Starvation

I was having a music discussion with some fellow metal fans and it became apparent that the metal community definitely defends it’s roots. Metallica’s first three albums, Megadeth, Slayer, Pantera, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Dio and Ozzy are discussed to the point of monotony. It’s a never ending rehash of which of our metal fore-fathers is best, often ending in name calling and the need for apologies. I asked the question that stopped everything cold:”Could you go a week without listening to the bands you listened to when you first got into metal?”

I, personally, find myself listening to about fifteen bands over and over again. I will check out new bands, then reach for Sabbath or Dio. I find it allows me to feel more comfortable with the change new bands and new albums bring. And then there are those classic metal binge days, filled with nothing but Motorhead, Anthrax, Exodus and other bands I have been listening to for over 25 years.

I’m going to take my own challenge: for one week I will listen to no Sabbath, Dio, Ozzy, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Testament, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Anthrax, Blue Oyster Cult, Black Label Society or Rainbow. My favorite fifteen are hereby forbidden to come from my speakers for one week. It’s an experiment in musical starvation. The bands I love and support will have to go one the shelf.

I often preach to others that older bands need to step aside to let younger bands take their places at the head of the metal world. Of course, I say that, only to retreat to my car to enjoy LIVE EVIL or RUST IN PEACE. Hypocrisy at it’s worst. I must atone for my sins.

I challenge you readers to try the same. Look at your most commonly played bands and put them aside for one week. Check out new bands or just different bands There are plenty of older bands who never got their just desserts (Fates Warning remains woefully underrated).

So, as I prepare an album list of Prong, Miss May I, Hellyeah and other bands mostly ignored by That Metal Guy, I mourn my friends being put away for a week. I imagine this next week will be filled with multiple band and album reviews. (I hope this isn’t going to be as bad as when i quit smoking).

Try it yourself. You may discover something you like. Stranger things have happened.

The evil that men do

I’m known as a fan of doom metal, that wonderful styling birthed first by Black Sabbath, now being preached from stages all over the world. There has been a rise in bands performing this wonderfully dismal music over the past few years, seemingly coinciding with Sabbath’s increasing recognition as modern metal’s true father. (Could you imagine Ozzy in a Darth Vader mask, saying to Metallica,”Lars…I am your father”?) Many of these bands lean more to the fantasy side of the lyrical world, drawing from the world of Dungeons and Dragons. I personally love this style. It’s very reminiscent of the late Ronnie James Dio and that’s always a good thing.

However, there are those bands that dip into the darker side of life. Lyrics that are rooted in real evil. No pretend wizards for these bands. No, these songwriters look to the demons that live among us, those wicked individuals that sow fear in otherwise blissful communities. Of these, my favorite has to be The Church of Misery.

I found these guys by accident, while perusing digital albums that were on sale on Amazon’s music site. There, among so many forgotten Norwegian Death Metal bands, was TCOM’s THY KINGDOM SCUM. I gave it a sample listen, decided I liked enough to spend four dollars for it and found myself exposed to some truly terrifying songcraft.

THY KINGDOM SCUM is an homage to some of the worst murderers in modern history, basically taking recordings of their own words and fitting them into musical backgrounds, enhancing their nightmarish existence. This isn’t music for everyone. I only play this particular album on sunny days. It’s that darn good at raising the fright factor.

Musically, it’s fantastic modern doom stylings, straight ought of Japan (of all places). As a long time metal fan (thirty+ years), I often forget about Japan’s love of metal. TCOM reminds me they really do know how to improve on older formulas. Couple it with crisp production and you have yourself an amazingly brutal doom metal band.

As the album winds down, I open the curtains to remind myself the world is still there and the boogie men aren’t lining up in my driveway to brutalize my soul. But, if I ever forget about the reality of horror that some men are willing to inflict on others, I need no more than to give THY KINGDOM SCUM a listen.

Pleasant dreams…

I love to hate you

I spend a decent amount of my free time helping to moderate several heavy metal fan groups on Facebook. Sure, it’s a time waster, but a harmless one. It basically entails approving people for admission, deleting spam and posts that violate Facebook or group rules and making sure internet trolls aren’t disrupting the flow of everyone’s good time. Let’s face it: if you don’t keep it both fun and safe, people don’t come back. As a result of the hard work my fellow administrators and I do, our groups are growing at phenomenal rates. Yay us, right?

The most common thing I see are “bashing posts”, those postings in which someone accuses a band of a) not being metal, b) having been metal, but now are a ‘sell out’, c) a band was metal, still is metal, but always sucked, or d) the band sucks, no explanation why. These amuse and baffle me at the same time. They almost always trail someone’s thread about how they like a certain band. If someone truly dislikes a band, why waste the energy to say so? I have found the tab that allows me to hide posts so wonderfully useful in this scenarios. But, let’s get back to business (before business gets back to me and I have to go work).

I have made a small list of bands most commonly hated by “metal fans”. I put that in quotes because I don’t know these people and I have doubts some of them are really metal fans. But, i’m getting side tracked again (the joys of being an adult with ADD). Here’s the list:

1) Avenged Sevenfold: Affectionately called A7x by their loyal fan base, they are despised by those trying to prove “how metal they are.” They started off very heavy metalcore, but added more melodic songs with each album. Their last album, HAIL TO THE KING, sold very well, the tour was great and it only solidified the hatred certain people have for the band. My favorite argument I see regarding them goes along these lines:

Metal fan 1: Avenged Sevenfold rules!

Metal fan 2: No, they suck!

MF1: How can you say that? They have a string of platinum albums and sold out concerts?

MF2: They aren’t metal?

MF1: Based on what? What makes them something other than metal?

MF2: Your mom sucks, too.

This isn’t an actual clip from an online argument, but it may as well be.

Five Finger Death Punch (or 5FDP) are also high on the list of hatred from those who feel the need to prove how hardcore they are by maligning someone else’s success. Granted, they are producing more radio friendly albums with each studio recording. I’ll share a secret: THAT’S WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO DO. Record companies don’t pay bands to make music for people to NOT purchase. It’s a business. If no one buys your product, you have no business. I personally give 5FDP a big thumbs up. They have sold out concerts consistently, they helped bring Rob Halford back into the spotlight when he was debating leaving music for good, they treat their fans with respect and they produce some pretty good music.

I remember talking with the tour manager for Scorpion Child a few months back (nice guy, by the way; he runs their merch tables. Stop by and meet him at their shows) and he spent five full minutes blasting 5FDP as sell outs. I don’t understand that. Granted THE WRONG SIDE OF HEAVEN Vols. 1 and 2 are bit lighter than I like in an album, they still rock pretty hard. And, more importantly, my wife tolerates them, meaning I can play them in the house and the car with her.

5FDP suffer the same ongoing bashfest as A7x, however. It’s a given that if someone likes Slayer and Pantera, they feel the need to lash out against Ivan Moody and the boys. Sad, very sad.

Disturbed still garners their fair share of disgust from “true metal heads”. I was booted from a metal group for posting a Disturbed video once. I don’t understand they animosity. I’ve seen the band three times and they are definitely metal. They get a bit repetitive at times, but that doesn’t diminish their power. David Draiman has a great voice and they command their legions of fans like an army at war. They got lumped in with other Nu Metal bands and the average black metal/death metal fans can’t abide Disturbed.

A quick side note: what does it say about you if you continue to bash a band that hasn’t produced new music for almost four years?

All That Remains used to carry the troll torch for “true metal fans”. Phil Labonte certainly is not afraid to give his opinion to people and they have seen an increase in success with their (very wise) decision to include power ballads on their records. I have certainly defended ATR as metal in enough online debates to include them on this list.

Evanescence gets thrown into the hate fests unfairly. They aren’t metal. They produce some great and somewhat heavy music, but they are no more metal than my sandals. This doesn’t prevent some slack jawed doofus from feeling the need to bash Amy Lee (a lovely woman with a lovely voice) as the anti-Christ of the modern metal movement.

Metallica surprisingly gets included on a daily basis in the troll parties. No one denies their first three albums are amazing. It’s everything after Cliff Burton died. AND JUSTICE FOR ALL usually gets fair treatment, as does GARAGE DAYS RE-REVISITED, but “the black album”, LOAD, RELOAD, ST. ANGER and all the rest get scorn heaped upon them. They are called the consummate sellouts, the prophets of profit. They divide the metal community they helped create. Not a week goes by where I don’t have to intervene in an argument about Metallica.

There are others. Black Veil Brides and Asking Alexandria seem to be current targets. Not my bag, but my hat is off to anyone who can make money in today’s fickle music market. I suppose my question is why the need to bash someone else’s opinion? Does it go inline with the false sense of security and power people receive from hiding behind a computer screen? Does it stem from a lack of personal self esteem? Or, as it was said so eloquently on THE SIMPSONS almost 20 years ago, is it because some people are just jerks?

I encourage debates and sharing of opinions. If we were all the same, the world would be boring. But, be nice. The world is getting smaller and you never know: that kid you just cyberbullied over liking Black Veil Brides might be the guy who helps you off the floor at a Lamb of God show.

Burning down the house (no, it has nothing to do with the Talking Heads)

This past Friday I once again got to enjoy the blessings of living where I live and doing what I do. Several months ago I scored a ticket to see Mastodon, with Gojira and Kvelertak, at the Tabernacle in Atlanta. At roughly $45 after fees, it was on the top end of what I’m willing to pay for a ticket. I’m glad my desire for live metal won out over my frugal nature. It was quite the show.

I left home early, calculating extra time needed for gas, bank run and traffic. I had not added in the insanity of Atlanta Friday evening traffic. After passing FOUR accidents on my way, I feared I would be late for the show and be forced to see the bands from the rafter seats or the back of the room (however, truth be told, the upper balcony seats at the Tabernacle are fantastic). The traffic gods smiled upon this weary traveler (ok, ok, it was only 25 miles) and I made to Luckie Street (actual name The Tabernacle is on) in good time. After passing ridiculously priced parking lots, I made my way to my usual deck and paid the $5. I walked confidently to The Tabernacle…only to find a line wrapped around the block. It appeared my confidence was a bit premature in it’s appearance. I got in line and feared poor seating (The Tabernacle is general admission).

The doors opened and the line moved quickly into the venue. Younger fans made their way to the merch tables to load up on t-shirts. The bars began pouring rivers of beer for college aged guys and older metalheads alike. Would be moshers made their way to the stage, to be as close to the action as possible. I would normally follow them, but knew I wanted to have a better experience than being jostled all night. I made my way to left side window well.

As I have written about before, The Tabernacle has two fantastic window wells beside the bars on either side of the stage. They follow the rise of the floor and once in them, the patron is elevated about three feet above the crowd. This was to be my perch for tonight’s festivities.

While waiting for the show to begin, I noticed the new monitors the Tabernacle had thoughtfully added to help those in the back view the show. They were displaying upcoming concerts and safety announcements. “No Smoking”, “The 1975-SOLD OUT.” That had me weeping for the future. I’ve heard the 1975. They suck donkey balls. Anywho, the ads kept coming. Nothing interesting, until I saw the Tabernacle had banned moshing and crowd surfing. I chuckled to myself. Being a veteran of many, many metal shows at this very venue, I knew that was like asking a fish not to swim.

Kvelertak’s appearance on the stage interrupted my laughter. I had never heard them before that night. I figured it was another time waster band, those bands designed to make you feel like you saw more entertainment than you really had, justifying climbing ticket prices. I was wrong. That’s right, you heard it here. That Nerdy Metal Guy admitted to being wrong. Kvelertak blew me away! I was beyond pleasantly surprised. I was elated. Their triple guitar attack, interweaving to create a groove through the listeners brain, entranced me. I couldn’t understand a single word the singer uttered, but his voice was powerful and hypnotic. He could have been telling me to drink high fructose corn syrup for all I know, but he was freaking amazing at his job. (Downside: he spits. A lot. I have a rule: spit on me and I’m knocking your teeth out. This made me glad I was in my perch, a good thirty feet from the stage. He kept performing and I enjoyed the show without going to jail.) Kvelertak played a blistering 35 minute set that had me headbanging with my fist in the air the entire time. I put them on the list of bands to watch for return shows.

The crowd was reaching capacity limits and my bladder began to beckon that it might be a good idea to visit the lavatory. I ignored it. If I had been there with a group of friends and had means to reserve my spot, that would be one thing. Being a lone wolf, I was forced to guard my territory. I fretted over this dilemma for a few minutes, when Gojira hit the stage.

I became interested in Gojira after Jason Newsted mentioned them on That Metal Show. Definitely not to be taken lightly, Gojira is a mixture designed to stimulate the brain as well as the fist. Complex rhythms mesh together to ensnare the listener and capture them before they realize it has happened. This was to be quite the sight.

That Nerdy Metal Guy must admit, I have no idea what the names are for the majority of Gojira’s songs. I typically listen to them while driving and while i own three of their albums and keep them in heavy rotation, it ends there. I have no setlist to provide readers. I can say they did L’Enfant Sauvage (the song, not the album in entirety), but it ends there. I can, however, say they controlled the room. Taking cues from the immortal Ronnie James Dio, they made everyone feel important, from the kids in the front to the stragglers in the back. They held the crowd in the palm of their hand and rewarded everyone for laying down their hard earned money. My favorite memory of the night was looking out at the crowd, a see of horns pumping to the music. I swear, Joe Duplantier could have commanded the crowd to pick up the building and carry it to France and they would have done it or died trying. (Should Gojira come to your town, GO! You will not be disappointed)

Gojira played for just shy of an hour and in the break between bands, my bladder began to remind me that it was not to be ignored. I looked around the room and debated giving up my prime spot or risking an embarrassing incident. My bladder was silenced by the appearance of Mastodon.

I am a pretty big Mastodon fan. I dig the complexity of their songs, the intellectual lyrics and the fact they are from my hometown of Atlanta. I own all their albums and the are in frequent (daily) rotation on my i-phone. I was…a little let down.

I’m going to give the guys in Mastodon a break. It was hot and crowded. I needed to pee pretty badly and was also a tad hungry. And, I had been listening to LIVE AT BRIXTON a good bit and was wanting a live recreation of that. That’s not what I got.

They are a damn fine band. Tight as a tick on a drum. But, the set was heavier on songs from the latest album (understandably). I wanted “Curl of the Burl” and “Dry Bone Valley.” I was to be disappointed. “The High Road” was fun and “The Motherload” sounded great. “Once more ’round the Sun” had my fist in the air, but I found the heat, the crowd, the slower paced songs and the pressure in my bladder to take a group toll and I made for the restrooms.

The Tabernacle has restrooms upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs are located off a great room that houses merch tables, bars and food vendors. After emptying my bladder for what felt like fifteen full minutes, I made my way to the bar and had a non diet friendly Coke and a soft pretzel. There are large screen TVs showing the band in the room, so i missed very little of the concert. I noshed on my pretzel and sipped my Coke and relaxed in the absence of 4999 other bodies being pushed together around me. I made my way to the merch tables.

I am well known to my friends as a concert t-shirt junkie. However, as my income has decreased and my bills increased, I now find it insane to pay $40 for a t-shirt. I had checked the websites for both bands and found I could order shirts from both bands for less than they were charging for a single shirt, and that included shipping!

I did see the merch guy for Kvelertak. I’m a sucker for good jokes and he had a sign saying “I tell jokes for tips.” I dropped $5 in his jar and he came to life. He told five of the funniest, dirtiest jokes I have heard in a while. As I have readers of all ages, i’ll not repeat them here, but definitely have some zingers for the next boy’s night out. I thanked him and returned to the ballroom.

I took a spot in very back and found the view was actually good. I caught the last three songs, the heartfelt thanks from Mastodon for making their homecoming a sold out extravaganza and I made my way out.

As I drove home, I pondered this show, my change of opinions for all bands involved and my desire to see more bands live. I realized I made the mistake of having expectations with Mastodon. My expectations of Kvelertak where very low and they blew me away. My expectations of Gojira weren’t much better and they were fantastic. My expectations of Mastodon were for them to play exactly what i wanted to hear and I ended up let down. They played stuff i liked, but I wanted a live replication of LIVE AT BRIXTON. That was unfair. I instead need to go in without the expectations. Enjoy this show as different and new. Let it flow with it’s own energy.

And so i encourage everyone to flow with their own energy and enjoy the beauty of the new experience. Good night.

Worth the wait

Last month I got to fulfill a life long dream: I got to see Blue Oyster Cult live. This may not seem like a big deal to folks who know them only through their handful of radio hits or the (hilarious) Will Ferrell “More Cowbell” sketch. However, for a guy who has been listening to them for thirty (yes, THIRTY) years, it was a big deal.

Blue Oyster Cult (BOC for short) never quite got their due, in my opinion. Dismissed by critics as biker rock, they never got recognized for their ability to easily move between musical styles, from jazz to prog to heavy metal without difficulty. Lyrics based in science fiction, fantasy and even classic fiction wowed listeners and painted amazing pictures. Buck Dharma’s smooth guitar playing gets over looked on every “best guitarists” list. Sure, I’m biased by thirty years of fan-dom, but if you give them a chance, I’ll be proven right.

Anyhow, after missing multiple chances to see BOC over the years, I finally scored tickets to see my heroes at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta (a fantastic small club with fantastic acoustics and not a bad seat in the house). Tickets went on sale the same time as Garth Brooks tickets, causing Ticketmaster servers to crash right and left. It took an hour, but I succeeded in scoring two tickets. I was as giddy as a schoolgirl with a crush, or so I assume. I really have no idea about that, so I’ll say I was as giddy as a middle aged man with two tickets to BOC. Next step was to convince my wife to accompany me.

I waited for her to take a bath, cutting down on her ability to run from my onslaught of BOC songs to woo her with. I played “Burning for you”, “Don’t fear the Reaper” and “Godzilla” for her. She nodded approvingly and I again became giddy. I had a date with a beautiful woman to see one of my all time favorite bands.

I could go on about date night (a nice walk through Little Five Points, sushi and other bits of fun), but let’s move on to the show. Tiff and I arrived early, good thing, as there was a long line to get in. I was amazed at the size of the crowd. I love BOC, but their days of being a big draw are long gone, which led to surprise for me. I was also quite surprised by the age of the crowd. Without exaggerating, the average age of the crowd had to have been 58. There was an army of gray haired, pony tail wearing men with BOC t-shirts and Members Only jackets (I didn’t know they were still available). One wizened little guy had a small BOC flag he waved throughout the show. Needless to say, it was not the crowd I was expecting at a show for hard rock/heavy metal legends.

Tiff and I took comfortable seats and prepared for the show. The opening act was not horrible, but easily forgotten. Each song sounded the same, was overly long and when they ended their set, I politely applauded but wasn’t sorry to see them go.

It was during the opening act that the major annoyance of the night would appear: security was tight for this show and there was a no photo rule in place (nothing had been posted, so I’m not sure where this came from). If an audience member dared to check their phone, security was in their face immediately, demanding they put the phone away. As a guy who honestly gets a kick from taking crappy pictures with my phone, it was a shocker. I ended up snagging two pics of BOC at the end of the night, but would have loved to have filmed the show.

Blue Oyster Cult was quite fantastic. They didn’t disappoint when it came to whipping out the classics. “Don’t fear the Reaper”, “Godzilla”, “Cities of Flame” and “Burning for you” all made their appearances. I was more impressed by the lesser known songs they whipped out. “The Vigil”, “Then came the last days of May”, “The Golden Age of Leather” and “I love the night” all made appearances. It was quite fantastic. I even found myself embracing “Shooting Shark”, a song I have never cared for. Live, it gained a new flavor and I found myself playing it repeatedly for days after the show, wondering what changed my opinion.

“The Red and The Black”, “ME 262″ and “Hot rails to Hell” made fun and nostalgic appearances. Quite frankly, the entire night was a dream come true. I would have loved to have heard “ETI”, “Veterans of the psychic wars”, “This ain’t the summer of love” and “Joan Crawford” live, but I can’t complain. The boys did an 11 song set with a three song encore, with multiple extended solos by all band members excepting Eric Bloom. I felt fully satisfied,

In the days after the show, I created a new bucket list. Black Sabbath, Motorhead, Iron Maiden, Alice Cooper, and AC/DC all own prominent spots on the list. In fact, Should I win the lottery, I will fly around the world to see these shows, though, that would actually reduce the magic. The reality is that part of the magic is having to wait, having to choose which shows I can afford and which ones will have to remain unfulfilled.

I had a friend who saw BOC in the mid 80s, when the original band was intact, tell me I didn’t “really see Blue Oyster Cult.” I disagree. I saw the band led by Buck Dharma and Eric Bloom blow the roof off a small club in Atlanta and make sure my dream became a reality. And that, my friends, is what it’s all about.

Flying High Again

After six wonderful years, my much vaunted Toshiba finally gave up the ghost. Actually it was murdered in a conspiracy involving an 80 lb moronic dog, a cup of milk and a sofa. The details aren’t important. It’s dead. After too many weeks without a laptop, I am back. Thanks to the nice people at newegg.com for getting it here ahead of schedule.

So much has happened since my last entry. Work changes (I went from being a boss to a peon and am MUCH happier now), health changes (back on my diet and am MUCH happier) and picked up some new music (and I am…you get the point). Life going forward smoothly and I am enjoying every second.

I’ll write later about the Blue Oyster Cult show a few weeks ago. Also, Mastodon/Gojira are coming up next week, there’s a slew of albums to review, some gaming blogs to write, the ongoing debate as to see Slayer or not, the debate between to going to see Opeth/Red Fang/In Flames or to go see NonPoint (NonPoint is leading right now), Clutch coming…lots to discuss.

I hope everyone is having a happy Halloween. I’m having a blast sitting on my porch, listening to some classic Black Sabbath and passing out candy (and maybe exposing them to metal for the first time).

Time for GODZILLA. Enjoy!