Friday, October 28, 2011

Nasum! Nasum! Nasum!

Doing stuff in an alley, real tough-like.
Swedish grind mavens Nasum have been gone for years.  It's not a pleasant story, or even anything ridiculous that we can make fun of (like Mike Portnoy's departure from Dream Theater).  For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Nasum's late singer, Mieszko Talarczyk, tragically lost his life in the most metal possible way when he was swept away and killed in the 2004 tsunami.  The grind world wept for their fallen angel, and one of grindcore's best and most powerful acts abruptly halted all activity.  And understandably so, as Talarczyk was the lead singer and one of the principle songwriters for the band.  But, with a globe spotted with impending financial crises and the end of the Mayan calendar looming, at least one great thing is slated to happen in 2012 (I don't count the new Batman movie because, according to the X-Men and Spiderman movies, the third installment is slated to be a miserable failure): Nasum is still dead.  But the living members are teaming up with Keijo Niinimaa from my current grind passion band Rotten Sound to give Nasum a proper sendoff once and for all.


Tour dates haven't been announced yet, and we all wait with bated breath to see how far we're all going to have to drive to go see the show nearest to us.  Look for a frightened me lost in Houston or Dallas, the only two cities that could possibly pop up in Texas for show dates, unless Nasum pulls an Immortal and inexplicably plays San Antonio.  Then I'll be all like:

At any rate, I was so excited to hear this news that I decided that I would take a little reprieve from my coffee drinking and classical guitar playing (this tuxedo really chafes, though) to alert any weirdo who reads my blog instead of a reputable news blog, which is one guy whose name is Marty.  So there you go, Marty.

Go read the official press release on Nasum's website and get your dicks hard, because we're going to experience the shitstorm one last time in 2012.  And then the ghost of Quetzalcoatl will come flying out of Mayan Hell, I imagine speckled with smallpox, to destroy us all.  I, for one, am working on getting a sweet tan so that I can pretend to be a Pacific Islander or something in hopes that Quetzalcoatl doesn't know any better.  But I imagine he'll still be able to smell my white blood. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today is the Day--Pain is a Warning

I know that I've been noticeably absent from the blogmosphere lately.  Allow me to explain:

I haven't had anything interesting to say in quite some time.

You see, my mind tends to work in a manner that could only really be described as having "an autistic child's focus."  Much like that autistic kid that lived up the street from you growing up, my mind is programmed to be a one-track vessel.  But instead of simply focusing on trains or vacuum cleaners for the entirety of my life, I have been known to careen back and forth between activities as my mood dictates.  For months I was hyperfocused on this blog, my mind a constantly reeling dick joke writing machine.  It was all I thought about, and though it is still a powerful presence in my life, my obsessive focus has reoriented itself at my classical guitar, compelling me to put gel in my hair and wear a tuxedo around my apartment while I give concerts to the dishwasher and take standing ovations from reruns of "Malcolm in the Middle."

It is in this frame of mind that I've been rediscovering some of my more pompous musical leanings that I've been neglecting for years.  Lately, in between spinning the new Exhumed album or relistening to Rotten Sound's latest offering, there have been appearances from guitarists Uwe Kropinski and Ulf Wakenius, prompting those around me to furrow their brows in befuddlement and engage me in what inevitably ends up as a conversation full of lofty bombast and harmonic analysis that means about as much to them as calculus-based physics questions mean to me.  And the only time that I'm not subjecting myself and others around me to my schizophrenic musical tastes is when I put on my ascot and take my fancy dog for a particularly dainty walk.

Me after taking my fancy dog for a dainty walk.  Not pictured: my toy poodle, Sylvia.

My attempts to be grandiose and fancy have translated into a certain cognitive dissonance for me, since it's hard to talk a big game about Vladimir Horowitz and his interpretations of Mozart's greatest piano hits or who plays Liszt best when you're sitting around, drinking Seagram's 7 whiskey out of a sippy cut, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt and talking to what you thought was your wife, but turned out to be a stuffed tiger sitting next to you on the couch.  I can't believe that I wasted my dissertation on Piazzola's tangos on that damn stuffed tiger!  But my capacity for pretension isn't boundless; not at all.  Because where there is noise, there is a boundary to my snoot.

I don't get noise.  For the uninitiated, noise is an extreme subgenre that basically is what it sounds like; it's one or more guys sitting around with a series of things and making them squall and moan and giving it the John Cage-style label of "acceptable music."  Noise is a scourge on the music scene, a tick on the belly of the galloping gazelle of musical culture.  Pretension and hipsterism run rampant in the noise scene, where "creating" and "performing" both come in the form of mashing a microphone into a Memory Man delay pedal while looking angry.  And my scathing indictment of pretension is not groundless, either.  I've got an accredited degree in music, and I've spent more time than I'd like to admit sitting idly around debating the relative merits of jazz music in today's internet-savvy culture, or dabbling in proto-noise by listening to "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" by Krzysztof Penderecki over and over while pretending that I like it.

Or perhaps you'd like to watch me construct some Babbitt Squares?

So being as snooty and pretentious as I am, I'm more than qualified to look down on college age hipster boners who are so in to making noise music.  Even as I type this, I'm sitting around in my extra bedroom in a tuxedo, only taking breaks from my pointless tirade against noise to clean my monocle or freshen up my Tom Collins.  But noise music is too much for me.

It is this spirit that I'd like to apologize to Today is the Day, and indeed all bands that have been inexplicably saddled with the "noise rock" moniker.  Perhaps there are bands that do indeed deserve the "noise" addendum to their genre assignment, but judging by Pain is a Warning, I never had anything to fear from Today is the Day.

What a fool I've been!  I feel faint!

I knew that my fears of being subjected to noise annoyances were perfectly unfounded from the moment I put on opening bruiser "Expectations Exceed Reality," and knew that (in my standard fashion) I had put unfair constraints on my listening during the punishing romp that is "Wheelin'," and was sold once and for all with the subsequent "The Devil's Blood" (which is a viable contender for my coveted Song of the Year title, given only to the crunchiest and most punishing jamz.  An interesting side note: I've never given this title out to anybody before, so you'll have to stay tuned to see which song reigns supreme in my meaningless opinion).  As the album builds ever skyward toward the closing "Samurai," the songs become more and more crushing, Steve Austin's static-laden snarl becomes ever more vicious, the riffs drone ever more hypnotically, and my frenzied punching the air becomes ever more distracting to my coworkers.  But if they don't want to be punched by me in a misguided show of enthusiasm for Pain is a Warning, they shouldn't have wandered into the bathroom in the first place.

If you've been missing out on this album like I have, take note that Pain is a Warning is a much more droning and expansive affair compared to earlier works like In the Eyes of God, but works to great effect.  Hearing such a powerful effort without having to rely on the standard grindcore practice of being cartoonishly concise is refreshing.  This makes me feel a little bit more like a man as I watch my fancy dog prance around my apartment on delicate little paws.

But I still don't like noise.

Addendum: After sampling some of Today is the Day's previous offerings, I can see where the "noise rock" tag comes from.  I'm not sure how I feel about it yet.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Exhumed--All Guts, No Glory

I think I've been having one of those quarter-life crises that people are talking about these days.  I think it used to just be a mid-life crisis, but with the speed at which information travels these days (because of Internets), more and more of us fresh-faced fellows are becoming aware of the fact that we've disappointed ourselves at an earlier and earlier age.  Did I ever think that I'd be doing what I'm doing, running both the shipping department for a successful networking hardware reseller AND an unsuccessful blog?  Unfortunately, I did think that, but it was more in a jokey "Yeah, right, one day I'll be the shipping manager where I work and I'll write dick jokes in unsolicited record reviews just to get attention."

And here I am.  Whoops.

It really could be a lot worse, I know.  I'm employed and my boss seems to like me, at least enough to ignore the myriad complaints about the music that I listen to.  And when I'm trying to play something accessible that nobody could ever disagree with, like the Red Chord, or Today is the Day.

Incidentally, I have no idea what kind of music normal people listen to anymore.

So my quarter-life crisis is in full effect, and it doesn't take much to send me into what I call a "perpetual motion mope spiral."  You see, information is disseminated so quickly over the internet now that we can be aware of our own imminent demise within minutes of Kim Jong Il's insane speech about America's War Against the Hamburger, wherein he vows to vanquish any and all foes of the charbroiled meat sandwich with great vigor and prejudice.  It didn't used to be so easy to be frightened and despondent.  And the worst thing about the Interbung is the memes.  I'm no conspiracy theorist, but about 95% of memes seem to be constructed for the sole purpose of making fun of me personally.  Look:

Stop judging me, penguin!
It's disheartening to learn that there's a joke penguin out there that makes fun of the things that you do.
But I remember a time when there was hope, when I was in my own death metal band.  We could have been great, and I wanted to make it work so badly, even though our drummer lived in San Antonio and the bass player wore pooka shell necklaces.  It was obviously doomed from the start.  But such fun we had playing crushing metal tunes in the soundproofed rooms of yore;  we would hold hands and talk about music and skip through fields filled with sunflowers, but not in a gay way.  It was totally br00tal and crushing, especially the hand holding.
So what's the point of bringing all of this up?  Aside from my need to be noticed while I sulk, I've been told that, if my band had more time to progress, we would have ended up sounding like Exhumed.
I was intrigued by this comparison, mostly because I had never listened to Exhumed before their latest release, this summer's All Guts, No Glory.  I have always wanted to be able to look into a crystal ball and see what something I might have done would sound like if I had the follow through and the resources to actually complete a project even once in my life.  I had to know what we would have sounded like!  The results astounded me; though I hadn't listened to Exhumed before, it turns out that I'm a huge Exhumed fan and was heavily influenced by them.

All Guts, No Glory far, far better than anything I've ever written, for sure.  Exhumed has melded the primitivist sound of ye olde schoole, br00tal death metal with modern recording techniques to make an album that slams and grinds with crystal clear fury.  The riffs are impeccable; guitarists Matt Harvey and Wes Caley careening between iron fisted brutality and fleet-fingered shred at the drop of a hat.  Standout tracks like "Your Funeral, My Feast," and "Necrotized," show the band's versatility, showing you that their sound doesn't just disembowel, that sometimes it merely delivers a merciless beating with a heavy shovel.  Either way, this is death metal at its very peak of awesomeness, and if you have any doubts about whether or not Exhumed are br00tal enough for you, just reference the album cover.

They eat guts!  Groaty!

2011 is a great year for metal, quarter-life crisis be damned, and I'm excited to have discovered Exhumed.  I could never hope to actually write and maintain a band of Exhumed quality, but it's fun to think about if I could.  We'd all drive around in our tour bus and solve crimes using our super powers, which is what I imagine Exhumed do (when they aren't on an extended hiatus, anyway).  Pro tip: It's always the amusement park owner.  Or the butler.  Sometimes the butler did it.
It looks like there's another contender for my coveted Top 10 Albums of the Year slot, and with All Guts, No Glory, they've made a compelling case.  Go find it; it's easy to steal, or if you're on Spotify, it's right there for the plucking.  Viva Exhumed!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Opeth--Live at Stubb's in Austin, TX

Not pictured: Opeth's current lineup playing live at Stubb's in Austin, TX.
I've talked to a lot of parents.  Indeed, as I travel down the crusty road of life, it's becoming more and more common for my peers (and even those many years my junior) to be fully grown adult humans with fully functioning genitals.  Not only that, but they use them to create little children, who run around and punch you in the balls if you're not paying attention.  It's true!  I'm still childless in this world (much to my wife's chagrin), and as such I have to learn about what it's like second hand.  I'm interested in it, don't get me wrong, but I'm more interested in it like how I like to learn about the day to day lives of Austrolopithicus, or perhaps a corporate shill in a business suit (I've actually learned what that's like firsthand, and I can almost guarantee that I'd prefer to live as an Austrolopithicus).  I have my friends with children regale me with anecdotes about the horrors and triumphs of child-rearing while I recline sanguinely and sip on any manner of beverage.  They tell me all about the hardships, and then I go home and stay up late playing Xbox 360.

It's not a bad way to live, really.

Most people tell me that having children is exhilarating and painful, disappointing and fulfilling beyond your wildest dreams.  Such a dichotomy of emotions is frightening to me, like scorpions or my smartphone (IT KNOWS WHERE I LIVE), and I've never had an opportunity to experience that kind of fulfillment that is coupled with bittersweet sadness.

Until I went and saw Opeth last night.

Before you get all weird and shit, yes, I consider Opeth to be a child of mine, and I believe that my attachment to Opeth is greater than your attachment to your ugly child.  Just let me explain.

I rolled in to Stubb's on Red River last night right around 7:30.  As a venue, it's a larger outdoor venue that is laid aside for bands exactly like Opeth: indie but popular, underground but widely renowned.  That rhymed!  In short, it's a big outdoor venue with a great sound system that holds several thousand people, but wouldn't be able to house an act as big as Gorillaz or Electric Light Orchestra.  I rolled in wearing my standard metal regalia, which is to say a 3 Inches of Blood shirt and shorts that were filthy from my day at work (we just got some stuff in from Borders that can only be described as "caked in unimaginable filth").  I was ready!  The first thing I noticed was that the sound guy was playing a Trap Them song when I walked in (it was one of the doomy tracks from the end of Darker Handcraft).  It was going to be a great night.

I had just enough time to grab one beer at the concession stand before openers Katatonia began playing.  I'll be short with Katatonia, because I've never been into their brand of goth-y, djent-y, just-slightly-too-heavy-for-radio sound, and though they sounded solid and didn't appear to disappoint their fans who were in attendance, all I could think of was "Well, now I've seen this," while I let out a long, exaggerated string of exasperated sighs.

It was fine, and thankfully they only did about 40 minutes.  I was giddy with excitement; when they were unveiling all of the onstage Opeth paraphernalia, the urge and the rhythm of life overtook me and I began to dance, slowly at first, with my arms and legs waving out a divinely serpentine pattern around me.  I picked up speed, and was quickly doing a frantic, full-force jig all by myself in the center of a crowd of people.  I snapped out of it only after having heard people shouting at me, saying things like "Cool it, dude," and "OPETH!"  When my mind returned, I realized that a concerned Samaritan had assumed that I was having some manner of seizure and had jammed their hand in my mouth to make sure that I couldn't swallow my tongue.  I thanked him and remarked that he should wash his hands more thoroughly after exiting the restroom, and the show started.

Opeth took the stage and started with "The Devil's Orchard," which I fully expected.  They continued through an interested mix of cuts from the new album, including "Slither," as well as some hot tracks from the old albums (namely, "Porcelain Heart" and the chorus to "Harvest").  They even threw in a really obscure track, choosing to play "The Throat of Winter" from the God of War III soundtrack.

Wow.  I didn't see that one coming.

Opeth is one of the greatest live bands you'll likely ever encounter.  All of the material is impeccably played, and Mikael Akerfeldt's voice is so spot on it'll make you sick for the suckers who need autotune on their albums.  And Akerfeldt's legendary onstage banter?  It was in full effect, broaching such hot-button issues as Mark Wahlburg, whether or not Houston sucks, how to get six pack abs, and Swedish things.  It was worth the price of admission by itself, and I'm not exaggerating.

Now here was my disappointment:

There wasn't a single song, a single moment, with death metal vocals.


As good as the show was, as proud and astonished as I was over Opeth's awesome power, they disappointed me by not playing a single one of my favorite crusty jams.  No "Ghost of Perdition."  "Deliverance," wherefore art thou?

If I don't hear "Heir Apparent," I'm going to lose my fucking mind!

None of them were played.

Now the issue is, would I recommend that people go to see Opeth on this tour?  Fuck yes.  It was incredible and ridiculous.  But don't be a sucker like me and hope that they're going to play any of their crushing-est joints, and don't expect anything off of Blackwater Park, either (except for maybe one chorus).  It was totally worth making the trek out to, and I'd do it again, even if I had to taste that dude's fingers all over again.  But like my theoretical child who is in to musical theater or gymnastics, I was disappointed by Opeth's choices.  But I hold out hope, because Opeth is possibly the only band in existence that has yet to shit the bed musically.  And if they keep going, I'm virtually guaranteed a tour in the future, when I'm old and gray, where they travel around playing what would qualify as their Greatest Hits, and I'll be right there, ready to finally see them play "The Funeral Portrait."

I still love you, Opeth.  It's just that your mother and I are a little disappointed.