Archive for the 'Metal' Category

30
Jan
12

Marilyn Manson “Born Villain”

I’m not a Marilyn Manson hater. I believe that he… she?… came along at just the right time in American social strife. He was weird, he was the next evolution of shock-rock. Nobody understood where he was coming from with his songs and his look. He freaked the hell out of Republicans and he freaked the hell out of Democrats. He was an unknown quantity that was only labeled as one thing: a freak. He was the perfect scape goat for a tragedy he had nothing to do with and he has seemingly faded to his rightful place in the memory of Columbine.

But now he’s back with this new album and I have to say. I am not impressed. His earlier stuff was listenable. The albums Antichrist Superstar and Mechanical Animals were iconic, from the songs to the album covers. Which riled everyone’s mother up. He disputed god, he hated religion, he hated the establishment, he was everything teens wanted to hear because let’s face it, as a teenage boy, you’re angry at everything.

He pandered to his crowd, shifting to a message of rebelliousness and how hard it is to be a teen. How people seem to look down on you for your age. How nobody stops to try to understand you and you feel like you’re living in a hell of eternally having to flip burgers.

We related to that as teenagers.

and latex, we all relate to latex

But he doesn’t have much of a crutch to stand on now. He didn’t take the quick and easy route (as did one, Skrillex) by switching his musical style to the fad of the generation.

I’m just not impressed by this. It’s all about self deprivation and abuse. It’s about things that a guy who’s sold well over 5 million albums in the United States alone has no right to be talking about. You wonder why nobody knows or cares what happened to Good Charlotte? Because 1) they were terrible and 2) their credibility went out the door when they became millionaires. That’s what tends to happen with these sorts of bands and male divas. They’re only sustainable for a couple of albums before their popularity and wealth spoil the message. They’re no longer in touch with the audience that received them so well.
I don’t mean to preach, but Manson should know that he’s not creating any new fans with the new album. He’s not even retaining old ones with it. Just take your show on the road and keep playing the life out of “Personal Jesus” and “Rock is Dead.”
You were a martyr for the late 90s. The shift that seemed to come too swift with that Colorado high school. You were the sign that the media has become too big and overbearing on our lives. That politicians were morons for blaming you. You were the only positive thing to come out of that whole story, stop trying to live up to it with titles like Born Villain and be just that. You’re too self aware and it bores me now.

2/5

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01
Dec
11

Last.fm

In the digital age we live in music has excelled, not beyond anything we thought it might become, but in how it’s delivered to us. The past 20 years saw the decline of the cassette tape, compact disc, and physical formatting is now all but dead.

So as physical media phases out we turn to more convenient ways of obtaining music (not always done legally now is it?) from services such as Morpheus, Kazaa, Limewire, and most famously: Napster.

So we learned that the RIAA severely dislikes not making money on album sales… so we downloaded even more, torrenting sites becoming more and more popular, The Pirate Bay, for example.

Now I don’t know about you, but in my education I’ve found out that artists usually sign a contract and make most of their money up front. A label will give you, say, $2 million, to buy equipment, record, produce, create music videos, and finish an album. How much of that gets spent on production is usually at the band and manager’s discretion. They are then, most of the time, offered some ridiculously low royalty percentage that means even less after you divide it up between band members and management.

So artists generally don’t make that much off of album sales, but usually off of touring. Ever notice that’s why Bruce Springsteen doesn’t seem to give a rat’s ass about putting out new albums but will sell out stadiums on a yearly basis? Or that U2’s music has been in steep decline since the late 80s but still manage to have gigantic concerts where they rake in obscene amounts of fans a.k.a. money? (And they don’t even pay taxes to the Irish government!)

Before my tenure at Hi-Fi started I was dealt several cease and desist letters for uploading music just to my former blog’s domain just for personal use. Talk about touchy by the record companies!

So where’m I going with all of this? Well, today’s digital music playground is found through music streaming services such as Spotify, Grooveshark, iTunes, SHOUTcast, Pandora and the least famous… Napster.

I’ve tried using all of those, and iTunes, while on my home computer is fine, because I have my library there too, is not viable on the road. With the rest of these you can build and tag artists/genres you like, but c’mon, that’s a huge hassle for us to list all the bands we like and may have an itch to hear.

Last.fm takes care of that. They have a nifty piece of scrobbling software that will record what songs/artists you play the most, it even makes charts! But by far the best thing is, is that you can take your library with you wherever you go. For free. They offer your library streamed to you, they also offer your library with suggestions for similar artists. Which keeps the likes of Maroon 5 the hell out of my easy listening playlist and doesn’t turn me into a fit of rage.

So, if you’re going places, constantly on the move and let’s say maybe you’re trying to preserve some hard drive space, Last.fm is the way to go, take your own music with you and still gives you a taste of similar artists or you can just play a channel as you would on those other streaming sites.

It gives you everything… and what’s yours.

29
Nov
11

Opeth – Swedish metal fun!

Recently during the wee hours of the morning when I was having trouble sleeping I decided to check out my list on Tivo of shows that I randomly decided to record and check out later; one was another installment of the 2011 Sonisphere concert.  I had seen the past installments with Slayer, Anthrax, Metallica, and Megadeth but not some of the lesser known acts.  For example, this particular artists featured this included Sum 41, Cavalera Conspiracy, Diamond Head, In Flames, and Opeth.  To be fair, these are not household names around the halls of HiFi Central, but perhaps they are in your abode.  Clearly they are “popular” to someone otherwise they would have never made the bill for Sonisphere in the first place. 

Out of the fore-mentioned bands I found myself listening to the Sum 41 set, which was more nostalgic than eye opening, the guys are good and still popular perhaps, say in Indonesia these days. Sadly, Sum 41 is not involved in the main music scene in the US these days; an underground fanbase I would assume keeps them alive here.  Sum 41 has not put out any radio worthy music in years; and in some ways reminded me of a goofy Green Day wanna be band on Sonisphere.  I’m sure the shoppers at Zumiez or Hot Topic may think they still are incredible, but here at HiFi Central we use their poster as a dart board and cd’s as drink coasters.

Cavelera Conspiracy had my attention for about 25 seconds and then I quickly found them utterly boring, especially when the lead singer Max Cavelera opened his mouth.  It wasn’t until I realized why I knew the name Cavelera and then zingo – Sepultura!  I always liked Sepultura’s instrumentals but never liked the vocals, hmmm, guess what?  Still don’t! After listening to the reincarnation with Cavelera Conspiracy, it was like trying liver again at 40 – I still think it sucks, sorry.

Diamond Head was merely a special reunion for a 1970’s metal band that some of todays bands merit (Megadeth and Metallica) with being highly influential.  Ok I guess, personally for me it was a bunch of old geezers having a good time and if they played my town I would disregard them as a decent garage band, the music was nothing worth really noting and I pressed fast forward (thank the Lord for TIVO!!!) 

After watching this chapter of Sonisphere 2010 the only bands that stood out for me were Swedish metal bands In Flames and Opeth.  I was familiar with In Flames since they recently had a show locally and I am kicking myself for missing the show; they are REALLY good!   Opeth was a complete mystery to me and I was amazed how good they were.

In Flames and Opeth are equally talented bands and exemplify some of the best Death / Progressive metal coming out of Sweden.  I found myself entranced with both bands sound and vocals;  these bands are accomplished masters of the metal sound and have discovered the ability to make quality music.  In Flames, although very good, is somewhat one-dimensional when compared to talents of Opeth. Opeth is clearly more of  a mix of conceptual progressive rock, death metal, and classic rock.  To make it a bit more precise, it would be fair to say that Opeth is a culmination of Dream Theater, early Rush, and Lamb of God mixed all together to create a tasty goop of hard driving riffs, strong choral arrangments, constant time changes, acoustic breaks, and the occasional growling vocals added at the right times. 

What I think appeals to me most about this band is the variety of music they have created over the past decade, albums range from mellow acoustic arrangments echoing with haunting vocals exemplified by the concept albums My Arms, Your Hearse (1998) and Still Life (1999).  Both albums remind me of an early Rush concept album like Hemispheres, not in the vocals but the story line.  In Still Life a character returns to his town after years of banishment due to his faith, a faith that contrasted with the majority and he comes back years later to find his true love. As the album moves forward it introduces those who originally banished him and the bad things that follow. 

Concept albums can be fun; especially when artists use the songs exemplify the chapters and progression of the character and development of a story as a whole; I think Opeth does a good job in these two albums.  As a sidenote, and clearly coincidental, the album My Arms,  Your Hearse offers three instrumental songs, one is named “Madrigal” (as found on Rush’s Farewell to Kings (1977)) luckily it’s not a cover.  Regardless, I still found this humorous; and “Rush-like” quality can be found on the first song off of Still Life called “The Moor”; very Cygnus-X1-like with a journey of soft haunting guitars setting the tone for a deep story full of twists and turns.

Opeth has been smart not to rely on the same recipe for their albums; they keep to a constant style, yet manipulate the arrangments very smartly.  This constant shift from acoustic to metal can be reflected in more recent albums where a much more hard driving non-stop Death metal style of growling vocals and blistering guitars is introduced sparingly.  I liken their albums to a “metal roller coaster ride”, albums may start off with a soft haunting vocal and guitar backdrop and then transition into fast paced dark anger and fury, then back to mellow.  Much of this style can be highlighted on an album such as Blackwater Park (2001); at the same time you can find a mix of both acoustic melodies and metal offered Watershed (2008).  So far I have found that Opeth put out very solid albums that keep the listener enthralled and not yearning to advance to the next song.  It’s actually more anticipation to see what’s next and I like that.

As much as I want to continue writing an indepth analysis about the the body of Opeth’s work, there is simply too many albums and not enough time for me to fairly be overly critical  (positive or negative); however, I can say with great conviction that from what I have heard so far, I am very impressed!

 This band is clearly on to something and I can’t wait to see if they ever have a show in HiFi Central’s hometown of Albany, NY.  If you are interested in learning more about Opeth see if you can snag their Still Life album as a starter; Still Life is one of my current favorites.   If you have seen Opeth or like their music please drop us a comment, we’d love to hear what you think.  If you have not heard them before and decided to check them out via this blog, please let us know if we made a good suggestion or whether we suck at making suggestions.

10
Nov
11

11/11/11 – Nigel Tufnel Day!

Don’t forget that although November 11th is primarily observed in the United States as Veteran’s Day, it will also be the one-time only celebration of Spinal Tap’s Nigel Tufnel Day.

The next time to see this rare happening (like a comet) will be in 2111!

Please take the time tomorrow to reaquaint yourself with the cult classic and pay homage to the only true metal rock god who’s equipment (custom made of course!), goes to “11”.

If you are not aware of what I am talking about please click here for the classic scene.

04
Nov
11

Gwar Guitarist Found Dead on Tour Bus

From Billboard (who probably has the best summarization up so far:

Metal’s most theatrical band is suffering a loss today. GWAR guitarist Cory Smoot — known by the stage name Flattus Maximus — was found dead by his bandmates this morning (Nov. 3), as GWAR prepared to cross the Canadian border for a stretch of tour dates. He was 34.

In a statement first released to the blog MetalSucks and later confirmed by Billboard, GWAR leader Dave Brockie (aka Oderus Urungus) wrote: “It is with a sense of profound loss and tragedy that the members of GWAR must announce the passing of their long time guitarist and beloved friend Cory Smoot, also known to thousands of metal fans worldwide as Flattus Maximus. Cory was found deceased this morning as the band prepared for a border crossing. There is no word as to the cause of death and the members of GWAR are completely shocked and devastated that this has occurred.”

As for the Richmond, Va. act’s future plans, Brockie wrote in his statement: “At this point there is no word on arrangements and the disposition of the remainder of GWAR’s current North American tour, nor are there any details regarding long term plans. At this point we are just dealing with the loss of our dear friend and brother, one of the most talented guitar players in metal today. We ask that our fans and the media be respectful of our request for privacy for those that have suffered this terrible loss. A full statement will be coming in the next day or so, in the meantime please give your thoughts and your prayers to Cory, his family, and all the people that love him.”

According to GWAR’s rep, no additional information surrounding Smoot’s death is yet known.

The guitarist joined the Grammy-nominated band in the role of Flattus Maximus in 2002. As for the man behind the red face and dreadlocks, Smoot operated his own music production company/recording studio, Karma Productions, where he mixed, engineered and produced for the likes of GWAR, Skeletonwitch (“Beyond the Permafrost” album) and Municipal Waste.

Born Aug. 25, 1977, Smoot previously played in metal bands Misguided and Locus Factor and continued to play with Mensrea, in addition to establishing his own solo endeavor, the Cory Smoot Experiment.

We here at Hi-Fi are shocked and saddened that this happened. I, however, am a little peeved that they’re continuing the tour as planned…

29
Sep
11

Show Review: Primus in Albany 9-27-11

The Palace Theater in Albany took a trip back to the 60’s last Tuesday night, as Primus brought their psychedelic stage show and unique set list to New York’s capital city. Many knew that the San Francisco-based band was going to perform two sets of music, but no one could have predicted how bizarre, trippy, and ultimately amazing their show would be.

Greeting the audience’s eyes upon entering the theater were two giant inflatable astronauts on either side of the stage; it was a harbinger of the zaniness to come. Primus hit the stage to thunderous applause, and bolted right into one of their oldest songs, “Groundhog’s Day.” Bassist Les Claypool, guitarist Larry LaLonde and drummer Jay Lane sounded absolutely precise and sharp. And as I had hoped, the band was not content to just play the studio version of the song (or any songs in the first set for that matter) – they fell into a funkified jam that stretched the song out to a good ten minutes or so before the hard-rocking finale. Talk about setting the mood – Primus had the crowd bouncing all over the place and the show had just started. The rest of the 55-minute set (a little too short in my book, but I can’t complain) featured some great older tunes, including three off their lesser-known “Brown Album”: “Duchess and the Proverbial Mind Spread,” “Golden Boy,” and “Over the Falls.” All three tunes featured ridiculously intricate bass playing from Claypool, and while none of the songs are real hard-rockers, they fit into the show’s psychedelic theme perfectly.

During the entire show, multi-colored lights drew abstract, ever-changing shapes and illuminations around the stage and into the theater. Coupled with the creepy old man’s face that graced the front of those astronauts’ helmets and the insane video clips playing behind the band, Primus truly created a wormhole back to the acid houses of the 60’s – if you’ve seen clips of Pink Floyd during the Syd Barrett years, Primus’ show takes that and modernizes it into today’s technology. During many of the instrumental portions of the songs, Claypool would spend a lot of time watching the video screen and eyeing the trippy light patterns splashed throughout the art-deco theater’s interior.

Other tunes from the first set included the impassioned “Pressman,” the dark childhood tale of “Mrs. Blaileen,” and the popular, high-energy “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” The set closed with one of Primus’ absolute best songs “Over the Electric Grapevine.” This song really played into the psychedelic nature of the show, and it was a joy to hear.

Continuing with the insanity, the intermission featured several old Popeye cartoons playing on the video screen. These were the Max Fleischer cartoons from the 30’s – so very strange, yet clever and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny; it was a great way to kill the time waiting for Primus to return.

And return they did. They proceeded to do something that I don’t think has been done very much at all in recent history, apart from a few instances: they played their brand new album, “Green Naugahyde,” in its entirety. The only times I can recall a band doing this would be when Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” came out, and Queensryche’s “Operation: Mindcrime.” Bands have covered albums plenty of times, but unless I’m mistaken, it’s extremely rare for a band to play their new album in full. I reviewed “Green Naugahyde” last week, and in said review I hoped/predicted that playing those new songs live would breathe new life into them, as the album is ok, but seemed constricted and average. Luckily I was correct, and while the band didn’t necessarily “jam out” a lot of the songs as with their first set, playing the album live gave me a new appreciation for it (though some of the songs still rank as mediocre in Primus’ anthology). Claypool brought out the stand-up bass for several of the songs, playing it with a bow as he drew crazy sounds from the effects box the bass was routed through. The highlights of the set were “Last Salmon Man,” which allowed Claypool to really showcase his immense talent as he wailed on the bass for an extended period; “Jilly’s on Smack” features a great little riff from LaLonde over Claypool’s very dark bass groove, with Lane tapping away at his kit. The bouncy “Lee Van Cleef” featured video clips of, well, Lee Van Cleef from his classic western films; for “Green Ranger,” Claypool donned his creepy pig mask as he filled the room with trippy bass grooves. “Extinction Burst,” my favorite from the album, did not disappoint as the band created a sonic convergence of Primus’ old and new sounds. The other notable occurrence was during “Eyes of the Squirrel” – the video kept repeating psychedelic images of squirrels, which were so scary that, had I been more under the influence, would have made me piss myself.

The trio closed the show with two marvelous songs, “Southbound Pachyderm” and “Winona’s Big Brown Beaver.” The former dove into a dark, trippy jam punctuated by the surreal image of an elephant bouncing on a trampoline; they pushed the song out to a good 8 or 9 minutes. And the latter sent the audience home with a spring in their step, so to speak, rocking out the funky tune with tons of energy.

Primus has always been unique, left of center, skewed – people either “get” them or they just think they’re weird and silly (which they are, but so was Frank Zappa). I have been a fan for over 20 years, and seeing them in concert now is so different than seeing them in 1991 or 1994, or even 2004. Claypool has really embraced the impact a show can have – the focus is always on the music, but the entire experience is enhanced by everything else going on around it. Primus fans are avid and overflowing with enthusiasm, and the band is more than happy to reciprocate.

Primus at the Palace gets 4.5 out of 5 stars!

22
Sep
11

Album Review: Primus – Green Naugahyde

This is not your father’s Primus. Your father’s Primus was an oddball funk-metal band with head-banging riffs and rump-shaking grooves. Today’s Primus is a bit mellower, more skewed toward a zany jazz-fusion sound, but still retains their musical complexity and irreverence. After an 11-year hiatus from studio recordings, the San Francisco Bay-area band has just released Green Naugahyde, with Larry LaLonde on guitar as always, Jay Lane – the original Primus drummer – back in the band, and the band’s leader and arguably the best bass player around, Les Claypool.
Claypool definitely leads the charge on this new album, writing all the lyrics and his voice doing more “talk-singing” than actual singing, with the vocals often sent through a sound effects box of some sort. The bass grooves are undeniably Claypool – he uses a lot of effects for that as well, but his funk-jazz sound is unmistakable. The album starts off with a little prelude that segues into “Hennepin Crawler,” a funky rock tune that lets you know that Primus is back. While Claypool has taken his signature sound and applied it to his other projects (Flying Frog Brigade, Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains, solo albums, Oysterhead), there is no mistaking the sound of this trio. LaLonde’s guitar sound is instantly recognizable, though he doesn’t get a lot of chances to really wail away on this album. “Last Salmon Man” continues Claypool’s tome of fishing-themed songs, this one commenting on the diverting of water from northern California to other parts of the state. Claypool’s lyrics, while often silly and bizarre, can sometimes be politically poignant, as in “Eternal Consumption Engine,” a weird Willy Wonka-esque tune about our society’s never-ending thirst for more and more stuff. Primus’ rock sound returns in “Tragedy’s a’ Comin’,” with Claypool slapping his bass with funk ferocity. The other album highlights include the jaunty little ditty “Lee Van Cleef,” referencing the actor from old westerns like “High Noon” and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”; “Moron TV” is a fairly benign attack on the current state of television programming – Claypool really wasn’t going out on a limb here. “HOINFODAMAN” showcases Claypool’s affection for Frank Zappa, both musically and politically. Claypool has always shied away from mainstream pop culture trappings, and the evil corporate music machine, much like Zappa. “HOINFODAMAN” is an indictment of artists who sell out for fame and fortune – Frank would approve. The band saved the best for last on the album with a tune called “Extinction Burst.” This song more than any of the others has more layers and explores some longer grooves.
Overall, I was a bit disappointed with Green Naugahyde. Following Primus’ last release, an EP entitled “Animals Should Not Try to Act like People,” and the subsequent tour, it seemed that the band was incorporating a more “jam band” style, in that they would stretch out their funky grooves and wailing guitar work, rather than keeping the songs nice and short. But this new album seems very constrictive – it almost feels like the band is playing inside a tiny box and has no room to really break out into some great song space. Their sound has always been completely unique, creative, and truly “alternative.” But this album pales in comparison to most of their other recordings; I did not expect the metal-driven sound of the “Frizzle Fry” album, or the hardcore funk of “Tales from the Punchbowl,” but taken as a whole, the album is pretty mundane for Primus. LaLonde rarely gets a chance to really let loose and shred some solos, and Lane’s drumming, while extremely well-suited for the album’s sound, seems tempered and delicate, with none of the explosiveness from the band’s earlier efforts.
I’m still looking forward to their upcoming live show, as I’m sure they will take that opportunity to breathe some new life into these songs, along with playing a lot of the old stuff (they’re doing two full sets of music). Perhaps, like most jam bands, Primus is becoming a band where the studio albums are of minimal importance, and the emphasis will be on touring and putting on a stellar live show. We shall see.
As I mentioned, the sound of Green Naugahyde is unmistakably Primus, and that’s still a good thing.
Green Naugahyde gets 3 out of 5 stars!