August 15th, 2011 at 10:44am
METALLICA‘s self-titled fifth album, known as “the black album,” came out 20 years ago this past Friday (August 12) and Gibson.com celebrated by compiling a number of quotes from the band members and others into a brief oral history of the project. According to The Pulse Of Radio, the record made METALLICA into superstars after being cult metal heroes for the first eight years of their career, even as it found the band slowing down and abandoning its thrash metal beginnings for a more mainstream, yet still heavy, style.
Drummer Lars Ulrich told Rolling Stone in 1991 about the record’s musical shift, “We felt inadequate as musicians and as songwriters (early in our career). That made us go too far, around ‘Master Of Puppets’ and on ‘…And Justice For All’, in the direction of trying to prove ourselves. We’ll do all this weird-ass shit sideways to prove that we are capable musicians and songwriters.”
Ulrich added about the eight months it took to make the album, “[Recording] should have gone quicker, in theory, than trying to get everything note-perfect like we have before. But as usual with METALLICA, all those theories and normalities go straight out the window. It took us twice as long to make a record that is twice as loose.”
Frontman James Hetfield said, “It was [once] a challenge for us to jam every riff in the universe into one song and make it work. Now we’re pretty much doing the opposite. Which is even more of a challenge.”
The album was the first of four collaborations with producer Bob Rock, with whom the band clashed throughout the recording of the disc. Rock recalled to Music Radar, “The first three months were difficult. They were all very suspicious of me. It wasn’t a fun, easy record to make. I told the guys when we were done that I’d never work with them again. They felt the same way about me.”
Ulrich said about Rock in NME, “We’d never really had anybody push us before . . . We’ve always thought of ourselves as ‘Big Bad Metallica,’ but Bob taught us a new word none of us had ever heard before: soulful.”
“The black album” in 2009 surpassed SHANIA TWAIN‘s 1997 record, “Come On Over”, as the best-selling CD of the SoundScan era. To date, the black album has sold 15,689,000 copies.
Although METALLICA had scored their first radio and video airplay with their previous effort, 1988′s “…And Justice For All”, the black album was the band’s biggest commercial breakthrough, producing five singles and making them into one of the most popular rock bands in the world.
August 15th, 2011 at 10:42am
You’d think that a band with 40 years under its belt would have figured out the whole commercialism part of the music business by now. Some of the more enterprising elder statesmen have given up on marketing their music — Marky Ramone has his own brand of pasta sauce, and Stephen Pearcy is hawking hot sauce, for chrissakes. So it was with a giant “Seriously?” that we discovered Pentagram didn’t even have an official DVD until now. Come August 30, Bobby Liebling & co. can be seen on When The Screams Come. It was recorded on May 30th, 2010, during the Liebling/Victor Griffin reunion dates at Sonar in Baltimore, Maryland, at Maryland Deathfest VIII. After the jump, check out footage of “Relentless” and interview footage with Liebling.
When The Screams Come track listing:
1. Day Of Reckoning
2. Forever My Queen
3. Ask No More
4. Run My Course
5. You’re Lost, I’m Free
6. Review Your Choices
8. All Your Sins
9. 20 Buck Spin
10. Sign Of The Wolf
11. When The Screams Come
August 12th, 2011 at 8:45pm
Every other Friday, Waldo the African Grey Parrot, frontbird of thrash-grind immortals Hatebeak, will get you caught up on the week’s latest “extreme” releases.
What’s up, motherpeckers? Got some stuff for you this time; nothing too crazy, as it seems the releases are slowing down a bit, for a couple of weeks anyway.
“You come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married and you ask me to do murder – for money.”
Italian deathsters FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE release Agony on Nuclear Blast. I know a lot of people like these guys, but your fine feathered friend really never got this kind of music. Symphonic death metal seems like a bit of an anachronism. That being said, fans of this band surely will not be disappointed, and everyone can clearly hear the “drummer get wicked.” Not much of a departure from last year’s Mafia EP. Blasting, growling and, of course, symphonic uh… stuff. Really, this is okay, just kind of a beak-scratcher; the death parts are crucial, but when you involve the strings, it just kind of leaves your boy flat. This thing has less teeth than a gum job. The cover sucks, too. 6 Fucking Pecks.
The Man Who Loves to Hurt Himself is back. TODAY IS THE DAY come at you with their 9th release, Pain Is a Warning. This band has seen some ups and downs in their career—the Kiss the Pig and Sadness Will Prevail era is almost unlistenable—but Pain Is a Warning is not. You’ll feel the pain, and it’ll warn you. Easily the most solid release by TITD since In the Eyes of God, typical twisted TITD fuckery mixed with ZZ Top and AC/DC-style rock riffs. More of a return to form for Austin and whatever lineup he has going on currently. This should be titled Pain Is a Weapon, as this thing is pretty mean. Definitely not their best, but solid, very solid. 8 Fucking Pecks.
ANTHRAX’s “The Devil You Know” single has been released, and is staler than week-old bread. Singer Joey Belladonna is back, and a return to the classic Anthrax sound is, too. Really, this sounds like Among the Living-era ‘Thrax, but really is kind of plodding and has less life than Amy Winehouse’s coffin. I’m sure this song delivers live, as does the previous single, but the digital release of this really seems like an older band that’s trying to relive their glory days and just going through the motions. All in all, not too bad, but would really like to hear this played with some sack. The Devil, you know? 6 Fucking Pecks.
My old-school peck this time is REPUDILATION. These NY slamsters really knew how it was done: fuzzed-out guitars, grooves, and super-low vocals. Check it.
August 12th, 2011 at 6:41pm
There’s nothing this Decibel writer loves more than intrepid reporting out there in the concrete jungle to deliver old-school in-your-face journalism that’s so direct and unflinching, it stiffens the nipples of The Gray Lady. I’m lying. The only thing that got me out of the house this past Tuesday evening, when the sky was dumping buckets of rain on the streets of New York City’s East Village, was the promise of craft beer and metal. And so I answered the call of duty at Idle Hands Bar, where the owners were celebrating Metallica’s 30th anniversary with a three-part event that poured one beer for each year of the thrash megalomaniacs’ existence. Perhaps you remember the contest that we posted on the blog a week ago that gave away a pair of tickets to this sold-out event. You probably didn’t win. That sucks, I’m sorry. Please keep reading.This was the third and final night of the event, and it was centered around the 20th anniversary of the Black Album; the event’s description made it sound like we were going to be tasting one beer for each song on the Black Album. But that didn’t happen, so Decibel‘s own Mr. Brewtal Truth Adem Tepedelen did those honors (click through to read the whole post). In reality, we just drank lots of beer and ate pizza while listening to Metallica. Basically, there was little to differentiate the evening from any other night of any given week. Which is to say, it was a totally bitchin’ time. Click through for the goods.
One of the owners of Idle Hands, the Rev (yes, the Rev), loves beer and metal so much, he dedicates his entire existence at Idle Hands to intertwining the two. But he’s not one of those dudes who says he loves beer and proceeds to drink a keg of assed-out suds. If you’re that guy, you don’t love beer — you love getting shitfaced. There is nothing wrong with that. But some of us really love beer. Good beer (check Idle Hands’ beer list). Representatives from Harpoon and Speakeasy breweries are here pouring double shots of their select beers and explaining the nuances of each in a very non-douchey way. Beer is the people’s drink, my friend likes to say. If you’re gonna be a snob, go drink some wine and leave us commoners alone. Granted, if this was an event centered around, say, Pabst and metal, I’d be home on my couch. I’m not a classist asshole — drink your PBR and make merry! — I just like my beer to taste good. (Though I do think Stella is the piss of the condemned. Seriously — that is some kind of abomination. Drink water instead.)
And so, to the beer! In less than a half hour, I ingested 10 different beers, ranging from Harpoon’s out-of-bounds delicious UFO Pumpkin, which hasn’t yet been released en masse to the general public (but when it does, I’m buying a case), to Speakeasy’s body-rocking Betrayal Ale, registering 9.8% ABV with a staggering 121 IBU (bitterness units). We got two full pours: Harpoon’s Munich Dark and Speakeasy’s Prohibition — both delicious and very drinkable. I vaguely remember hearing Metallica in the background, but honestly, I was busying myself with the beer. Idle Hands promises more beer-and-metal events in the near future, so if you’re in NYC, follow them on twitter to get the heads up.
No one on Team Decibel loves and knows suds like Mr. Brewtal Truth, Adem Tepedelen. Here is what our brewmaster suggests pairing with the Black Album. Cheers.
Brewtal Truth recommends: The kind of light lager that’s ubiquitous at sporting events since the opening coupla minutes of this tune have been pumping up crowds for twenty years now.
“Sad But True”
Brewtal Truth recommends: Whatever the dudes in Soundgarden are having. Probably some hopped-up Northwest pale ale.
“Holier Than Thou”
Brewtal Truth recommends: That you shake your angry fist at those hypocritical televangelist bastards while drinking a trappist ale made by monks who’ve taken a vow of poverty.
Brewtal Truth recommends: A goddamn bitter West Coast barleywine to fully commiserate with the “bitter man he is.”
“Wherever I May Roam”
Brewtal Truth recommends: The beer brewed specifically to survive long journeys: India pale ale.
“Don’t Tread on Me”
Brewtal Truth recommends: In the spirit of beer lover Ben Franklin, a pumpkin ale, a style that can be traced back to colonial times when practically any fruit or veg was fair game for the brew kettle.
“Through the Never”
Brewtal Truth recommends: Something consciousness-raising that’ll help you transcend your earthbound reality, er whatever. A 12% ABV Russian imperial stout oughtta get you there.
“Nothing Else Matters”
Brewtal Truth recommends: A nice refreshing white-wine spritzer, perhaps, Susie? Look, if you’re gonna be crying in you’re beer, just make it something cheap and shitty.
“Of Wolf and Man”
Brewtal Truth recommends: A hop bomb of some description — maybe a cannabis-perfumed, wet-hopped double IPA — since the Latin name for the species of hop plant brewers use (which is, in fact, related to pot) is humulus lupulus, or “small wolf hops.”
“The God That Failed”
Brewtal Truth recommends: A rich oatmeal stout brewed with coffee to wake your ass up so you can make it through the rest of the plodders that constitutes side two.
“My Friend of Misery”
Brewtal Truth recommends: That you take that old adage to heart — “misery loves company” — and get good and low with a 40 of the cheapest malt liquor you can find.
“The Struggle Within”
Brewtal Truth recommends: You try to relive the joy Lars’ must have felt in finally getting to play a “fast” beat by slugging back any European lager that comes in a green bottle.
August 12th, 2011 at 10:33am
This is a borderline case of premature ejaculation in the press/hype sense that the Deciblog maintained an unblinking vigil on Birmingham, England grind progenitors Napalm Death for news of the long-awaited follow-up to 2009’s Time Waits for No Slave, and ran like a fucking gazelle with a hot poker in its ass, straight to the Internet as soon as we got off the phone to Napalm HQ. But y’know, when that musketeer of the mixing board, producer Russ Russell let slip over a few glasses of hoppy fizz that said album is all but completed we had to call up bassist Shane Embury, reset our mood status to Officially Excited and tell you what was going down. It’d be a dereliction of duty to sit on this sort of news.
To be honest, there’s probably no better time for Napalm Death to drop some teethgrinding ferocity given that our embattled society is growing ever more bankrupt, morally and otherwise ripe for a full-on deluxe grindcore dressing down. Just don’t count on Shane Embury’s geniality at being called to talk about this forthcoming brute to transfer onto record. He, guitarist Mitch Harris, blast-engine Danny Herrera and the jet turbine-throated Barney Greenway might make a decent fist of sounding like they’re all zen in each other’s company, creatively and so forth, but when it comes to articulating politically agitated fury on wax, they’re pretty much peerless. No album title was forthcoming—but hey that’s standard. Just cross fingers and toes that it’s out sooner than later.
How much of the record is done?
Shane Embury: It’s pretty much done—it’s mastered. Barney’s returned today; he was on holiday in Japan. We got to the situation where we’d recorded 19 songs and thought, ‘Right, this is enough now,’ and basically, we’re just trying to work out the tracklisting.
Do you still get that same buzz when going into the studio?
SE: I think for us, in the past few years with Russ, we just go about and do our thing. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, but at the same time we’re still conscious of going forward with Napalm while staying true to what the band’s about. We get a kick out of the studio still. Primarily, late at night, it’s just me, Mitch and Russ going through the mixes, the guitar parts to see if we could add any different feel to it. But it’s always quite exciting being in the studio together because we’re all good friends and we’re all quite creative in the process. It’s nice to get together in the studio with Napalm—we still get a kick out of it. At least I do.
Grindcore is such an impulsive art form. Do the songs evolve when it comes to recording them?
SE: I think they do for us in a way, because when we practice we do it quite basically. Some bands—I’ve been to practices where everything’s sounding all very professional. We tend to practice quite basically; sometimes it’s just me and Danny working together because Mitch might not turn up, or maybe we don’t need to work on the songs together. Once we’ve finalized it, we’ll jam together. It’s always quite rough and ready in the rehearsal. It isn’t until you start recording that you hear all the drums mic’d up, the guitar tracks, the bass, and you start spending time on the guitar tones; the songs keep on changing, keep on evolving just by the nature of the songs coming together. Sometimes, with us all being so busy, I won’t have heard Barney’s vocal parts until I’m in the studio. I’ll be hearing Barney’s vocal parts [for the first time] and that’s quite exciting. The way we do it, we don’t hear everything before we go in. It’s weird. We’re completely confident that we know that everything’s going to be fine, we just keep on building these layers and layers, so by the time you’re about to mix the album you hear the songs and think, ‘God, I’m completely happy here; it sounds really fresh.’ It’s always a surprise at the end of the day.
It keeps you on your toes.
SE: The nature of the band—slow, fast, heavy—all that’s in there, everything starts to develop, like a part might be strangely melodic and you don’t think about it, it’s just taken that particular course. You’re in the studio having fun, you can be as experimental as you want to be, but we all know what we want in your heads. Russ is our best mate, we’re like brothers. Like, I’ll say something to him and he’s probably already been thinking about it for 20 minutes—“Yeah, I knew you were going to say that.” It’s really nice working with him. I wouldn’t want to change it for the world. I’m at this stage now when I listen to a record, every time we do a record, always, when we finish it—and I don’t mean this in a big-headed way—I’ll end up playing it 60, 70 times. I’m genuinely happy. It’s like, ‘Wow!’ I feel we’ve managed to do something that’s interesting and heavy and exciting and it’s still hopefully moved on from what we’ve done, and hopefully people will like it.
You have such a unique sound; when it comes to influences now, is it more a case of taking inspiration rather than influences? Say politics would have as much an influence as a band you’ve just heard?
SE: I don’t know… Musically, I can’t single out bands for the songs I’ve wrote. I’ve tried to bring—dare I say it—a bit more of a noise element to it; we’ve gone for a catchy element, but it still emits a lot of frenzied tempos and noise. As a concept, lyrically, Barney’s moving forward: politics are everywhere, and obviously they are a big part of Napalm, but amongst it all he’s thinking, ‘Well, you fight your fight and you say your piece and your thoughts about what’s going on in the world, but sometimes you just sit back and ask who are you fighting?’ As soon as you achieve something, there’s something to take its place, to oppressively dog you down, there’s always something to battle and at the end of the day you wonder whether it’s all worth it, for yourself. You try to fight the good fight, but there’s so much hate in the world. At the same time, you’re looking around, looking at yourself pushing against the system, but how much more can you fight? The theme of the cover is the Thinker [Auguste Rodin’s sculpture], pondering the eternal thoughts of where we are in this world and what we have to achieve, personally and collectively. Lyrically, I suppose that’s a theme that’s going through the album. Musically, we listen to bands from all over the place, still, but I think sometimes we pick it up subconsciously. I know, for me, I’ve listened to a lot of noisecore since the last album, and I’m sure it’s just embedded itself in there somewhere. When we’re traveling to gigs, I sit in the back of the van thinking about what I’m going to do on the next record, then you pick up a guitar and then you try to transcribe it. I wanted to make it very chaotic this time around. There’s a lot of catchy, heavy slow riffs, but there’s a lot of crazy noise stuff going on and a few weird surprises, too.
It’s been quite a long time since you put out Time Waits for No Slave; has there been much change in the band as people/musicians since then?
SE: I think we’ve always wanted to do that; personally, you have your ups and downs through the years as people, but in a vision sort of way we are all on the same page. Occasionally, we might listen to the odd riff and think, ‘That’s a little bit strange,’ but it always tends to work out; when you’re all looking in the same direction you’re not afraid to try things. I think we know each other so well, in our musical backgrounds as well, it’s not a surprise if Mitch comes up with something and I don’t really question it because I’ve known him so long as a person. He’s been my friend for like 22 years or something; he’s not going to throw a real mad curveball at me. It’s more a question of ‘Let’s try it’. It always works out. Even if I think it’s a bit strange, it will work because, collectively, we’ll start practicing, just the two, three of us, and when it all comes together with Barney’s voice on top it just becomes Napalm Death.
Does Barney come to you with the lyrics before they’re tracked?
SE: He’ll bring something to me and say, ‘Read that. What do you think?’ And I take a look at it and say that it’s fine. Mitch has written a couple of songs on this album, I’ve wrote a couple—I usually write two sets of lyrics per record, that’s the most, I don’t want to push it. But Mitch has written a couple and has done vocals on a couple of songs; Mitch and Barney doing verses/choruses, and it’s pretty interesting because it’s got this kind of old-school Cryptic Slaughter vibe to it. Sometimes Barney will come to me with the lyrics and I’ll have to ask them what it’s about—sometimes I’ll get asked a question and I want to make sure [I know the answer]
So it’s a collaborative effort on the lyrics?
SE: A little bit. Mitch just had a vision for a couple of tracks; with his style of voice it did have that Cryptic Slaughter vibe and it was good, it’s interesting because it’s a nice mix to break it up. Barney was totally into the idea, which is good because you don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. We’re in that process now of having so many songs we’re just trying to work out the general order of them—sometimes you want to attack from the very beginning. We’ve got a lot of songs to play with this time.
19 songs is a lot to take in.
SE: I think the main release will have 15 or 16. We’ll probably put a different track on the vinyl, maybe an exclusive download track, and we have that thing where we license the album to Japan and we’ll probably give them a couple of tracks for the imports. We’ve actually got a few more songs that we didn’t finish that we’re gonna use for splits, because I’ve been trying to work on a split with the Melvins for a while. That’s in the pipeline at some point.
Amazing, is that a definite? When is this likely to come out?
SE: I don’t know when it’s going to be out, but I’ve been talking to Buzz [Osborne] about it for two or three years, and y’know, Buzz is really busy, same with me, and we’ll say hey to each other and all of a sudden we realize we haven’t spoken to each other in months. It’s definitely on the cards, though; it’s definitely something that we want to try to do. Once we release this next album, we want to do a few splits with bands we like because we feel that… we’ve not intentionally neglected it, but we want to connect more with bands we love in the underground. It’s still very much a big part of us and we try to keep our ear to the ground as much as possible. Some bands just come along and kick you in the ass and make you want to step up a gear. I love hearing a band that makes me think, ‘God, I’d wish we’d do something like that.’ It just fires you up.
The split is a beautiful thing.
SE: It’s a lot of fun. We’ve been talking about it for such a long time. We’ve also talked about trying to do something together at some point. Obviously, we are at quite different extremes, but I love Buzz’s attitude, the way he is; he’s been a mentor to me over the years in the way he talks about the industry. We’re trying to work this split, and it’s just a matter of time. We have the songs now that we can use on that now. It’s a childhood thing, lovely 7-inch, clear vinyl… I love that sort of thing.
Do you have a name for the record yet (you’re not going to tell me)?
SE: I’ve been told by the powers that be that I’ve got to keep it under wraps for the time being. I think Barney wants to keep it quiet—song titles, though, we have songs like “Quarantine,” “The Wolf I Feed,” “Collision Course,” “Analysis Paralysis,” “Leper Colony”: those are some of the song titles we have at the moment. It will be interesting to hear what people think. I think it’s a good continuation from the last record. One of the songs, “Fall on Their Swords,” the first couple of riffs on that I wrote 20 years ago and I’ve finally finished it. It’s kind of a strange track, it starts of sort of in the vein of Utopia Banished, with a really atmospheric Swans, doomy black metal bit in the middle—not black metal, but that sort of weird chord. Strangely enough, the first two riffs on that, I have been playing about with for years. For me it’s a good step on from the last record. I’ve played them back-to-back and, I dunno, it’s just evolved in its own course. In the time between albums you are always conscious about making another album and not wanting to repeat yourself. And you’re always scared that you might.
You can experiment and evolve all you like, but you can never really disguise Napalm Death’s sound.
SE: You’ll still know it’s us. It’s pretty ferocious in place, which I’m pretty happy about. I really wanted the crazy parts to be even crazier, and there’s a great song where it just goes in a mad noise chord with a wah pedal on it and just blasting like crazy—I’m pretty happy about that. There’s a few chunky, mid-paced riffs, some ‘80s style thrown in there too. You’ll hear Mitch screaming in his Cryptic Slaughter voice and it sounds like the Convicted album, so it’s pretty good.
When will it be out?
SE: I’m hoping it will be out before the end of this year, but I don’t know if it will. We were talking about November-ish, but I don’t know, it’s a bit of a weird time. That’s when I imagine it’s going to come out, but it might even be held on ‘til next year. Hopefully, though, it will be October/November. I originally wanted to do 14 or 15 songs and we ended up doing 19 and I thought, ‘Fuck, what do we do?’ And Mitch had a lot of stuff and we were coming up with stuff—we could have probably have done a double album, but that would have been crazy. No, it’s encouraging that we’re confident that we’re doing this record and we’ve already got ideas for another album. That’s obviously encouraging because, obviously, we’ve been about for a number of years and ideas still seem to be flowing. It’s positive.
God help you putting together a setlist.
SE: That’s a nightmare as well, but there you go.
You could do worse than finishing with this…
August 11th, 2011 at 11:46pm
According to TMZ.com, former WARRANT singer Jani Lane was found dead earlier this evening (Thursday, August 11) at a Los Angeles-area hotel. He was 47 years old.
Lane‘s body was discovered at the Comfort Inn hotel in Woodland Hills, California. So far, no official cause of death has been released.
On July 23, Lane took part in a taping of an upcoming episode of the “That Metal Show” alongside Michael Sweet (STRYPER) and Taime Downe (FASTER PUSSYCAT). The program featuring Lane is scheduled to air on October 1 on VH1 Classic.
In February, Lane canceled all of his previously announced solo tour dates two days before the first show was due to take place. No explanation was offered for the cancelation.
August 11th, 2011 at 9:33pm
If you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Port Burwell, Ontario a couple weeks from now, want to get away from it all but don’t want to get away from the metal, why not consider attending the inaugural Southern Ontario Metalfest? Modeled after the grand tradition of European open air festivals, the SOMF is planning on terrorizing the placid Outback Campground (a place about an hour south of both London and Hamilton which my camping-happy wife informs me houses an “amazing beach”) with fans and bands, both of which could probably use the fresh air and sunlight. Come on up – or down, depending where you are in the world - and have a partially rustic good time. Don’t forget to say “Hey” to a certain Decibel contributor who’s going to be stage managing the side stage. More detailed details after the jump.
SOUTHERN ONTARIO MUSIC FESTIVAL: AUGUST 26-28TH 2011
PRESENTED BY D-TOX, LEVIATHAN PRODUCTIONS & SUMMERCAMP PRODUCTIONS
OVER 40 BANDS | MULTIPLE STAGES | B.Y.O.B CAMPING | ALL AGES / 19+
3-DAY/ALL WEEKEND/END OF THE SUMMER METAL MUSIC FESTIVAL
Mockingbird Wish Me Luck
The New Enemy
Protest The Hero
Abandon All Ships
Searching For Satellites
Fuck The Facts
Assassinate The Following
Today I Caught The Plauge
Farewell To Freeway
Dancing With Paris
The After Chapter
Diving Right of Kings
Dead and Divine
Baptized in Blood
Fall In Archaea
Beheading Of A King
Sight For Sewn Eyes
Skip The Foreplay
The Jettison Commitment
The Empirical Method
Sponsored by Jager, D-Tox Clothing and Exclaim Magazine
Ticket and all other information available at: www.somf.ca
August 11th, 2011 at 12:09pm
Mike Scheidt, the Black Mastermind behind YOB, gives mass and weight to sound waves. And I’m pretty sure that defies one or two of the laws of physics, which means that he’s doing something supernatural. Which makes sense, because I’ve always considered YOB to be a sort of spiritual, transcendental experience. Not that I believe in any of that crap, but as far as music goes, I believe Yob comes the closest to making the unreal live.
I do know that YOB + pot brownies = total out-of-body experience, but I don’t know if that proves anything as far as other dimensions are concerned. I’m still trying to run it by Stephen Hawking, but he won’t talk to me. Mike Scheidt, on the other hand, was willing, and the release of Atma in five days seemed as good a reason as any to call him up and probe him on his theories of doom.
We started with the early days, before YOB was God. Mike: “Well, back then there wasn’t as much [doom], and it was beyond underground. There was Trouble and Candlemass, and everybody knew them, and I heard the Obsessed on Metal Massacre Six, I think. I was 13 or 14, and we used to skate to that comp, and I loved their song. It was the stoner Sabbathy track. But I didn’t even know of doom as a genre then. When I picked up Forest of Equilibrium I couldn’t get into it. I was like, ‘Oh man, this is what Lee Dorrian’s doing now?!’ I was into Napalm Death. I listened to punk, grind, death. That’s what I grew up on. Then in ’92 I saw Cathedral when I went to see Napalm and Carcass. I didn’t care about Cathedral. I was in the back when they started, but in 10 minutes I was at the front of the stage. That show changed my life.
“By ‘96 I’m listening to early Sleep and Electric Wizard and nobody knew about it. I said, ‘Alright, I want to write an album like this,’ and nobody got it. I’d be giving out tons of albums and tapes. I’d have these drummers and I’d have to tell them, ‘Too fast, too fast… slow down, slow down.’
“Finally in ’99, I was just trying to put out a demo for myself. I got my friend Greg Ocon to play drums as a favor, who was actually a friend from high school. I said, ‘Can you just do this for me, please? Just do what I ask, please: slow down! So, I loaded him up with CDs and tapes and we practiced for two weeks and recorded it. Stonerrock.com had just gone up, and I sent them the demo and they loved it. And that’s where it really started off. Suddenly friends who blew me off as a lunatic said, ‘Oh, hey, maybe that is pretty good!’
About the earlier music itself, Mike explains, “My original intent in YOB was to be heavy but be interesting, like doom for ADD. We definitely have some droning, but it always has some shift or change that releases the tension a slow riff creates.
“In early YOB, with the vocals especially, I wrote way beyond my ability. I’d be in the studio singing for five or six hours just to get one take. Now I can go in there and get five or six takes to choose from, and we can pick the best one. Same thing with my solos. I can lay down five and we can see which one has the intensity or the feeling.
Next line of questioning. Last time I saw YOB, there was a legitimate pit. I was, of course, bent over the stage with the headbangers, but I took a punch or two, and I wondered: do a lot of people get punched in the noggin during a YOB set?
“Ah, the doom pit! I know it’s weird, but it I see it all the time. It happens often during the heavy bludgeon. Something with real menace, like when we play “Grasping Air,” I’ll see this slow-motion contact and movement in the pit. And I grew up in the punk scene, that’s where I came from, so I love to see it.”
As for the new record and the idea of Atma, Mike says, “The concept of Atma, the way it makes sense to me, it’s [a] Hindu term that means the self, the individual, but also all the change, all of the past-lives that…” He pauses to think, “Like, you’re not the same person you were five years ago, that’s not you now, but that was still you, and that’s still inside you somewhere, and [Atma] is all of those lives at once, too, so the higher self. And the totality of self-hood: every tree, every rock, every set of eyes, every set of ears, every mouth…” He went on, and it was fucking enlightening, but I just couldn’t write fast enough to keep up.
About adding weight to sound, Mike could only elaborate so far. “I don’t write songs ’til I hone in on the vibe. I won’t just start putting riffs together. I write riffs all day long, and I think a lot of guitar players do that, but riffs do not write records. Once I start feeling a vibe, or I try to find that energy, and then I’ll start building the song around it.”
August 10th, 2011 at 7:30pm
It will be a cold rest of the week in Boston as one of its sons is gone. Eric Stevenson, former drummer of the legendarily underrated band Only Living Witness, passed after a five-month battle with melanoma. He was 46.
Stevenson was the father of a six-year old son and only three years ago had performed a reunion concert with OLW in Cambridge. The loss in the music community, but especially the Boston scene, is palpable. As J. Bennett noted in our Hall of Fame article for the band’s ’93 release Prone Mortal Form, “They were the best band you never heard” and noted what the hardcore pioneers were able to accomplish with only two albums, influences that can be found in bands such as Converge, Shadows Fall and Isis.
As we think Stevenson would like to be remembered, here are some clips that span from the Only Living Witness’s early days to the aforementioned reunion, proving that another talent has been taken away too soon.
August 10th, 2011 at 12:50pm
There’s little more annoying on this planet than the immoral majority telling you how essential, transcendent and (huh-huh) seminal a particular extreme album is, when you know that it’s overrated as fuck. Hence, our new Wednesday morning column, “Disposable Heroes,” in which one brave soul sails against the current to inform all you clones why you can’t spell classic without “ass.” This week, Adrien Begrand stands in not-so-silent opposition to Priest’s not-so-unassailable Screaming for Vengeance.
When it comes to a lot of bands, especially the more seminal acts, your favorite album tends to be the first one you heard. It certainly is the case with me. Rush? Grace Under Pressure. Iron Maiden? Powerslave. Slayer? Haunting the Chapel. But there’s one band where that theory doesn’t apply at all.
When I was 12, I had a harsh introduction to metal before I even started listening to it. Moving from a tiny isolated little town to a small city more than 10 times bigger might not seem like much, but in early 1983, I was a kid who had never heard never heard FM radio in his life, who grew up in a place whose only record store was a single rack of LPs in the back of a sporting goods store. So, during those bewildering first few weeks in a new junior high, I was floored by all the kids wearing baseball-sleeve shirts featuring a) garishly designed logos of bands I had never heard of, and b) some pretty darn scary artwork. Back then, there were three very popular shirts at school: one that said “Bark at the Moon” by some fellow named Ezzy Esbourne (that’s how I saw the logo), one that had the enigmatic phrase “Piece of Mind” with “Iron Maiden” down the sleeves and a wickedly cool monster on the front, and a particularly menacing one featuring a crazy robot eagle with a band name that sounded badass, and for a Catholic school kid, kind of blasphemous: Judas Priest.
I would quickly learn the name of the album that had the crazy robot eagle (Screaming for Vengeance), and like everyone else, would quickly become familiar with the album’s big single, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” A year later I had given in fully to the lure of heavy metal, partially for its rebellious nature, partially to escape the hell of school, devouring any new heavy music I could borrow or afford. For all the great bands I discovered in 1984 (Maiden, Slayer, W.A.S.P., Ratt, Twisted Sister), when it came to Judas Priest, Screaming for Vengeance just didn’t click. Defenders of the Faith was the record that won me over, but as the years wore on, I still could only stomach two, maybe three songs from Vengeance, despite the fact that so many people of my age group cited it as their favorite Priest album. But it wasn’t until my late 30s when I came to the realization that, yes, Screaming for Vengeance does indeed suck.
A lousy album can have a great song or two on it. It’s happened plenty of times before (Bark at the Moon, anyone?), and it sure happened in this record’s case. In fact, when you consider Vengeance’s influence on a generation of metal fans, I’ll even go as far to say that it ranks as one of the most top-heavy albums in heavy metal history. Two songs are classics. That fact is not debatable. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” is the kind of gloriously dopey anti-authority anthem that kids fall for every time, not to mention a perfect pop single from start to finish. “The Hellion/Electric Eye” (I refuse to call them two different songs) is probably the smartest song the band has ever written, with lyrics that temporarily ditched the clichés in favor of themes that feel both perceptive and prescient. One other, the vicious “Riding on the Wind,” is nearly as brilliant, although Rob Halford’s vocal phrasing after the 2004 reunion is actually superior to the original.
After that, though, the drop-off in quality is staggering, and many of the tracks totally fly in the face of the popular notion that this was Judas Priest’s big return to full-throttle metal. “Bloodstone” is on total autopilot, featuring one of the more boring choruses in Priest’s discography. “Pain and Pleasure” might play up Halford’s S&M image, but it’s far from edgy, a flaccid, hookless exercise that felt tacky even more than 25 years ago. “Fever” is pure AOR schlock tarted up with heavy metal adornments. Steve Perry and Journey might have been able to take this rote rocker and sell it better, but Priest sounds absolutely unconvincing, borderline uncomfortable.
Songwriter-for-hire Bob Halligan, Jr. would eventually pen some unforgettable metal classics including Helix’s “Rock You” and Priest’s “Some Heads Are Gonna Roll” on Defenders of the Faith, but not before contributing a patently forgettable tune in “(Take These) Chains,” a saccharine love song that remains a very awkward fit alongside the rest of the album. “Devil’s Child” is just plain moronic. What the hell does Halford even mean by, “Eat my diamonds?” Plus, “I believe you’re the devil, I believe you’re the devil’s child”… well, Rob, which one is it? It can’t be both! And don’t get me started on the title track. “Screaming for Vengeance” might have a decent riff, but it’s totally ruined by the single worst vocal hook Halford has ever recorded. “Hook” is actually too generous a word, as the chorus contains one of the most repellent melodies Priest have ever written.
After Defenders made me a Priest fan for real, as my peers continued to heap praise on Vengeance , I soon discovered that 1981’s Point of Entry, not the most well-received album of Priest’s classic era, is so much better than Vengeance. How could they create such gorgeous, classy rockers like “Desert Plains” and “Solar Angels” and then lose their way with garbage like “Fever” and “(Take These) Chains)”? Hell, I’ve played “Heading Out to the Highway,” “Don’t Go,” “Hot Rockin’,” and “Troubleshooter” more in 27 years than anything on Vengeance, save for “Electric Eye”. Those who are closely attached to Screaming for Vengeance, I can definitely understand. It was probably their introduction to the band and today it brings back fond memories of the most exciting era in heavy metal’s history. That’s wonderful. They can listen to it all they want. I, on the other hand, after writing this piece, will go back to ignoring this horribly overrated record. That is, until the world wets its pants over its 30th birthday, when I’ll probably be respectfully restraining myself from declaring that Screaming for Vengeance is awful for the bazillionth time.