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Archive for August, 2010

The Terrible Airplane, 2013 (2010)

The Future Is Now

The Terrible Airplane is a two-piece band from Kansas, formed by brothers Mark (guitar, vocals) and Todd Woolard (drums).  Their newest release is the full-length album 2013, on which they ply a somewhat unique blend of 90s-styled noise rock with post-hardcore flourishes and a taut, instrumental minimalism.

The vocals affect a number of different styles throughout the record, from a very loose 1990s rock croon, to a more impassioned tenor pitch occasionally reminiscent of Mike Scalzi (of the Lord Weird Slough Feg and Hammers Of Misfortune), to an impressively throaty hardcore bellow.

The instrumental approach seems to have the greatest affinity for the Amphetamine Reptile school of noise rock, flitting between straight-ahead rock and slightly angular metallic riffing.  Imagine the sounds of Helmet, Unsane, or even Melvins and The Jesus Lizard (albeit at their least bizarre), and you’re well on your way to grasping the sound of The Terrible Airplane.

Still, we’re not talking about some nostalgia act, here.  The band are at their best when taut, tension-building instrumental sections proceed measuredly, twitchingly, to their inevitable metallic payoff.  These sections work not by virtue of instrumental virtuosity (you’ll find no fretboard fireworks here), but rather through the patient pacing of their minimalist attack.

A few places on the record even approach the dynamics of everyone’s favorite post-metal luminaries such as Neurosis and Isis, although the muted production keeps the sound closer to the rock/hardcore side of the auditory continuum.  This is the case on “Projected Trajectory” and, especially, the 9+ minutes of “Efficiency Deficient,” the latter of which is, for my money, the best song of the bunch.

As far as other individual songs go, the vocal chants in “Television” show The Terrible Airplane at their most Melvins-ish (think especially of the double-tracked vocals throughout much of Melvins’ recent album Nude With Boots).  “Radio Song,” at a mere 1:30, is clearly intended somewhat ironically, though the fact that it sounds like nothing else so much as Soul Coughing attempting a cover of Nirvana circa Bleach muddies the ironic waters more than a little.

Moments like this inform one of my main criticisms of this record.  Every now and then, such as on “Radio Song,” and, particularly, the mellower sections of “Roleplaying the Audience,” the band veers too close to the blandness of 90s alternative rock for my comfort.*  This only crops up occasionally throughout the album, though, so it remains something of a minor nuisance.

One of the strongest showings on here is the relatively brief instrumental “Pandameet.”  Its sinuous take on song composition works very much to its advantage, jumping back and forth between off-kilter and straight-ahead rock rhythms quite deftly.  In general, however, I think the band is at its most effective when they really stretch out, as on the above-mentioned “Efficiency Deficient.”  The tune starts off noisy before falling back into a ruthlessly minimal quiet section, and eventually crashes its way back with waves of slow, crushing stomp.  It’s at moments like this that I really want to hear things through a fuller production (adding a second guitar wouldn’t hurt, either); this song could be absolutely fucking massive, where here such potential remains somewhat implicit.

This is a very strong showing from a promising band.  For the most part, their songwriting weaves together some very disparate strands of rockish skronk, hardcore bluster, and carefully apportioned metal.  My own preference would be to see these guys take their metal even further into METAL territory, leaving behind some of what sound to these ears like 90s anachronisms.  Nevertheless, their instrumental attack is, as I keep rambling on about, incredibly taut, and they have a very persuasive grasp on tense song dynamics.  Plus, their whole album can be streamed here, so really, what the fuck are you waiting for?

I, for one, would like to see some of the potential energy here go kinetic, because that shit could EXPLODE.

Overall rating: 70%.  Compact noise rock sparks with carefully contained metallic undercurrents.
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* For the record, this ‘blandness’ is quite effectively dispelled by the live version of “Roleplaying the Audience” also available on the band’s Myspace page.  Dudes are loud enough on record, but live, the loudness is louder, the drums crackle as they flail about, and the hardcore vocals rattle the ribcage.  Do check it out.

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Nails, Unsilent Death (2010)

Quiet Unlife

Okay, sure, so Nails may be one of the more hyped bands of 2010.  Thing is, I was pretty much oblivious to all that hype, and just stumbled across this album at the record store a few weeks back.  I had just read the news item that Nails had just signed to Southern Lord and were going to be reissuing this album, so I figured, why not pick up a copy of the Six Feet Under CD issue?

Holy shit, does this record smoke.  I suppose the complaints about calling a 13+ minute release a ‘full-length’ are valid, but they sort of miss the point.  And in fact, when these dudes get around to putting out another release, I think that will be the real test of their skills, because while this release is nearly perfectly crafted for its running time, it remains to be seen how this sort of material will be handled over a longer expanse.

Stylistically speaking, this record takes a little bit of everything nasty and grimy, throws it in a concrete blender, and lobs noise grenades unmercifully in your general direction.  Sure, it’s a bit grindcore, but more like old Napalm Death grind (circa From Enslavement to Obliteration, say) than any of the more modern crop of death/grinders (Pig Destroyer, newer Brutal Truth, Disfear, maybe even fellow Southern Lords Black Breath, and so forth).  It’s also a little bit crust, more than a little bit hardcore (this is Todd Jones, ex- of Terror, after all), with a bit of bruising sludge tossed in the slower parts of the two lengthier tracks on display.

Listening to the album, though, doesn’t make it sound quite as much like a convoluted mash-up as I’ve just described it.  One of the greatest things this album has going for it is its sense of fluid motion.  The three-piece careens from one song to another with great finesse, while keeping the whole affair swathed in a gooey, rattling production, rather like fighting with a badger inside of a dumpster.  They also use guitar feedback quite effectively, either in tight, staccato bursts, or as a way to transition between songs.

Also impressive is their ability to write actual songs, even crammed into 30 or 60 second bursts.  “Scum Will Rise” is one of the most effective tunes on here, blasting through an identifiable verse-chorus structure before locking into a pummeling breakdown for its final ten seconds.  It’s precisely the sort of breakdown that metallers lacking in self-confidence might look askance at, but it’s still far from hardcore thuggishness, so breathe easy, friends.  No one will look down on you for stomping around like a maniac.

The guitar tone verges on the classic Swedish death metal sound, but it twins very nicely with the thick, dirty bass tone.  In terms of composition, the bass typically follows or doubles the guitar, meaning the songs aren’t generally very intricate, but exceedingly powerful and driven.  The title track is a nice example of this, with its sullen, stomping death march feel.

I do hesitate to describe this as grindcore too much, but “Scapegoat” definitely shows Nails at their most Nasum-esque, while a song like “No Servant” is a bit more straight-ahead hardcore/metal with a slightly Slayer-ish guitar solo.  Closing track “Depths” might just be the best one here, with its doomed-out opening riff playing like their own filthy version of Black Sabbath’s classic tritone.  The tune later breaks into some classic d-beat drum patterns, and eventually sludges its way to an equally doomed-out close after wrecking nearly everything in its path.

The album has a very nice sense of symmetry in its ‘sides’, with each batch of five songs blasting through four short, fast crust/hardcore/grind/death/whatever tunes before closing out with a longer, sludged-up capstone.  I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, as it gives the album a sense of thoughtful unity, rather than just a bunch of pissed-off tunes slapped together.

All in all, this is some fierce, filthy noise, and Nails are definitely a band to watch.  As I said above, I’ll need to see what they can do on a 25 to 35-minute release before I’m thoroughly convinced, but Unsilent Death is ample cause to be excited for whatever it is that Nails do next.

Overall rating: 78%.  Nothing much new, really, but sure as hell kicking the shit out of the old like it’s going out of style.

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If you’ve ever spent much time writing album reviews, chances are you already know how much your appreciation of a record can change across multiple listenings.  I don’t think there’s any great rule to follow about how many times one ought to listen to something before trying to say anything reasonably articulate about it, but it’s also pretty safe to say that if one bashes out a review before the album has even passed the finish line, shit ain’t right.

This isn’t a lecture, though.   Maybe what online music journalism needs, in fact, are interpretive haikus, stream of consciousness fits of creative nonfiction, and album reviews written matter-of-factly about music which either does not exist, or has not been heard by the writer.  That’s your own business.  (Actually, now that I think about it, writing Reviews Of Nonexistent Albums sounds like a possibly worthwhile undertaking…)

I’ve been wondering, though, just why it is that our first impressions often change so much in the fullness of time.  Sadly, I’m sure many times, it’s because our first impressions are later realized to be out of step with the general consensus, and so we either consciously or subconsciously alter our opinion accordingly.  Still, even the most genuinely hermetically walled-off of us have been there.  We find that we are not the stolid rocks of constancy we once thought ourselves to be, and that even We, the cosmically ordained, are not impermeable in the face of the wending shuffle of time.

I’d like to propose a little diagnostic of the various ways in which, it seems to me, our opinion of an album can change from first to later listenings.  I’ve offered a few examples of my own under each category only by way of illustration, but I’m curious to see if there isn’t something systematic about these different types of records which leads them to be first and then later impressed upon us differently.
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Type 1: “The Winner”: Albums that you love when you first hear them, and which you continue to love subsequently.

– This is a pretty straightforward category, and obviously has very little to do with changed opinions.  Still, you know the type.  You spin it once, think, “Shit, that’s awesome!”  Then, you keep spinning it, and it just gets better and better.  I suspect most folks would place most of their favorite albums in this category, although I also suspect there are some closet Type 4s lurking in there…

Examples:
– Tough category to pick examples for, then, since there are so many albums to fit the bill.
– Doomriders, Darkness Come Alive.  This is just an absolute FUCKING MONSTER of an album that just gets better every single time I play it.  Hardcore?  Rock?  Metal?  Who gives a shit: Doomriders are here to tear you apart.
– Primordial, The Gathering Wilderness.  Basically, nothing can fuck with this album.  Ever.  This is one of the most evocative pieces of music I’ve yet to encounter in the wide world of metal.  Pure class.
– Lurker Of Chalice, Lurker Of Chalice.  I dig most of the stuff that Wrest has put out under the Leviathan name, but the Lurker Of Chalice album just has an atmosphere all its own.  Haunting and haunted, and soothing without being safe.

Do not try to fuck with this.

Type 2: “The Piece Of Shit”: Albums that you hate when you first hear them, and which you continue to hate subsequently.

– This is also a pretty straightforward category.  We’ve all been there, where we play something, suggest to our friends and acquaintances that it sounds like an old dog retching violently onto a turntable playing an old Alvin & the Chipmunks record, and leave it at that.  Days or weeks later, we are subjected again to this execrable document to the miserable state of the human condition, and contemplate inflicting bodily harm on the individuals responsible.

Examples:
– Again, there must be shitloads upon shitloads of albums in this category for me.  Maybe I’ll pick a few slightly less obvious examples, then:
– Suffocation, Suffocation.  I actually like a lot of Suffocation’s other stuff, but man, something about this record just rubs me right the goddamn wrong way.
– Aethenor, Betimes Black Cloudmasses.  Son of a BITCH this record is booooooring.  And it’s not like I automatically slag off anything drone-y or ambient; this one just pissed me off.
– Novembers Doom, Into Night’s Requiem Infernal.  I’m beginning to wonder if maybe this category (Type 2) isn’t especially filled with albums that have disappointed us.  I really liked the two Novembers Doom records which preceded this one, but ugh.  Nothing about this was appealing or convincing.

Hey, guys, that title? Completely meaningless nonsense.

Type 3: “The Jumped-The-Gun”: Albums that you love when you first hear them, but which you begin to hate upon subsequent examination.

– In some ways, this is the most interesting of these categories to me.  This type of reaction is for those albums that really blow you away the first time you play them, but then lose whatever vitality they seemed to have upon further listening.  It seems probable that this category is populated with albums that have some cache of novelty to spend, but seem hollow and insubstantial once that novelty has worn off.

Examples:
– Eluveitie, Slania.  I should have known better than to be impressed by this one, I suppose.  Still, the great glossy production and the superficial sheen of folk instrumentation were sufficient to distract me from the utterly subpar Gothenburg tedium that lurked within.
– Solefald, In Harmonia Universali.  I feel kind of badly about including this one.  I still really like Solefald, honest, I do, but geez, this album just wears on my nerves something awful.  It was the first record of theirs that I bought, and I was totally into it at first, what with the lyrics in like twelve different languages, and the quite off-kilter songwriting style.  The vocal style is what first started to grate on me, though, and now, every time this comes on, I just get bored and want to go fly a kite or something.  I’m much more about The Linear Scaffold these days.
– Megadeth, United Abominations.  I suppose I’m not the only one who got dragged into this.  By this point, I’m just sick of Mustaine in general, but I’ll admit it, I gobbled up this album like crazy when it came out.  I, like many of you, had been horribly burned by Megadeth in the past (Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and so forth), but had pretty much ignored the previous albums that been hailed as ‘returns to form’.  Don’t know why I believed that about this one, then.  I really dug it at first, because, well, you know, it was slightly fast, and had some solos and what not.  Over time, though, and especially with the release of Endgame (which is, scientifically speaking, five hundred times better than this turgid mess), I just cannot abide Mustaine’s self-righteous mumbling about the United Nations, the Middle East, and God knows what else.  Seriously, man: Rust In Peace or get the fuck out.

Not so much with the universal harmonies; sorry.

Type 4: “The Pleasant Surprise”: Albums that you hate when you first hear them, but which you begin to love upon subsequent examination.

– This is sort of the dark horse category, I think.  Every now and then, though, I’ll hear something for the first time that just sounds like absolute garbage.  I’ll shut it off, and maybe even chuck it out, in a fit of disappointed rage.  But then, some time later, it’ll come on again, and somehow I’ll hear it in a different light, and suddenly it clicks somehow.

Examples:
– Akercocke, Choronzon.  So, this is an example of how this categorization isn’t perfect.  Which is to say, I don’t think I ever straight-up hated this album, but I sure didn’t care much for it the first time through.  Over subsequent listenings, though, I came to appreciate it a lot more.  I still think the albums they’ve put out since then are superior – in particular, the magnificent Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone.
– The Ruins Of Beverast, Rain Upon The Impure.  Okay, in all fairness, this one is still my least favorite of the three Ruins of Beverast albums.  Nevertheless, given my slightly disgusting love for the Unlock the Shrine album, my disappointment the first time through this album was fucking massive.  As near as I’ve been able to figure it out, though, my problem was basically with my expectations for the production.  Rain Upon The Impure has one of quietest, most distant sounding black metal productions I’ve heard in some time, which is extremely offputting, unless (and this is a crucial unless) you crank it REALLY LOUDLY.  Doing so finally allowed me to appreciate this album as still quite excellent.
– At The Gates, Slaughter of the Soul.  This is sort of the reverse case as with Eluveitie above.  First few times I heard this album, I wrote it off as a bit dull and not particularly creative.  Maybe I lacked the necessary historical context at the time, or maybe I just hadn’t listened to this album at a sufficient volume.  I’d like to think I appreciate this album exactly the right amount now, which is that this is a complete shit-kicker of an album that destroys anything else in the style.  Unfortunately, the influence of this album has been far more malign than inspired.  Hardly their fault, though.

Survey says: Better than you think!

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Thoughts?  Which albums have you completely dismissed out of hand, only to find out later that you couldn’t bear to do without them?  Or, alternately, which albums are your great shames; y’know, the ones that you loved and loved to death and couldn’t get enough of, and then, all of a sudden, you figure out, “Hey, this really fucking sucks”?

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I’ve been thinking lately about the sheer level of inundation that we followers of music face these days.  In many ways, I think this is a fantastic development, particularly with the healthy state of the underground’s manifold scenes and subcultures.  Maybe, on the other hand, that supposed strength is really just a reflection of the crippling weakness of the traditional music industry.  Important questions, but not exactly what I’m concerned with here.

You see, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that I don’t really know my music all that well.  Sure, I know a whole lot about music, but what I’m thinking is, basically, holy shit, I have got so much different music at my disposal each and every minute of every day that there is no way I can possible distinguish between it all.

To that end, I’m forcing myself to do a blind listening test.  I’ve collected all the metal in my iTunes onto a playlist, and I am going to put it on random, turn off my computer monitor so as to disallow any cheating, and then attempt to identify the first ten songs that come up on the playlist.  Find my running commentary below, with the actual results in brackets below each guess.  See you on the other side.
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1.  So, this is a pretty tasty morsel right here.  When it first played through, I was thinking it was something along the lines of the melodic death metal attack of God Dethroned.  Now that this chorus of ‘Stigma Diabolicum’ kicks in, however, I’m pretty sure that this is Austrian black/death metal horde Belphegor.  Definitely from one of their more recent albums, but I sure as hell couldn’t tell you which one.

I’ll take a stab at it, and say I think it’s from that album whose goddamn name escapes me at the moment, but not the most recent one (Hexenwahn whatever), nor from Bondage Goat Zombie, so their third most recent.

[It was: Belphegor, “Stigma Diabolicum,” but that IS from Bondage Goat ZombiePestapokalypse IV was what I was thinking of, but I was wrong to do so.  Anyway, I’m still counting that one as correct.]

2.  Hmm, I’m at quite a loss on this one.  It starts off with some black noise-ish segments, before kicking into some seriously crypt-kicking production, low echoing death howls, and a generally chaotic riff-and-drum attack.  My best guess is that this is from Weapon’s Drakonian Paradigm album.

[It was: Mitochondrion, “Wraithlike,” from Archaeaeon.  Definitely haven’t spent enough time with that record, but I don’t think that Weapon guess is too far off.]

3.  Son of a bitch this is all going to be embarrassing.  This starts off all jangly and reverb-y, so I’m thinking definitely 90s black metal.  But, shit, those vocals are all death gurgly, plus there’s a total Ihsahn howl in there somewhere.  It’s not Emperor, but it might be one of those classic mid-90s black/death hybrids like Dawn or Sacramentum.  I suppose it’s also possible it’s Naglfar or something like that, but the death influence seems a bit too strong for that.

Fuck, I’ve got tons of wild guesses, but no great ones.  Vocals now sound like Jonas Renske’s on Bloodbath.  Hmm.  Maybe I’m forgetting some old more straight-ahead Katatonia side project?  Anyway, I’m going with my first instinct, which was Dawn, from the Slaughtersun record.

[It was: Aeternus, “Dark Rage,” from Shadows of Old.  So, I was totally on the right track with that ‘classic but underappreciated black/death hybrid from the mid- to late 90s’ jag.  Just turns out that I am no better than all the rest at appreciating Aeternus.  Killer tune, although I prefer their first two records.]

4.  Crazy chamber music intro.  Is this from the new Sigh?  Oh, wow.  Embarrassing.  I’ve just mistaken Serj Tankian’s live, all-orchestral run through of his solo album Elect the Dead for Japan’s finest psychedelic black metal blasters.  Apologies to everyone involved.  Anyway, this, for sure, is Serj Tankian.  Tracks called “Money,” I think.

[It was: Serj Tankian, “Money,” from the Elect the Dead Symphony.  Clearly an unqualified win, there, but I kinda want to shave off some points just for thinking it was Sigh.]

5.  Ah, thankfully an easy one on which I will not embarrass myself.  This is Isis.  Or, at least, this is one of the tracks from the double-disc collection of reinterpretations of songs from Isis’ landmark 2002 (?) album Oceanic.  Couldn’t exactly tell you which track this is, but it’s one of the mellower ones, currently playing around with some nice organ tones, and then throwing Aaron Turner’s hoarse bellows out in the middle of this sparse instrumental expanse.  Very cool to hear this fantastic album broken down into its constituent pieces.

[It was: Isis, “The Other,” as interpreted/remixed by James Plotkin, from the Oceanic: Remixes/Reinterpretations compilation.  Success.]

6.  Whoa, that’s a harsh fucking contrast.  At first I thought this was Ildjarn, such is the hideous level of lo-fi noise emanating from my speakers at the moment.  On further consideration, though, my best guess is that this is very early Emperor, from the self-titled/Wrath of the Tyrant CD reissue.  And yet, and yet…  Damn, I’m second-guessing myself something fierce now.  Nope, sticking with Emperor.  Damned if I know the song, though.  Shameful.

[It was: Belketre, “Demzreyavbtre Belketraya,” from Ambre Zuerkl Vuorhdrevarvtre.  SON OF A BITCH.  Of course there is absolutely no reason for you to believe me now, but up there, when I wrote “I’m second-guessing myself something fierce now,” I absolutely was going to say “This sounds like it could also be some of that LLN stuff, maybe Belketre or Vlad Tepes.”  Fuuuuuuck.  Sorry Ihsahn, sorry Norway, sorry France.]

7.  Man, am I really making a poor showing of this.  At first blush, this track sounds like something tribal-ish and noisecore-y (adjectives are not my strong suit this morning).  Gets a bit more blasting, and then when the vocals kicks in, I’m fairly certain that’s Steve Austin’s coruscating howl, so I think this is Today is the Day.  Now that I think about it, that makes good sense, since I think this is from when TITD had Bill and Brann from Mastodon in the band.  So, again, I’ve got no clue on the track title, but I think this is Today is the Day from In the Eyes of God.  Fingers crossed.

[It was: Converge, “Letterbomb,” from When Forever Comes Crashing.  Wow.  Just, wow.  I totally thought this was Converge at first, but then I gradually convinced myself that those vocals were not, in fact, Jacob Bannon but were, instead, Steve Austin.  Shit.  Still, goes to show that either Converge can pull off some fucking metal sounding production earlier on, or that Today is the Day were never as metal as one thought.]

8.  Extended instrumental intro section makes song identification a bit tricky, folks.  Let’s kick in some fucking metal, eh?  Oh, that was the whole song?  Well, fuck you very much.  I don’t know, man.  I literally have NO CLUE what this is.  I’m also about 100% sure that this is NOT a song by The Ocean, but that’s what I’m going to guess anyway.

[It was: Tombs, “Story of a Room,” from Winter Hours.  Man, that sucks.  I really love that record.  Out of context, I guess it’s a lot trickier to match guitar tone to artist.  Still, I knew it wasn’t The Ocean.  Just had to put any old shit down.]

9.  This is a pretty nimble, black/folk attack.  My first inclination is to go with Borknagar.  Yep, there’s good ol’ Vintersorg.  Pretty unmistakable timbre on that dude.  I suppose this could be Vintersorg (the project) as well as Vintersorg (the man), but I think his solo(ish) stuff never got quite so black as this.  So, I’m going to go with Borknagar.  Let’s see, when did Vintersorg join?  I’m going to hazard a guess that this track is from the Empiricism album.

[It was: Borknagar, “The Genuine Pulse,” from Empiricism.  Awesome.]

10.  This is Mastodon.  For sure.  That vaguely Southern-tinged finger-picked acoustic intro was a pretty fast giveaway.  But, sadness of sadness, I’m wavering as to which album this is from.  At first, I was thinking maybe this was from Crack the Skye, given its quite mellow character.  But, hmm.  Damn, this is shameful.  Still, now I’m maybe 80% confident that this is the closing track from Leviathan, which is called, I believe, “Joseph Merrick.”

C’mon, Mastodon, can’t you help a brother out?  Sure would be nice to close out this cavalcade of fuck-ups and metal failures with an unabashed WIN.

[It was: Mastodon, “Pendulous Skin,” from Blood Mountain.  Sweet fucking houndstooth pajamas.  So, despite being totally dead-on about Mastodon, turns out the two albums I was wheedling back and forth between were both the WRONG FUCKING ALBUM.]

(11.  As I was finishing up typing some of these comments, Mastodon faded out, and in kicks the inimitable vocals of Phil Anselmo from Down’s first album, NOLA.  Thanks, dude, for giving me another confidence booster.  Track’s called “Losing All,” but I can’t claim credit, as Anselmo actually tells you that.)

Okay, now it’s time to turn the monitor back on and see just how shittily I’ve done.
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So, I’m giving myself five out of ten.  I know I had the album wrong on a bunch of those, but I’m pleased enough to have just identified the artist correctly half the time.  And honestly, that’s quite a lot better than I thought I would do at this.

The whole point, though, is not to simply pat myself on the back, or subject myself to an extreme bout of self-castigation.  Instead, I think this is really indicative of something.  Perhaps it’s just me, but I have a feeling that I’m not alone in being in the thrall of the unending pursuit of novelty in music.

I just think, maybe, that it’s time we recognize at what cost this ragged, wide-eyed pursuit must come.

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Yeah, I think I’m going to have to come back with a provisional answer of “Yes, this is the WORST FUCKING SONG EVER.”

At first, I was loath to even include the soul-sucking thing in this post, but figured that, just on the off chance you haven’t been forcibly subjected to it recently, well, I’d better include it for your listening displeasure.

Now, certainly this isn’t the Worst Song ever in any objective sense.  I mean, clearly all of the musicians involved are reasonably competent at playing their instruments.  Clearly, the recording engineer was capable of pressing ‘record’ at the proper time to capture this turgid, bloated mess on tape.  The song has a discernible verse, and chorus, and all those regular song-like qualities.

We could definitely find “worse” songs out there, if we’re looking for amateurish instrumental capabilities, disjointed song structures, poor recording quality, and so forth.  I would even venture to say that we could find songs which are on the order of one hundred times more annoying than this song.

Still, I’m fairly confident in standing by my judgment that this is the Worst Fucking Song Ever.

For a song whose title (and entire conceit) revolves around “flying away,” never have a heard a piece of music which so ruthlessly, endlessly, unforgivingly drags me down to earth, rubbing my face in the harsh light of the reality of just how much it sucks.  Nothing here uplifts.  This on its face is fine; after all, I listen to plenty of downright miserable heavy metal which is intentionally hopeless and misanthropic.  The key word there, however, is intentionally.

This song makes me horribly depressed because it just sits there, limply.  We can call it a ‘song’ only because it matches the skeletal outlines of what we think a ‘song’ needs to be.

Here are a few specific things that just piss me right straight the fuck off about this song:

The drums: Okay, so that’s a pretty dull drum line.  Fine.  Not every song needs a Brann Dailor (of Mastodon) behind the kit.  But what in the name of sweet fucking Moses is up with that obnoxious synthesized hand-clap on beat 3 of the measure?  Nobody’s clapping in the video.  Nobody will clap in the audience, unless you count the barrage of relieved clapping when this Cthulu-esque monstrosity of a song is done violating their ears.

The tempo: This song isn’t fast, and it isn’t slow.  To even call this song “mid-paced” would be an affront to all the perfectly respectable mid-paced songs out there.  I will suggest, instead, that we should call the tempo of this song ‘excruciating’.  Not excruciatingly slow, or excruciatingly fast, or anything like that.  Just, excruciating.  In fact, I can imagine that if you played this song at double-time, it might actually be marginally more interesting.

Or conversely, if you slowed this track down to a funeral doom crawl, then the juxtaposition between the morbidly creeping tempo and the ostensibly flightly, kinetic subject matter might be artistically intriguing.

But, no such luck.  Instead, this song plays like it is sitting on my chest.

The chorus: Son of a BITCH I hate this chorus.  It is the most insipid, uninspired, droning, ridiculous chorus ever inflicted upon a man’s ear drums, and I hate it to death.  It is catchy, I suppose, but so is ebola.  Also, what ever on this whole sweet earth is behind Mr. Kravitz’s decision to, during some of the later repetitions of the chorus (I lost count, but this is probably on like chorus repetition numbers fifty-seven through seventy-four), to, instead of singing, “I want to get away, I wanna flyyyy awaaaaay / Yeah, yeah, yeah,” overdubs himself singing “You” over the second in that string of “Yeah”s?

Did we decide that “Yeah” was too sophisticated a word, especially when thrice repeated, so we needed to change it up a bit?  Or have we just all agreed that nobody is paying attention anymore, what with their brains slowly dripping out their ear holes like cold oatmeal, so that “You” overdub is really like a “Hey! You! Pay attention to my awesome sooooooong!”?

The video: Don’t you have to imagine that in order to get the people in the video shoot to dance like that, they must have been playing them something which was actually sexy?  I mean, if you believe the narrative the video tries to present, play this song for a lady friend and there will instantly appear twelve other lady friends for some serious sexy times.

The way I hear the song, though, if I played it for a lady friend, I think her uterus might honestly DROP RIGHT OUT OF HER BODY.  Which would be okay, I guess, because it would give us something to talk about besides how GODDAMN INSUFFERABLE THIS LENNY KRAVITZ SONG IS.

The bottom line is, this song is absolutely terrible.  It is so single-mindedly dull, bland, and inoffensive that it just about becomes the most OFFENSIVE thing ever to my ears.  I can find basically no redeeming quality in this song, except maybe (just maybe) that when it’s finally finished playing (the YouTube link claims it’s a 3:42 run time, but I swear it goes on for at least two hours), absolutely any other piece of atrocious music in the world that you could think of to play will sound like divine intervention, like the sweetest melodic redemption ever bestowed upon a humble, Lenny Kravitz-suffering sinner.

We’re talking, like, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” becomes Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, here, folks: this shit is THAT SERIOUS.

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Or, “On How I Never Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Commerce”

Friends, did you know that we are living in exciting times?  Why, just this very year, 2010, we’ll be celebrating the 11th anniversary of the release of Dødheimsgard’s 666 International!  Not only that, but we’ll also be rejoicing in the 4th anno since the birthing of Meshuggah’s 2006 re-recorded version of their 2002 album Nothing.

Hell, 2002-2006-2010 means Meshuggah can throw themselves a DOUBLE 4TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY, that rarest of heavy metal occasions.  Truly, these are charmed days.

Okay, so I’m obviously being kind of a dick here.  But here’s why: I’m having just a little bit of difficulty with the whole trend of “let’s celebrate undeniably good or influential heavy metal records at particular milestone years after their release with a whole fuck-ton of tawdry press coverage and nostalgic whinging.”

Cases in point:

2010 marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Judas Priest’s British Steel:

Breaking any laws, or just in bad taste?

Now, I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t celebrate this.  Judas Priest are obviously a massively influential heavy metal band, and for all intents and purposes, this record was their break-through (at least on this side of the Atlantic), with both “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight” being friggin’ enormous hits.  And although Nostradamus probably has more detractors than balls-out supporters, clearly the fact that this band is still kicking, and kicking fair amounts of ass, is well worth fêting.

I just, ugh, this kind of thing gets me all in a State.  I mean, for rabid fans of the band, this kind of thing is always cool, even if it just adds some live tracks, or an alternate take of a couple songs, of a hastily edited video of Rob Halford circa 1980 eating a slice of pizza.  Whatever, I understand that collector mentality.

Still, even though this is being pitched now because of a milestone anniversary, it’s still all so ridiculously arbitrary.  Why not do a deluxe reissue upon the album’s 20th anniversary?  Or wait another ten for its 40th?  Columbia may have well and truly blown its load back in 2001 with the whole reissue series of all the Priest albums from Sin After Sin through Painkiller, so I can’t help but see some of this as just a ploy to repackage widely-available material in the guise of new content.  And that, frankly, gets my ire up just a wee bit.

2010 also marks the 40th (!!) anniversary of Black Sabbath’s first two records, Black Sabbath and Paranoid (which, by my reckoning, also means that this humble year here also marks the 40th anniversary of Heavy Metal itself, but whatevs…):

Evil Mona Lisa

So, what does Universal, or Sanctuary, or whomever, do?  Well, they put out ‘deluxe editions’ of these albums last year.  Meaning 2009.  Meaning on the 39th anniversary, I guess.

Y'know, for longer than I'd care to admit, I thought this cover image was like some fucking bizarre mushroom

So clearly, at this point, I’m just being a complete jackass to just about each and every individual in the record industry.  How rude of me.  Still, even though the Black Sabbath reissues don’t actually coincide with some massive fucking 40th anniversary celebration (although Paranoid was out in September of 1970, so there’s still time), I think my point stands.

Maybe it’s just the case that both the legacy and the musical output of both of these bands have already been fucked around with by as many different parties as possible, with random reissues, remasters, seemingly innumerable versions of Paranoid, and God knows what other sundry shenanigans.  Under those circumstances, it’s fairly understandable that a record label (especially in this current climate of hemorrhaging profits from every orifice imaginable) would try to cast about for any potentially meaningful anniversary or event around which to hang a revenue-collecting opportunity.

And maybe I’m being far too jaded here.  There’s always the argument that these sorts of reissue campaigns are a positive development because they can expose a new generation of heavy metal fans to the foundational DNA of the genre(s) we love so dearly.  Problem is, I don’t put much stock in those arguments in cases (like these) where the music in question was absolutely never in short supply.

I mean, honestly, you could probably punch any random rock radio DJ across this vast bizarre country of ours in the sternum, and out they’d cough at least three copies each (on multiple formats) of “Breaking the Law” and “Iron Man.”

You could try to drive a bulldozer through the wall of your local used record shop or public library, only you wouldn’t be able to, because the combined force of several decades’ worth of accumulated broken dreams and several dozen used-sticker-gel-congealed copies of British Steel, Black Sabbath, and Thriller (because let’s not think the world of pop music is immune to such market-saturating hijinks) would be rubber, and your bulldozer glue, and anyway, you get the picture.

So, tell me.  Where do you draw the line between appreciating reissues/deluxe packages, and violently retching at the mere mention of them?

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Hello, friends.  Not too much is shaking ’round Spinal Tapdance HQ today, but I was thinking that maybe I’d like to send a mixtape to each and every one of you.  But then, of course, real life intrudes.  Logistics, &c.  The mind boggles.

So, please accept this poor substitute; namely, a “mixtape” in the form of a whole mess of YouTube links.  Still, these are some of the jams that have been helping me beat the heat around here.  Enjoy!

1. Amorphis – “The Castaway” (1994)

2. Dream Theater – “Stargazer” (Rainbow Cover) (2009, original 1976)

3. Sleep – “Dragonaut” (1993)

4. Unearthly Trance – “God Is A Beast” (2008)

5. Swans – “I Remember Who You Are” (1989)

6. Devin Townsend – “Material” (2000)

7. Madder Mortem – “Formaldehyde” (2009)

8. Anaal Nathrakh – “Do Not Speak” (2004)

9. Neurosis – “Locust Star” (1996)

10. Nick Drake – “Cello Song” (1970)

Please have a (mostly) Very Heavy Metal Wednesday.

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