quite some time. Since I got here several years ago, I have tried repeatedly to start a metal band so that I can finally fill the gaping void in my soul that nags at me night and day. I've tried God, charity work, reading, drinking heavily, and yelling, but none of those things has been able to fill the crusty Death Metal band-shaped hole in my heart. Oh, the pain of it. The pain of it all! I actually had a pretty good run at one point, featuring my good chum Van Damned of the Crusty/Cakey Alliance of Superfriends on drums, but lo, the distance between us was too much. And yes, I'm talking about geographically, but also emotionally.
Why won't he let me in?!? HE'S AN ENIGMA!
But these things tend to not work out, and it pains me greatly. I've been trudging through my days with bitterness hanging over my head like sack full of my old shoes. Just when I start to forget that it's there, I catch a whiff of that old, familiar stench and my stomach twists, sending the bile into the back of my throat. Why did I have to eat scrambled eggs this morning? The texture is so disgusting when it ends up back in my mouth! And if I just spat it out, then everybody will know how much of my time I spend vomiting into my own mouth, which is unacceptable.
At any rate, I've finally discovered that my bitterness at the futile struggle to start a metal band is not only too great to bear, but also easy to deal with when I stopped to think about it. So I've quit trying to do a metal band forever, officially. It's not worth the effort spent getting stood up by drummers and bass players to start a band that just ends up sounding like Darkest Hour or something. The effort isn't worth the humiliation of coming to find out that your band has mutated into just another At the Gates clone, and so, just like in seventh grade, since I can't find anyone to play with me, I'll just play with myself.
It's back to the pretentious world of classical playing for me.
I'm not the only person lately who has decided that playing heavy metal is no longer the right thing to do. Bands like Mastodon and In Flames have forsaken their stellar metal roots for sounds that are more commercially viable and less...well...good. And if there's one thing I know about heavy metal d00dz, it's that they do heavy metal very well and other stuff far less well.
The other band that decided that they aren't going to do heavy metal anymore is Opeth, but this is old hat for them, and for once, the resulting music isn't an embarrassing porcelain bowl full of musical turds. Opeth have proven before that they're capable of putting out great albums that are both a) not metal, and b) relevant and satisfying expansions of their sound. In fact, Damnation made waves in the metal community for being so stripped down and not even kind of metal, but in true Opeth style, the band improbably retained their sound while simultaneously shedding the crushing guitars and death bellows that fans most closely characterize their sound. Heritage is another expansion on that model, but this time, Opeth have crafted a progressive piece that is worthy of their name while once again eschewing the hallmarks of their hallowed sound.
Those are fancy words for "no death metal vocals," and I'll be the first to tell you that I was skeptical of this from the outset.
My favorite part of Opeth is the crushing death metal riffing and Mikael Akerfeldt's deathy vocal bellow, and Heritage has neither of those things, but still manages to retain that Opeth aura that is so unmistakable for fans of the band. Opeth are probably the only band in existence that can not only write an album that is so far from their normal sound, but can succeed in making it fantastic and accessible for prog fans who are usually frightened by the scary man who yells like a daemon!
After a lengthy intro, the album kicks off with the big guns in the form of "The Devil's Orchard." I never thought that somebody could turn the phrase "God is dead" into an acceptable vocal hook, but the intrepid Opeth manage to not only make it work, but craft it into a hook so sharp that it'll be stuck in your head for days afterwords. Other standout tracks like "Slither" feature the sharpest guitar work this side of technical death metal without giving even the faintest glimmer of resemblance to the genre.
What I'm trying to get at here is that Opeth are a rare breed of band who can do seemingly anything and make it good. Not just good, either, but incredible. Heritage is a progressive journey to the center of the band that shouldn't be missed. And I hope that all of those other bands that have decided that they'd like to spice things up by completely disregarding the sound that made them popular in the first place are taking notes, because this is how you do it without shitting all over your legacy.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Metallica will stand in metal history as the biggest, greatest band that ever got too far up its own ass and shit the bed musically. Lots of people remember when the Black Album came out; not me, because I was really young and didn't give two shits about Metallica when I was six. I actually liked the Black Album (and I still kind of do, since it reminds me of childhood and starting fires and not knowing any better), and it still holds a place in my heart as an album that I can deal with.
Suck on that!
But that's only until I got an opportunity to listen to their first three albums, which was, for me, years later. I felt all of those ways that the Olde Schoole Metallica fans must have felt. Incredulous at what they turned in to. Confused that they would turn their backs so unceremoniously on vastly superior music in order to pander to the douchey masses. Surprised that anybody could take them seriously after having so drastically altered their sound.
It was a whirlwind of emotion!
This famous and renowned bed-shitting will stand as the benchmark for all other bands who start to achieve that next level greatness, that kind of success that we all decry and whisper about to each other with disdain, but would realistically trade our left nut for. Are you telling me you don't want to ever be able to afford a Lamborghini? If you said, "Yes, that's what I'm telling you," you're nothing but a lying, smelly douchebag milkshake. You're nothing but a turd with Mister Potato Head facial accessories stuffed in to it, and the mouth is programmed to tell kvltness-based falsehoods. Everybody wants to be like Brian Bosworth! Though I would concede that fewer people would like to share his haircut.
Not pictured, Brian Bosworth's Lamborghini, because he doesn't like it enough to ever drive it around.
I'm proud of Mastodon; I've been a fan ever since a buddy of mine floated me a burned cd with an unmastered leak of Leviathan on it. I was immediately hooked and became a Mastodon fanatic. I bought their stuff with reckless abandon and consumed it like a school of piranha swarming some unsuspecting sludge cow outside of a remote African village while sad tribesmen look on. I was insatiable! Mastodon stand as one of the greatest bands of this generation and, much like Metallica, have influenced countless other people who went on to form other great bands.
Also like Metallica, Mastodon shit the bed after discarding their early (and far superior) style that made them popular in the first place.
The Hunter is the next step in Mastodon's evolution away from the roots that we all fell in love with, carrying the torch that Crack the Skye passed into a boring, uninspired, and amorphous progressive limbo. Where Crack the Skye had shining moments that harken back to what made Mastodon great in the first place, though, The Hunter showcases what may as well be an entirely new band, retaining very little character that defined the band in the first place. Save for a song toward the beginning of the album (I was listening to the stream and I can't remember what it's called), which has a Torche vibe and showcases the old screaming style that I miss so dearly in a Mastodon album, The Hunter is really boring. It sounds like a bunch of dudes who like old Mastodon but can't write good riffs got a band together and recorded a slick album. Except these dudes think they can sing!
Oh, my heart is heavy with sadness. I hate to trash Mastodon so badly, but it has to be said. I couldn't live with myself if I wrote this review dishonestly, and hating a Mastodon album grieves me deeply. Right now, I'm kneeling in a muddy pond, a copy of The Hunter floating in front of me. It's dark and the rain is coming down too hard to drive in, and lightning streaks across the sky. I gaze down at what once was so beautiful, but that the rigors of the harsh world have crushed forever, and my eyes fill with tears. I tilt my head back and scream to the unforgiving heavens.
It's a sad scene. I feel like Mastodon was my partner, and HE WAS ONLY ONE DAY FROM RETIREMENT! My thirst for vengeance cannot be sated, but since I've got a sweet 80's mullet and a motorcycle that I do wheelies on, I resolve to take down the bastards who did this to Mastodon, who always had my back, even when times were dark and my wife left me!
Sorry, things went a little Lethal Weapon there for a second. And I'm always Mel Gibson!
I can't believe that it came to this. Even after that time I met Brent Hinds and we became best friends forever, my influence on his life couldn't keep Mastodon from becoming the new Metallica. Oh, the pain. The pain of it all!
There comes a time in most bands' musical catalog where you just start pretending that they don't make new albums anymore. In Flames did it when they recorded Clayman, and as far as I'm willing to concede, haven't made a new album in all these years. Which is great, because who would want such an excellent band to shit all over their legacy with clean singing and stuff? So now, in the years since Blood Mountain was released, here I sit, without even a single new Mastodon record. Where have you guys gone?
I will avenge your death!
Stream The Hunter here. You've been warned.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Being a Dream Theater fan is like being gay. When nobody knows, you feel alone and afraid, constantly hiding your predilections from your friends and loved ones. Sometimes you find yourself sitting alone in your car in the darkness, listening to Awake and thinking about how everything is going to end. What will I do? My friends and family won't like me anymore, that's for sure; I've never been into the cool stuff like Burzum and Periphery, and that's already put a wedge between us. But if they ever found out, well, I don't know what would happen.
And then, one day, you're outed, and shit hits the fan.
Perhaps it's because you chose to come out, deciding to nip your fears in the bud and take control of your life, and damn the consequences. Sometimes you're outed when someone finds the stack of live DVD's behind the false bookcase that leads to your prog dungeon, the John Petrucci instructional DVD, and stack after stack of albums, worn from years of repeated listenings and guitar solo worship. Your world has come crashing down around you, and you have no idea what you're going to do now.
The only real difference between being a Dream Theater fan and being gay is that, once people know you're a Dream Theater fan, they never stop making fun of you. You're no longer kvlt, no matter how many crunchy vinyl records you own, or how many times you've seen Ashdautas or Marduk live. You're stuck forever, and will be accused of wearing a puffy shirt and leather pants, even if your accuser listens to Agalloch.
They're just as lame, you fool!
Now, I can agree that Dream Theater is lame, and that they do all sorts of interesting, cringe-worthy things in life and in music. Example one: James LaBrie wearing aforementioned puffy shirt with leather pants and playing a tambourine on the Scenes from New York live performance. Even in my formative Dream Theater worship years I was known to stand on the couch and yell at the screen, trying vainly to reach him, begging it to stop. And it was on a good part, too. An extended instrumental.
Or take for example the upcoming DT tour that is coming through my town in late October, making a stop at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin, TX. I went to go get tickets yesterday because it's been so long since the last time I got to see DT live, and I wanted to recreate that ecstasy that I felt when they played "Glass Prison" those many years ago. I clicked on every link I could find, only to find that seats for that particular show started at $116, which is in the nosebleeds. Since I clearly can't afford that, I'm forced to stay home that night and not see my legitimate hero, John Petrucci, play live. The stadium will be full of douchey Jaguar salesmen and their leathery wives, leaving those of us without 401K's once again woefully in the dust. The scene will look like this:
And there I will be that night, stuck at home masturbating all alone
Note the keytar in the above image. Why, Jordan Rudess? WHY?!?!
However, for all of my disappointments in Dream Theater, none of those disappointments have been tied to any of their albums. Indeed, it seems that as Dream Theater ages and becomes increasingly out of touch with the youth of the nation, their albums somehow only become better. The playing becomes better and more precise, the arrangements become more thought provoking and fluid (even despite the progressive tendency to just throw weird shit in the mix), and the riffs become darker. It's breathtaking and counterintuitive, but is refreshing and invigorating every time I experience a new album. I literally can't get enough of it.
That last paragraph is the equivalent of me dancing on a papier mache penis float in drag. I'm free and I don't care who knows it!
As for the review of A Dramatic Turn of Events, I'll put it plainly and concisely, because I could keep rambling all day, but I have to go to work.
There are two kinds of people in the world: people who love Dream Theater and people who hate Dream Theater. If you're like me and endure the constant ridicule of your most kvlt bros, you're going to love this album. It could be their best one yet, and the musicianship will likely never be surpassed, unless we reconstitute the band's DNA in the bodies of some kind of land ape designed by mad scientists to play Dream Theater songs. It's magnificent and ridiculous, and I can't get enough of it. Ask my coworkers, who are very tired of hearing A Dramatic Turn of Events; I listened to it six times at work yesterday, and I'm listening to it again right now.
If you're too cool for school and think that you've got it all figured out, and you don't like when people play musical instruments well, you're going to hate this album, because it's standard Dream Theater, with all the wank and pomp you'd expect.
I'd like to end with a little something I wrote to the band:
Dear Dream Theater,
Without sounding weird, I'd like to say that I love you guys like I love my parents, except you guys never yell at me when I mash bubble gum into the seats of the car or set a pair of snow boots on fire in the backyard. I think you guys are awesome, and I'm convinced that John Petrucci and I would be best friends if we ever met, and we'd drive around in a van and solve mysteries with our guitars somehow. All of my friends make fun of me because I'm "not cool" and I like relentless shredding and long, over-the-top song arrangements, but I don't care about that.
Because I'm a huge fan.
You guys have impacted my life so greatly and deeply that I struggle to put it in to words, but I think of the revelation that is Awake the same way I think about the first time I discovered masturbating all those years ago. And now I have two things to hide in a darkened room and do all night.
It's nothing but jerking off and listening to Dream Theater for me.
And the shame that I feel that I cannot afford to come see you guys at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin is crushing me, so I'd like to reach out to you and ask that you personally send me a ticket to the show for free, and that you let me hang out with you on the off chance that I'm not as creepy in real life as I'm coming across in this letter that I slaved over for several minutes before work. Because if there's one thing I have learned about people that I don't know, it's that they like when I compare them to me jerking off, because it's not that weird as long as you don't think about it.
Please send me tickets to the show, and I love your new album.
Monsoon Cobra, esq.
Mouthful of Acid
Thursday, September 8, 2011
So with my apartment in a state of perfect disarray for the last several weeks, I've had to rely on my creative wiles to keep myself entertained while all of my crap is packed up. And by that, I mean I've been sitting on the couch replaying Dead Space 2 for the fourth time and watching episode after episode of Mad Men on Netflix. Turns out my "creatively entertaining myself" looks strikingly similar to the regular way I entertain myself, except when I get up to get another beer I have way more stuff to stub my toe on. And with all my dishware packed up, I've been forced to eat with plastic silverware, all of which is too tiny to effectively use.
I think I just realized that I have high-class, white people problems.
But it still is mildly inconvenient, and since I'm going to have to take apart my entertainment center tonight, I'm going to have to endure several hours where I haven't shut off my brain in favor of watching complex, fictional characters say confounding things to each other, with archaic 60's slang terms peppered in for flavor.
I have no idea what they're talking about, but I'd like to be able to drink and smoke cigarettes at work.
Also, and SPOILER ALERT for those of you who aren't into Mad Men, but Don Draper always gets the pussy.
I think that, having examined my behavior as an amazing human turd, the phrase "behold the failure" fits quite adeptly to my life (and likely to most of your lives, too). I am, after all, a shining monument to the peak of the technological age, and would be the perfect spokesman for the failure of all humanity in these amazing times. I picture it as a poster, a blown up picture of me on a Saturday morning, laying on the couch with a cup of coffee. Since it's Saturday, I'd be wearing a stained wife beater and my boxer briefs with the holes in the crotch, exposing my balls to the television. And what you can't see is that I'm watching something odd, like Hey Arnold or Medium.
What? I can't imagine that you do a lot better on a Saturday morning.
Alternate image: I'm in a cage like a circus bear, eating a frozen burrito. There is a large crowd gathered around my cage to watch a guy tame me and put his head in my mouth.
Luckily, other than just being an amazingly appropriate tagline for my life, Behold the Failure is also a superb grindcore album by Mumakil, whose name is so odd that I refuse to ever actually say it to anybody. It's like Agalloch, where everybody has concocted their own cockamamie pronunciation for it, and no two are the same. This is another instance where I'm glad that I rocked Last.fm for as long as I did, because for all of the stinkers that it lobbed at me (I'm looking at you, Supermachiner), and for all the inconsistencies (it turns out that Gaza only has one actual Gaza song on Last.fm and it's called "Sluts Fuck Better." The rest of the songs are new-agey soundscapes with an oddly aggro name for the band who creates them), Last.fm has given me several new bands to obsess over. And on the pile with Victims and Narrows, there lies Mumakil.
Behold the Failure is a powerhouse thrillride of a grindcore album, and it has all of my favorite elements of metal, including a reasonably modern sounding production (not overly loud or obnoxious, like a Touche Amore album, but clean), great technical riffing that appeals to fretwatchers like myself and the common grind nerd alike, and that punishing, relentless sound that suits grind so well (other examples include Rotten Sound and Leng T'che). Songs like "Parasites" and "Get Wasted of Die" showcase what pummeling, catchy songwriting and explosive energy sound like properly utilized. And that's on top of the confusing and ham-handed song titles.
Luckily for Mumakil, the music more than makes up for songs called "Pisskeeper" and "Useless Fucks," both of which would make me roll my eyes in exasperation had I not already been beguiled by the fierce grind attack. And my favorite aspect of the album? It's fucking relentless. There are no slow burners gumming up the works here; everything is aural laxative, keeping things somewhere between a full sprint and Wile E. Coyote rocket skates.
You can stream the entire album on the Relapse Records Bandcamp page, and you should do that now, because it's so awesome that it makes my dick ache when I listen to it. And not ache like when you accidentally slam it in the refrigerator door, but ache like when you see the girl who's so hot that your dick feels like it's going to detach itself and spend the rest of your life following her around like the world's grossest puppy.
Or maybe only I know what that means. But you should still go listen to the album.
Friday, September 2, 2011
Like most Americans, I've been inundated from birth with the compulsion to consume whatever I like in as vast quantities as I can possibly conjure. It's sometimes a lot of fun, like when you end up on a boat and drink a bunch of fruity sangria and then fall asleep face down in the sun at 5 p.m. and wake up with a sunburn that reveals the secret message "Matt Sucks" with a giant dick below it is on your back.
Okay, so maybe that was my brother who fell asleep, but I made the sunburn mural on his back, and I had a fantastic time doing it that day. But my grandma's birthday parties always tend to get out of hand.
Last night I was reading about Metal Blade records, who recently pulled their entire back catalog from Spotify in an effort to make me cry in front of my coworkers. I was really enjoying several albums that apparently got pulled, and since Metal Blade records stopped responding to my emails that one night when I got drunk and started spamming them so they'd send me promo copies of albums, I had nobody to send an angry letter to. And word to the wise, if you're trying to drunkenly get internet respect from a record label, using the phrase "What, did you lick too many penises today?" seems like a great way of making them take you seriously, but it turns out that's just your malfunctioning brain giving you shitty ideas, and nobody else thinks it's funny. Also, don't send them unsolicited nudes, even if they're really tasteful and as artsy as they can be while still revealing every disgusting nook and cranny of your Fun Zone.
I could write a book about how to get record labels to continue ignoring you, actually. And how to take disgusting nudes of yourself while your wife watches television in the other room.
What I'm trying to say is that I've been really distraught that I can't listen to Hail of Bullets over and over again for the paltry sum of $9.99 a month. It's heartbreaking, considering I listened to ...Of Frost and War about a thousand times last week, but all good things must come to an end. Easy come, easy go. I need more cliches to distract me from how much I miss listening to that album. So, this morning, I woke up with the grand idea of using the power of Interbung to find and purchase some new albums. It's all so simple! And since I'm one of the very few metal guys who will actually go out of his way to purchase stuff that he really likes, it makes perfect sense. I love America and Interbung so much!
Until I tried to buy ...Of Frost and War on vinyl from Interbung. Oh, the anguish!
It seems that, no matter where I go, nobody has a copy of ...Of Frost and War on vinyl. I know that I've gone on record as saying that I don't much care for vinyl in the past, but there's a certain allure to it that I don't get from collecting cd's. The colors! The great, big album artwork! The free digital downloads of the album! The opportunity to pretend to my wife that I only bought it on vinyl because it's a special edition (per our agreement that we made when I got my turntable)! It seems that, out of all the albums that I could be trying to purchase right now (and there are several), Hail of Bullets, my new favorite band of the moment, has nothing that I can buy. Sure, I can buy the cd's (and I totally will), but I wanted the big, shiny record to put on my shelf and enjoy at my leisure.
I would take my Hail of Bullets Gridlink-style, with a glass of single malt Scotch for dipping.
Goes down smooth!
I found one website boasting that they had one brand new copy of the record for $140.
$140! I didn't realize that I was buying the test press of Abbey Road! I thought it was a death metal record about World War II. Unless perhaps this is one of those albums that also functions as a sex robot, in which case I'm all in. And if there's a second one floating around, I'll take that, too. Seriously, my wife has a credit card, and I'm not afraid to make foolish purchases.
So this whole situation has obviously whipped me into a frenzy of angry music purchasing. I'll show Hail of Bullets! I'll teach them to not have something immediately available to me in the format of my choosing! And I'm not going to eBay, either. I don't trust things that start with a lower case "e."
Unfortunately for me, my revenge on Hail of Bullets has taken the form of buying all of their cd's from Metal Blade (I'm not very good at revenge), buying a Black Breath record, the new Revocation record, and for some reason, a new pair of shoes. This is how television taught me to deal with the stress of not having something immediately available to me, after all; the solution is to buy a ton of OTHER stuff that is immediately available, and to do it as quickly as possible.
I guess what this whole post is about is this:
Dear Hail of Bullets,
Send me some free stuff, because I love you, but not in a creepy way, like the way I love Trap Them. It's a slightly less creepy way, like the way I love Anaal Nathrakh, or the way I love that breakfast burrito I got right before I left Portland on Monday. It's still really intense, but you're too far away for me to be able to lurk in the bushes everywhere you go. So send me some records, because I'm just going to review them anyway.
I yearn for you tragically.
P.S. I would also accept this album from anybody else who happens to read this, but I don't ever pay for shipping, because I don't believe in taking things places. It's unnatural.