Thursday, April 24, 2014



  Obsidian Kingdom are an avant-garde/metal band from Barcelona, Spain. Their discography is more diverse and progressive than any act I can think of on the spot. From rabid death/black metal to abstract industrial/electronic, their art is thought-provoking, moving and entertaining,a true renaissance act in a music scene flooded with mediocrity.

1. How is the metal scene in Barcelona/Spain? Are there local venues where you play often?

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "We just can't complain about the cultural offer (sic) in Barcelona. There's plenty of things going on all the time, and shows are varied, frequent, and many. Madrid also features a very decent offer and nightlife. Of course, they are nothing compared to say, London or Berlin, but, then again, nothing is. Anyhow, Barcelona is a good city to live in if you are into music, that's for sure.
       There are plenty of venues to play in our hometown, ranging from small clubs to huge concert halls, which actually should mean a promising panorama for a starting band, provided one should have the necessary resources. However, we don't regularly play back home, in order for us and our audience to concentrate our collective energy into a particular, well-planned and memorable show."

2.Have you had any band member changes since 'Matter?'

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "Indeed, as a matter of fact, only two of the founding members are still in the band.
It has been a long way for us to finally gather the right individuals and get the band working at full speed in all aspects, which we are doing since a year before 'Mantiis' was released. Our line-up is now exactly as we want it to be- a group of good friends, a collective of artists, a dysfunctional family and a mass of mad music lovers. Just like we dreamed a rock band should be."

3.I like how each of your records sounds vastly different from one another. Is that deliberate?

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "Yes and no. We definitely try to constantly push our boundaries and test our limits, in that sense, there is a conscience effort to keep trying different things, go one step further and never stop moving. So far we have delved - often with a certain success - into terrains that may have been completely unknown to us in the past, such as live experimentation, video art and electronic music, just to name a few, and we are glad to have dared."

"But, at the same time, we never know what our next step is going to be like, no matter what we desire or want, and that kind of removes part of  the deliberation from our creative process. We might certainly have an idea about the possible outcomes, and even try to address our energies somewhere, but, in the end, our songs have a life of their own and decide for themselves. We're just here to interpret their will."

4.I read that you played the 'Mantiis' record live from beginning to end on the day of its debut, did you write the record with the intention of playing it that way?

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM:  "Yes, we did, as happened all through the 'Mantiis live!' tour. We did write it so that it could be played live in its entirety, keeping most of its details and nuances, and not using many more instruments than those we can actually manage live between the five of us, seven if you count - and you should - our sound and video artists.
As much as we love to work on things that are impossible to play live - electronic music or remixes for instance - much of the energy that Obsidian Kingdom portrays is displayed in all its glory through our live shows, so we try to keep our songs playable. Nevertheless and like we stated before, we never know what lies ahead.

5. What artists inspired you to start playing?

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "The complete list would be far too long to be written here, more so if you consider that we are five different individuals with different backgrounds, but since we love discussing music and making polls and things of the like, we might just be able to give you some hints....
We were almost all born in the mid eighties, so it would be not too wrong to state that many of our early influences are drawn from the 'golden age' of American alternative rock: From Trent Reznor to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, including Nirvana, Tool or the Deftones, the list is endless. We also share a passion for progressive rock bands, with our main and most shared reference being, undoubtedly, Pink Floyd. But you could also bring Queen or Porcupine Tree into the mix.
And of course there's metal. Even though we don't listen to that much of it as we did when we were younger, there was a time when we dreamed of growing up to be like Metallica, Morbid Angel, Dream Theater, Mayhem or Opeth, you name it. Now we would not settle for anything less than being like Obsidian Kingdom."

6. In Flames' single 'Deliver Us' (LOVE the band and the song dearly) went Platinum in Sweden recently, Paradise Lost is scheduled to play the Roman Theater in Bulgaria, is metal exploding in Europe or what? Americans like myself are getting jealous! lol

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "Well, the way we see it,  it's not exploding right now or out of the blue; Metal has been going on for fourty years now in Europe, and it has reached a certain social status that guarentees that, for example, a metal band can easily get into Eurovision - the most mainstream and politically correct festival on Earth. That means that metal music is marketable enough, it appeals to the masses and is no longer an underground thing for minorities."

7. Is there any obscure/unknown band or act you have seen on tour or enjoy listening to personally that you feel everyone should hear?

OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "You are definitely referring to Necro Deathmort. Our fellow Londoners are the band that we all love these days, and we just can't stop listening to or recommending them. They have managed to put out three brilliant albums that tastily combine doom metal and electronic music in a unique way that brings together dub and damnation into a pit of droning screams and rhythmic despair, and we absolutely love what they do. Go check them out right now."

8. Is the sound heard on 'Mantiis' an indication of what your future records will sound like, or will you pursue another direction?
OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "We wouldn't bet on it, but even if it happened, 'Mantiis' points in so many directions at once that this in fact would mean nothing at all."
"The only thing that is certain right now is that we are in the midst of the writing process of the follow-up for 'Mantiis', and that it is far too soon for us to know which direction we are headed - more so because we aren't even done playing with the new gear that we bought not a month ago...

9.Is there anyone you want to think or shout out to? 
OBSIDIAN KINGDOM: "Why, of course we would like to thank YOU for your interest and dedication, for keeping a nice blog running with music content, and for interviewing us so that your readers may find out about or know more about us. We are really grateful that you should enjoy our work to the point of offering us your appreciation, attention and time. Thank you so much and receive warm regards from everyone in the band!
See you on Twitter and remember to not take candy from strangers!"

Monday, February 3, 2014

Q & A with Scott of September Sky
  There still are many great rock bands out there. I probably hear at least one new band every day, but September Sky have managed to make an impression. They simply write great hard rock/metal songs in the vein of Soundgarden, Tool, Alice in Chains, even a bit of Guns n' Roses and Black Sabbath, without sounding like a carbon copy of their influences. You can hear for yourself here:

 How is the Rock/Metal music scene in Indianapolis? Are there lots
  of bands/shows?

"The Indianapolis scene is interesting. Several great hard rock bands & metal bands in this city.  And there are a handful of venues and supporters who are dedicated to showcasing original metal acts. The number of venues promoting original hard rock and metal are not as thriving as one may expect in a big city. we are definitely thankful for the venues, supporters and bands we have worked with, and we are dedicated to helping grow the scene. Indiana in general doesn't seem to fall on many industry executive's radars. I think that's the norm for Midwest entertainment. Seems to gravitate toward East Coast, West Coast and Nashville. Nevertheless, we are grateful for where we are and what we have."

What record would you say inspired you to become a musician the most?

"Its all over the board for everyone in the band but here are a few. Metallica: Master of Puppets, Tool: Undertow, Soundgarden: Superunknown, Alice in Chains: Dirt, Anything Ozzy or Black Sabbath related..."

  There's more bands now than I think there's ever been before, is it
  a blessing or a curse?

"I think it's great because there are that many more styles and great artists to discover. It Definitely makes it tougher to break through and get noticed on a national scale."

 I love your guitar riffs. Who writes the music/lyrics? Is the
  songwriting one member's job or is it a collaborative thing?

"We all write the music collectively. The riffs Usually start with one guitar and drums. We add and layer from there. I write all the lyrics and those typically come last."

 Are there any bands playing/touring right now that you would say
  you're big fans of? Or that you would want other people to hear?

"Definitely. Too many to list. 5FDP, A Day to Remember, Trivium. On a more regional level, I just discovered a new band from Ohio called Cinema Sleep. Really digging those guys..."

 Your sound is kind of hard to classify. Does that make it harder to
  earn fans?If you had to describe your band's sound to someone who has
  never heard you, what comparisons would you make?

"I think it helps our fan base because we offer a little bit of everything. The Rock crowd seems to gravitate to the songs but so do metal fans. To describe our music? Imagine if modern hard rock, metal and grunge all had a collective baby. I'd say that about does it."

  Let's talk about artistic vision. Do you have any idols that you
  look up to and wish to emulate/pay homage to, or is your music more
  personal  expression?

"We certainly all have our artists that we like. But we don't try to copy any of them. It's more about combining those influences and our original expressions to deliver a message."

Is there an 'overall' message to your music or are your songs
  written to stand alone?

"Every song is different but the overall message would be one of perseverance through dark times and dark seasons in life."

How has the band's style/sound evolved or changed since inception?

"Its become more refined and fuller. More well rounded and dynamic. "Beautifully heavy" is how some have described it. I think that fits pretty well."

  Any shout outs or people you want to thank or acknowledge?

"Many thanks to every single one of our fans and supporters. This is all for them in the end. Hopefully our songs have spoken to our fans in some way. We are also very appreciative to all the venues and bands who work with us on a monthly basis. Scott Rainey of The Hit Department for recording both our albums. Adam Shewmaker for his video production skills. Yourself for this interview...forgetting several more so thanks to everyone who has ever helped or cared about September Sky. We cannot thank you enough."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CHUCK RUSSELL'S TOP 5 RECORDS OF 2013 (for now anyway)

5. AUGUST BURNS RED - Rescue & Restore  I just saw these guys last week in Birmingham and it was wild! (That's were I got this pic btw) My only complaint was that they didn't play Redemption. There aren't  any real weak points in this record, it's unmistakeable ABR, there just aren't many surprises either. I still love it, and will probably only love it more the more I listen to it, but I think Leveler was much better honestly. This disc debuted at #8 on Billboard, in spite of the fact that the mainstream, 'Christian rock' scene & hypocritical communist snob punk/HC scene are all pretending the band doesn't exist. It reminds me of Pantera's Far Beyond Driven reaching #1 with basically no support at all from the music press, MTV, or radio. You would think the idiots in charge of the industry would catch on by now, no?

4. NOFX - Self-Entitled 
Yea you read that right, I ranked NOFX ahead of August Burns Red. After all these years, these guys can still write/play punk songs better than 98% of anyone still (erroneously) calling their band 'punk rock.' I think it's more of a testament to how stagnated punk rock is/has been for the last 15 years or so than the band's talent, but that's an entire blog entry (maybe even a fuckin book) unto itself. The opener 72 Hookers is probably the best track, but it's not all downhill after #1. Each song has it's own personality, distinct from the others. Best of all there's still no goddamned SKA! Coaster was half greatness, half filler, this one is 75% greatness I'd say. The quotient would probably be higher if not for the fuckin goddamn liberal politics. (STILL writing songs about Regan & Thatcher? Pussy ass COWARD shit in my book) I suppose you gotta take the bad with the good. Too bad bands like NOFX would rather continue to flog the skeleton of punk rock than try anything new or different. I really miss passionate punk that actually meant something. Oh well, hippies gotta 'stick it to the man' and Democrats gotta keep getting elected somehow!!

3. Impending Doom - Death Will Reign
I love this band. Their last record Baptized In Filth made my Top 10 last year. I may even venture to say that record was a tad better, but I've obviously had much more time with the former. This assault on the senses isn't as diverse as BIF, but what it lacks in diversity it compensates for in passion. You can tell when musicians/songwriters are truly 'into' what they're doing or 'going through the motions' so to speak. I suppose that's one of the reasons I appreciate this band's work as much as I do. Most of the songs on this one are mid tempo chuggers with grind parts thrown in here and there to keep things interesting. I guess I should also mention this is a Christian band. The song topics are pretty narrow in scope, mostly narrating the struggle of being a Christian in today's disgustingly corrupt society. I don't consider it a bad thing, as you can see Brook Reeves is bearing his soul in many of these verses. "My life is a constant struggle/My life is a constant fight!" sounds simple, but anyone walking The Path will agree it's as true as it is honest. I really can't wait to see these guys live.

2.Carcass - Surgical Steel
I swore up & down since hearing this last month it would most certainly be my Album of the Year. It's obviously not, but only because another Death Metal legend decided to do the impossible and not only make a record I like more than this one, but do so with only TWO original members! But enough about that record, this is Carcass' time. I've already blogged a review of this one last month, so I guess my enthusiasm has waned a bit. The only word I can think of to describe this piece of art is 'perfection.' As I noted before, even Jeff Walker's snarls have improved. The music/lyrics are as brilliant as they are violent. It's like Hannibal Lecter decided to start a band. You will hear shades of the past hear and there, as Cadaver Pouch Conveyer System may remind you of Carnal Forge,   be not mistaken. This is no throwback record or attempt to please fans with nostalgia. It is Death Metal perfection, plain and simple. The only gripe I can think of is Ken Owen isn't behind the kit, and I can't help but wonder if the final product would've sounded different had he been involved. Aside from that, flawless.

1.Deicide - In the Minds of Evil
Yes, I'm about as surprised as you that the blasphemous Floridians managed to edge out Carcass for the (not) coveted title of Chuck Russell's 'Album of the Year.' Now, I know all you guitarists or prog/core hairstyles are saying "I bet they couldn't play any of such and such band's songs! All their riffs are simple powerchords blah blah" and I don't give a fuck. I do appreciate technical ability to a certain extent, but I suppose I value the ability to write a coherent song more. I've really grown weary of all this tech-death shit. I don't have the time to listen to your twelve fuckin minute guitar wank fests, Between the Buried and Me. How about I just assume yall can play guitar/bass/drums like, really fuckin good? That would save me lot The shit has gotten out of hand. It doesn't help that everyone who can hold a guitar is in a band now, the technical/mathcore/whatever the fuck it is needs to die off already. I don't know how many other ways to tell some of these guitarists that no one besides other guitarists care to hear you demonstrate how great you can supposedly play. You have no style, and your shit isn't memorable. It doesn't make me want to headbang. Deicide on the other hand, have nothing to prove, other than the fact they they aren't big fans of Jesus Christ or Christianity, I suppose. Every song on this disc makes me headbang. I haven't bought a Deicide album since Serpents of the Light, way back in 98, so this is a reunion of sorts. They were one of my favorite bands growing up. Once Upon the Cross still remains one of my all-time favorite Death Metal albums. The first time I heard them was the Legion album, and honestly, the opening track 'Satan Spawn the Caco Demon' scared the bejesus out of me! In case you don't know, their lyrical direction was uber-Satanic in the early years, and has apparently morphed into more of a 'never ending contempt for God/Christ/Christianity'-sorta direction. The guitar riffs are memorable and catchy. The aggression is over-the-top, even by Deicide's standards. I also love the drumming. Asheim is the only other original member besides Benton, and he's as precise and volatile as ever. The only gripe I can come up with is the vocals get a tad monotonous, as I'm used to Benton's deep roars being accented by his trademark unsettling, inhuman mid-range shrieks. Benton helped pioneer the low/high pitched trade off Death Metal vocal style literally everyone and their brother uses nowadays, so I suppose that's why he doesn't use the highs as much. Anyway this record takes the cake for its vehemence, memorable riffs, great drumming, and efficiency. It really is a breath of fresh air among all the prog-tech bullshit ruling the metal scene these days. Hopefully this helps inspire a new breed of 'meat n' potatoes'-style Death Metal bands. If you can actually write/play good riffs and songs, there's no need for all the wankery, kids.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

RIP Street Smarts

             I have never seen so many gullible people in my life. I saw a post from one of my fb friends (who is very smart,and experienced in economics) warning of the "Coming Economic Collapse" that turned out to be an ad for a book! (I wonder why this guy is even bothering making money if it is all going to be worthless soon...) A coulple of weeks ago, I stopped at a gas station and had the opportunity to be educated about all the poisons these evil corporations are putting in food that is mass-produced. (because the best way to make money is to kill your customers) This gentleman also felt inclined to let me know the difference between a 'gangsta' and a 'thug.' I only mention this because when people hear the phrase "street smarts", they think it pretains to living in the ghetto or a large city. It doesn't. It is basically an instruction manual on how not to be a sucker. One that no one reads anymore. Where do I begin?...........

                 Health food is a great example of human naivety. My wife and I bicker over bread all the time. She insists on buying the whole grain wheat bullshit. I hate wheat bread. My wife is convinced white bread is deadly. She says white bread causes your blood sugar to spike, which can lead to diabetes. Who knew the human body was so frail? It's a miracle all of the hundereds of millions of people who eat it every single fucking day are still alive! How else could you convince folks to spend $6-7 for something they can get for $2 gastro-intestinal consequences notwithstanding? Pomegranets are another great example. Not only is it one of the most pain-in-the-ass fruits around, but the flavor of the juice from said fruit bears a striking similarity to vinegar and urine! (dont ask how I know how urine tastes) My mother insists on buying pomegranete juice (her brand costs like $10 a bottle!) which has less vitamins and minerals than orange juice, and kind of tastes like unsweetened cranberry juice but worse. Some asshole on tv says pomegranets are better than our pathetic traditional fruits, so we better just eat them. I'm pretty sure I spelled 'pomegranet' wrong back there, but to hell with it. The shitty fruit doesn't deserve the effort required to check my spelling of its name. That's how much I hate them.
             I'm sure you're familiar with the 911 'truther' movement. Behold its progeny: the anti-Monsanto movement. I know a few people who have attended protests, and make an effort to eat only 'organic' food. Many folks with far too much spare time insist this monolith of a company is selling poisonous genetically altered food that will most definitly kill you if you eat enough of it. Monsanto made the herbicides they used in VIETNAM, man! That's completely irrelevant to the issue, but....war...puppets......neocons.....did you know they're selling DEPLEATED URANIUM shotgun shells now?! That'll definitely give you the edge in the battle for the coveted cul-de-sac. I told a friend last night I want in on some of this armageddon action and she said they only buy stuff from people they know, which definitly fits the paranoia profile, but I think shes bullshittin. I really would like to be able to sell guns, seeds, ammo..and....... whatever other survival stuff (Dad wasnt around folks,) these people buy. It looks like a good investment, because these people are just going to keep prepping from the looks of it.
         I know I've veered off course. My point is, we really need to try to instill a good sense of skepticism in our young folks. It doesn't matter what your background is.
        Look at Adam Koesch. A whole bunch of dipshits were gettin ready to march in DC on July 4, literally ready to go to war, because some asshole made some youtube videos they liked! I wish I was making this shit up! Do we need public service announcements like they had about crack? This shit is seriously getting scary! Find a Ron Paul follower. Best place to look is on Fox News' FB page or an xbox live room for Call of Duty. He/she will tell you that Ron Paul is the ONLY ONE who could've  saved us. The system is also rigged, all politicians are bad except Ron Paul, (who, ironically penned a grand total of ONE,one goddamn motherfucking bill. In 20 years in the Legislative Branch, this cocksucker did nothing but get one bill passed! And he has convinced a few million xbox addicted virgins hes some kind of god!Because these young folks haven't been taught to pay more attention to what a man does than what he says. We are judged on our acts. Not things we discuss doing, or our great ideas. Anyone with street smarts would tell you Ron Paul is a politician, plain and simple. They know what they're doing. They know what to say. They know what angle to work on you. It's called 'cunning.' More later

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Commonly Overlooked Records Part 2!!!

Im pressed for time, so I'll have to limit my raving. Here we go:       

Carcass - Swansong
         This is another strange animal of a record. After the success of the god-like Heartwork, Carcass decided to flip the script again and make a death-n-roll record. The result is ironically their most commercially appealing record. It would also be thier last (UNTIL THIS FALL YEEEEAAAAAHHHH!). Unlike fellow metal overlords' Entombed's approach, their sound relied more on 70's rock than punk or hardcore. The opener 'Keep on Rotting in the Free world' is one of the catchiest on the album and makes for the perfect opener. Amott isn't on this record, but his replacement does as well as any mere mortal could have. The second track 'Tomorrow Belongs to Nobody' is features one of my all time favorite riffs, the best song on the record easily. There are plenty of great riffs on this one, but don't hold your breath for any Death/Grind barnburners. As with Napalm Death's Diatribes, the band really challenged themselves to come up with something new and fresh, yet keep elements of distinction. 'Black Star' starts with a cool cyclic riff and remains pretty simple structurally, but the rich guitar sound and changes keep it interesting and enjoyable. Carcass are masters of creating atmosphere musically, without the aid of synth or keyboards, which they flaunt on 'Child's Play' and "Room 101' masterfully. The second half of the record isn't as great as the first, but only because of the near-impossible standard set by the first half. One of my all time favorites.

Suffocation - Despise the Sun
           This is another album that many hardcore fans of the band generally dislike.(it's actually an EP). I suspect this is because the songs aren't as immersive generally as most of Suffocation's albums, especially the Alpha/Omega of American Death Metal that is Pierced From Within. The temporary departure of founding drummer Mike Smith may have something to do with this, but his replacement Dave Culross not only fits in perfectly with the band, but adds something new to the band's sound. The from-another-angle-ness of 'Bloodchurn' and the godly breakdown on the title track are good examples of his fingerprints. The opener, 'Funeral Inception' is probably my all time favorite death metal song. The songs are generally more grind-oriented than their other records, which makes it all the more unique. The entire EP is a highlight, each song distinct and awesome in its own way. Brutal Death Perfection.

Knights of the Abyss - Shades
          This band (along with another one of my favorites among the newer crop of American Death Metal bands Through the Eyes of The Dead) are unfortunately on hiatus, which really blows, considering they actually have a clue about how to construct a song, unlike many/most of the young bands. Most songs here are probably not what many death metal fans (did I ever mention most are insufferable opinionated pricks, myself included) would call 'technical', but not 'meat n potatoes' either. There are some Deathcore elements here, but I don't think they're sportin the goddamn haircuts or anything. Mostly just cool breakdowns and no guitar solos :(. There are lots of cool guitar riffs and the songs have an intensity and urgency that never lets up. 'Don't Feed the Heathens' is probably my favorite on here, but each song is interesting. Hopefully these guys get back to recording and touring again.

Woe of Tyrants - Kingdom of Might
          This is another band I can't believe isn't more popular. I have never heard such catchy, even 'happy' sounding Death Metal songs in my life. This is an extremely unique record. I guess I should also add that this is a Christian band, which only adds to the quirky charm of the album. My wife is fussin, so I really have to go. Buy these records!!

Machine Head - The More Things Change....
           I'm not gonna lie, I'm not a Machine Head fan. This record (tape, again!) managed to make an impression on me from the first time I heard it,though. The first song 'Ten Ton Hammer' is appropriately titled, because the main riff is mothafukin HEAVY. They do get a little carried away with the feedback however. It is annoying as hell to hear anyone use the phrase 'I'ma' (If I wanted to hear that bullshit, Id listen to Limp Bizkit.) in a metal song, I must add. At least they refrained from 'White Devil' on this one. Song 2 , 'Take My Scars' is catchy with lots of changes, with clean and screamed vocals. It could do without the little (I cant remember the cocksucker from Rage Against the Machine's name, the one who plays guitar with a coathanger..) RATM part before the solo, but it by no means ruins the song. The 3rd track is a fast one (perhaps too) reminicent of Fucking Hostile that is lots of fun to headbang to. The guitar sound on this album is very rich, to the point it makes even average riffs sound great. Down to None is an anti-religion song with a very slow beginning that once again takes advantage of the robust guitar sound. The song evolves into a mid-tempo chugger with interesting drumming. The second half of the album isn't up to par with the first, unfortunately. 'Spine' has a main riff right off a Korn B-side. 'Bay of Pigs' picks up the tempo temporarily, but the riffs aren't up to par with the earlier tracks. Not to say the 2nd half isn't worth listening to, it's every bit as heavy as the first 6 songs, and there's some interesting experimenting going on here and there. The last song is a cover of Ice-T's 'Colors' presumably added to appeal to the nu-metal shits. I'm not going to lie, I've never listened to the damn song all the way through. This band sounded alot like a mix of equal parts Pantera, Biohazard, and Chaos AD Sepultura this era, which is why many of us were reluctant to shower them with praise. Honestly Machine couldn't hold a candle to any of the above bands, but have written some good records over the years. This one is probably my favorite.

The Vandals - Live Fast Diarrhea
               For reasons I'll never know, punks my age and older always prefer all punk band's early records to their later stuff. Zero exceptions. NOFX, The Decendents, Bad Religion, whoever. Maybe it's a sentimental thing, but that's just what folks always say. "Their old stuff is way better!" Every time. The Vandals first couple records are great, but this one is my favorite of theirs by a mile. If you didn't know, they are one of those bands who write 'funny' songs. Musically, it's pretty by-the-numbers SoCal fast punk rock, but these guys date back to 84 or so, so this sound belongs as much to them as anyone. This was released in 95, right when this sound was getting popular in the mainstream. Every song on this record is enjoyable, with the lone exception of the Blink parody 'I Have A Date'. It's every bit as insufferable as your average Blink song. My personal faves are 'Take It Back' , 'And Now We Dance', 'N.I.M.B.Y', 'Power Mustache', and 'Johnny Two Bags'. No matter how shitty a mood I'm in, this record always cheers me up. All the songs are fun to sing and rock hard. What more do ya need?

Cannibal Corpse - Gallery of Suicide
           I'm not even going to mention the perpetual debate among fans of this band over whether Corpsegrinder or Barnes is the better vocalist.(Corpsegrinder, by a light-year) This is George's second record with the band, and was the first 'Corpse album I ever bought. What I like most about this record is you can tell they made an effort to make each song unique and distinctive. The opener 'I Will Kill You' is a pretty standard old-school thrash inspired 'Corpse song. Another virtue here is what they call 'vocal patterns' in the credits.(Dunno why) It basically means George sings in a rhythmic fashion, matching the tempo and riffs. It really helps the listenability. It does sound kind of like he's rapping on 'Headless' though. Song topics are as gruesome as any Cannibal Corpse album, which they've kind of backed off from in recent years.(thankfully) 'Disposal of the Body' is pretty similar musically to the first song, but thanks to the 'vocal patterns', and cool guitar riffs, sounds completely different. 'Sentenced to Burn' is a unique song for Cannibal Corpse. It's mid tempo without any changes. It almost reminds me of an industrial metal song, except not shitty.(I can't stand industrial) 'Dismembered and Molested' is musically psychotic, with a super fast verse riff, and a middle-eastern sounding riff at the breakdown. The title track starts out atmospheric and slow, with a gradual buildup to a chaotic climax. The following track ' From Skin to Liquid' is an awesome instrumental (every death metal record should have one), which starts out with a wandering riff, with some random elaborations, and eventually dies a slow death. The best songs on the second half of the record are also the best overall, in my opinion. 'Chambers of Blood' has an incredibly sinister main riff, with faster passages spread throuout, and a killer breakdown. My favorite song on here. 'Headless' is the fastest song, with a weird break in the middle, but still kick-ass. A great follow up to 'Chambers of Blood.' With all it's diversity, this album would probably appeal to even casual metal fans.

Incantation - Onward to Golgotha
                I love metal, but sometimes I think there's just too many bands at times. I hate seeing great bands that deserve recognition and success get lost in the shuffle. Incantation is a perfect example of such a band. This is pure brutal Death Metal. Their songs are insanely violent and heavy, with great doom breaks. I also love the production on this one. It reminds me a bit of Suffocation's Human Waste or Effigy of the Forgotten, only 10 times darker. The guitar is very down-tuned and sludgy, but you can still hear the riffs clearly.(How did they do that?). Some call this 'NY style' death metal, which is kind of fitting, but to many NY style means 'sounds like Suffocation.' While they are every bit as brutal as Suffocation, they honestly don't sound anything like them. Their sound is all their own. They released an album last year, to rave reviews. Hopefully their lineup is stable for good this time, as Ive read that's been a reoccuring problem over the years. Anyway, if you are a fan of death metal, buy this record. Most bands this brutal and heavy can't write songs this atmospheric and immersive, especially without keyboards.

Commonly Overlooked/Maligned Records that Kick Ass

There are lots of bands/records I've heard and thought "How is this not more popular?" I'm sure you have too. There are also some that are seen as a band's worst, or poorly executed, bad concept,etc, or sometimes a band follows up a successfull release with something no one was expecting which leads to bad reviews out of sheer disappointment. Some of these records are actually great, they just weren't critically/commercially successful for reasons beyond their control. This post is for those records that really deserve another listen,(or in some cases, a 1st listen)
Swingin Utters - Five Lessons Learned
          These guys were one of my favorite bands growing up. Their debut, The Streets of San Francisco (produced by Lars of Rancid!) was one of my favorites back in the day. I bought this one right when it came out and HATED it at first. The production was very un-Utters.Polished, slick even.  You really couldn't get much further from Streets... unless it were a Death Metal album. "Thats what happens when bands get on FAT!!", I bitched. I was in my "anything popular at all sucks ass" phase. Even punk likeNOFX was too happy sounding and poppy for me at this time. I was really into Napalm Death, Assuck, Capitalist Casualties, Suffocation, Deicide, basically the most angry, hateful shit I could find. This record was a curveball to say the least. The title track is the first song (usually not a good sign) which is a pretty standard fast Utters song, with trademark lyrics "I know I must not think that much, I'm always beaten to the punch/I'm holdin aces high and low and in between I'm trying to break my fall/ Love it! The second song , 'Tell Me Lies' is probably my favorite song on the disc. I should take this opportunity to tell you what Swingin Utters sound like, in case you haven't had the privilage. You have to mention Stiff Little Fingers first and foremost. That's their main influence. Don't be fooled though, they're no imitators. Their sound is as distinctive as anyone who has their own sound (not many these days), very irish influenced. I know there were a bazillion '77 style bands in the late 90's, but these guys set themselves apart. Anyway, the 3rd song 'A Promise to Distinction' is an old Irish folk-type track. Somehow, these guys can go from punk to folk, to country seamlessly and make it work EVERY TIME. As I said before, the production is very clean and polished sounding, which serves vocalist Johnny Bonnel's laid-back confidence well. His style isn't the usual of the usual 'gravelly' street punk variety (which almost always SUCKS btw. We know you don't really sound like that!) Mike Ness is an obvious influence, yet on this record, you won't hear much snarl. "This Bastard's Life" is another standout track, with just the right amount of piano/keyboards throughout. These songs really are timeless. Honestly every song on the record has it's own quirks and personality. This record is actually the reason I picked this topic to blog about. I can't recommend it enough. Why this didn't sell 5 million copies, I'll never know. It's incredible. The maturity of the song topics and lyrics also put these guys above 99% of punk bands. It's mostly working class type stuff, but very intelligent and wise. What puzzles me is they never really made another that sounded like this one. I dunno if it was a concept album or what, but their self titled LP after this one is more like Streets of San Francisco and Juvenile Product of the Working Class. OK I'll stop gushing now. Just buy the record.

Corrosion of Conformity - Wiseblood
          I'm not a huge COC fan, but enjoy this record immensely. I only bought this TAPE (lol) because of the glowing review it recieved from Metal Maniacs, a magazine that was basically my Bible during my teen years. Yet, I don't think I've ever heard a single COC fan (which is about the most diverse base you can get btw) say this is their favorite record. "Heavy" isn't even a strong enough word to describe this beast. The opener, "King of the Rotten" is an upbeat song with an almost too-simple main riff. The shit is so heavy, you won't care. One of my all time favorite records to drink to. (it may even be tied with Rancid's 1st.) Song 2, 'Long Whip. Big America' really showcases frontman Pepper Kennen's charisma. The chorus is addictive. I guarantee, the first time you hear this song, you'll immediately replay it. The 3rd song is the title track and is just as heavy and catchy as its predecessor. 'Goodbye Windows' is probably my favorite song on the album. Its pretty damn depressing blues-rock essentially done perfectly. The songs on the second half of the record are a bit more drawn-out (one of the trademarks of the Pepper era) generally, but there's plenty of diversity to keep you interested. 'Fuel' is a thrasher that shows equal parts 'Blind' and 'Eye for an Eye' DNA, 'Man or Ash' and 'Redemption City' sound alot like one another, yet different and distinct from one another, like twins whose lives both began as a single fertilized egg. The previous played deliberately at glacial pace to savor the crushing heaviness of the guitar sound. The final track, 'Bottom Feeder' is probably the trippiest of the album, which gradually fades out to the sound of swine feeding. Brilliant.

Napalm Death - Diatribes
              These guys need no introduction. From either external pressure from struggling Earache Records or boredom, Napalm Death decided to take the direction first explored in the experimental success Fear, Emptiness, Despair to its extreme. Most songs are mid-tempo, with near alternative rock rhythms and song structures that seem to toy with the tension and delay or even refuse payoff/release. The lyrics are a bit more abstract and introspective than their previous records as well, which is a bonus for those of us who aren't still riding the over-educated malcontent/contrarian bus.The songs are quite long by ND's standards, (in the grindcore world, 4:00 is epic) but they do a great job of keeping things interesting. It really is a tribute to this band's creativity and audacity to make a record like this, regardless of all the flack they recieved for changing thier sound so drastically. This direction had grown dull to me by their next release, Inside the Torn Apart, which in spite of a few high points (Lowpoint! lol) sounded bland and uninspired as Utopia Banished did compared to Harmony Corruption. They retured to their roots soon after, to the delight of their core audience, and released some of their best works of their collective carreer. Their latest, Utilitarian, is arguably their best. They've incorporated clean vox to the mix, giving thier sound the sense of atmosphere it lacked before, while remaining as pissed as ever. I don't know if they're proud or ashamed of Diatribes, they should be proud. Lesser bands rely on giving fans what they want to keep them, while ND challenged us and themselves as artists. It's no coincidence they are one of the most respected bands in extreme music.

Dead Kennedys - Bedtime for Democracy
              Ask any fan which is DK's worst album, and the answer almost invariably is Bedtime for Democracy. Look up any reviews for it, and nearly all are negative. There are a few good reasons for the bad reception. The first is the guitar sound. On many songs, it's all but impossible to make sense of what Ray is even playing. It's a hot mess. The second (I would guess) would be the fact that this is seen as a 'playing it safe' record. It's pretty standard 80's American hardcore punk (How is that a bad thing? Haveya read Maximum Rock N' Roll in the last 20 yrs?) musically. Nearly all the songs are fast, and DK's trademark weird/creepy anti-melodies and guitar work seem to take a back seat to a fast/faster/really faster  brutal approach. (I like this about the record, but I guess it's not ironic or sarcastic enough for the average DK fan). Anyway, this was the first DK album I ever heard in its entirety (another cassette,given to me by my brother in law Dave of DRUNK IN A DUMPSTER FAME) which may have alot to do with why I love it so much. As I said before, all the songs are up-tempo scorchers, most under 3 minutes. There's lots of humor and weirdness here, as with all DK records, which keeps things lighthearted and fun. All the songs are fun to sing to and the song topics are all at the least very interesting and thought-provoking even if you don't agree with Jello's social/political views (I couldn't DISagree more with most songs). I rarely skip any songs on this record. Each has it's own personality and is distinct from the other, which deserves praise considering how similar all the songs are to each other musically. If I had to pick favorites, I'd say 'Rambozo' (grey shrapnel flavored chewing gum...) 'The Great Wall', 'Triumph of the Swill', 'Macho Insecurity', 'I Spy', 'Chickenshit Conformist' 'Do the Slag', 'Gone With My Wind'.. really every song is great. There are also two 6 minute epics on here which add some variety to the chaos. 'Cesspools in Eden' is slow and neandering, with some cool signature eerie guitar parts and gradual buildups highlighted by Jello's maniacal vocal style. Classic DK.  A really well written song musically and lyrically. 'Chickenshit Conformist' is a scathing critique of the punk scene and the music industry in general, which will probably remain relevant as long as there is punk rock. You can say what you want about Jello, but his love and passion for music is obviously genuine. It's a shame he hasn't done much since. He's incredibly talented.

                  Logical Nonsense - Soul Pollution
             I read about this band in Metal Maniacs (I told you I read it ALOT) as a hardcore band that would also appeal to metal heads. They hit the nail on the head. They kinda reminded me of AUS ROTTEN (a discharge-inspired anarcho punk band from the 90's)but something different I could never quite put my finger on. Maybe it's the production. The vocalist sounds like he's from a metal band, with a very pissed gravelly snarl equal parts Wattie and Anselmo. Nearly Death Metal sounding at times. Most of the songs start out slow or mid-tempo, then fast, but done in such a way as not to sound repeatative or like they're following a formula. 'What's Left' is a good example. There are some very slight industrial/noise elements, but this is definitely a hardcore record, with rage to spare. It was released on Jello's Alternative Tentacles label, so you can probably still order a copy. I cant praise it enough. To have a sound so simple, yet diverse and distinct is quite an accomplishment.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

      I didn’t want to write about the Christopher Dorner story in my weekly column, but now feel as though I should. No one in the media feels the need to point out the dangerous implications of the staggering ignorance on full display this past week, so I guess I have to.
If we are going to start listening to people who murder because of racial implications, we are in serious trouble. If we as a society do not have knowledge of the distinction between wrong and right on questions as simple as “Is it better to be a murderer or to be racist?”, humanity is in serious trouble. The fact that the LAPD is investigating accusations made by an obvious psychopath on a killing spree should get your attention, if nothing else. This is a red flag that we are astray as a society. Common sense must intervene.
Dr. Marc Lamont Hill had some interesting comments on the situation:
          “They were even talking about making him the first domestic drone target. This is serious business here. I don't think it's been a waste of time at all. And as far as Dorner himself goes, he’s been like a real life superhero to many people. Now don't get me wrong. What he did was awful, killing innocent people was bad, but when you read his manifesto, when you read the message that he left, he wasn’t entirely crazy. He had a plan and a mission here. And many people aren't rooting for him to kill innocent people. They are rooting for somebody who was wronged to get a kind of revenge against the system. It’s almost like watching Django Unchained in real life. It’s kind of exciting.”
            Forget context, forget apologies, all of it. This is the most ignorant statement I have ever heard from a panelist. Who gave this guy his degree? How is he in charge of educating anyone? I think it’s time to produce some credentials, Columbia University. I want to see his doctoral thesis, because I honestly have a hard time believing someone this stupid could ever aquire a PhD. It’s honestly not even a matter of education, it is a matter of common sense. If you take someone else’s life, whatever opinions are about politics should be irrelevant. Unless you were defending yourself, there is absolutely no excuse for killing innocent people. I understand there have been accusations of racism directed at the LAPD by Dorner. Which is worse, calling black people racial slurs, or killing them? Do we really need to have this discussion?! The debacle sheds light on how far public opinion has strayed from reality. We are entering a pernicious epoch, with our government seizing every opportunity to make itself more powerful every day. If we as a people don’t get our priorities right and our heads on straight, our decisions will be made for us, and our best interests won’t be a priority, according to history.