I think the best riffs and the best songs come when you’re jamming and having a good time. Scott Ian

A lot of people try to be serious about music. In my opinion, that’s missing the point. I got in to metal because it was the first music I heard that had energy and sounded fun. It made me smile then and still makes me smile today. If your taste in music isn’t making you smile, you need to find a new genre to listen to. Music doesn’t have sound happy, but it should definitely be making you happy.

Pleasant surprises

One of the joys of living in today’s world is the ready availability of new music via the internet. All one has to do is Google a band and odds are there are multiple entries available to listen to for free. As a man who has fought against technology for much of his life, i have recently learned to embrace this gift and use it to educate myself regarding the myriad of metal bands I see mentioned online daily. There have been quite a few surprises this past week, bands that I simply didn’t take time for in the past have raced to the front of the pack for me. Here’s a few choice bands:

Kreator- This German thrash band never made it on my radar. I had heard a song or two over the years, but after giving them a second try, I have to admit there is real talent here. It’s a good thrash sound that could rival the Big Four. Check out their HORDES OF CHAOS album

Carcass- I had erroneously assumed this was another Black Metal band (no offense to BM fans; it’s just not my bag). Man, I was way off. I gave their HEARTWORK album two full listens and realized these guys mean business. Great production and fantastic guitar tone hooked me in, then the quality of the songs finished me. “Carnal Forge” is a personal favorite.

Vintersorg- I am not a Black Metal fan, but I have an online friend who is an avid BM devotee. I generally read his statements, log them for trivia use and move on. My past BM experiences have been disappointing, with poor production, buried vocals and tinny sounding guitars. This band was much different, almost Prog in sound. Clean vocals and orchestrated songs created a sound I was not prepared for. I have listened to Odemarkens Son several times now and if all BM could sound like this, I would be a convert.

There have been a few others, but those are the highlights from this past week. Thanks to YouTube, I was able to expand my horizons from the comfort of my home and place a few more bands on the calendar to see live, should they make it to Atlanta.

I encourage all of you to take advantage of what resources you have. I have talked with people on Facebook who bemoan the lack of a metal community in there locale. Create one. Thanks to the internet, there is an almost unlimited resource of music available. Share it with your friends. Sure, the big name bands may not come to your area, but that doesn’t have to prevent you from spreading the word about your favorite bands.

Until next time, horns up and have fun, that’s what it’s all about.

PS: A big hello to my new readers in The Ukraine and The Philippines. Keep your metal flag flying!

For me, I’ve never talked about my private life. It’s always been about Black Sabbath. It’s strange to open up and talk about me as a young lad, my relationships, marriages and what not. Tony Iommi

In today’s world, we often feel entitled to know every detail about the lives of our heroes. We forget that reason we liked them in the first place was the music. This leads to disappointment when we find our favorite artist has different political views or likes a different flavor of ice cream.

Keep it about the music and flow with the rhythm.

I went from being a kid-kid, listen to everything from The Beatles through Kiss, Peter Frampton, Jethro Tull classic rock, classic stuff into immediately, it seemed like, Iron Maiden and stuff like that. The first Iron Maiden record and then, obviously, the first Metallica record. -Phil Anselmo

We all have to start somewhere. Instead of making fun of ‘scene kids’ who windmill instead of moshing and who don’t listen to your brand of music, why not guide them deeper into the metal world? I started with Def Leppard in 1983. I moved on to different bands, but I had help finding bands that fit my style. Bashing people for being new to metal helps no one. Guide the newbies and scene kids along and you may very well be helping to create the next Phil Anselmo.

Delays and false starts

It’s a cold and rainy day here in Georgia (the one in the western Hemisphere), perfect for the doom and gloom metal I tend to favor. Unfortunately, I’m not listening to any right now. I’m listening to the clothes dryer tumble my work clothes dry and my three dogs snore in a rhythmic combination that is more amazing than annoying. I’ve spent a good portion of the morning trying to think of a topic to discuss and it keeps coming back to old tired horses: trolls and metal elitists, the state of metal today, the need for older bands to politely step aside and allow the new bands to have a fighting chance. All are topics I’ve written about before, which makes me wonder if I’m a boring and repetitive guy (I am, but don’t tell my wife; I have her fooled).

On the topic of trolls and elitists, they are here to stay. If you are active online, you have undoubtedly encountered one or two or a hundred of these wastes of oxygen. You know the type: there’s a thread happening and everyone is enjoying it and suddenly King Troll pops in to say how much the band sucks, how they don’t care who likes them and how those who do like the band are idiots. As an administrator for several fast growing metal groups online, I have tried multiple ways to deal with them. I have invited them to politely discuss their opinion, which usually gets me called names and I boot the troll. I have invited them to not comment on that thread and to find a thread they do like. This usually gets me called names and I boot the troll. As of late, I have found it’s just easier to boot the troll and don’t waste the energy on talking to them. Maybe I’m wrong. I’ve been wrong a lot in my life and I’m ok with owning that, but in this case, I’m doing the easiest and fastest thing to restore order to the group (one group is almost 12K users and growing by 300-500 members weekly; order has to be maintained).

As for the state of metal today, I think it’s vibrant and growing. It’s true that metal bands are being forced to use do it yourself tactics to survive, but they are doing it well and I see a lot of bands that are thriving. The metal festival and touring festivals that seem to be the bane for online elitists are giving bands exposure for decreased financial outlay and it’s a win for fans, as well. Internet piracy is still hurting the recording industry, but most metal acts I have talked to are touring more and selling more merchandise today than before the scourge of online piracy hit them. It’s still a hard life for many and many bands live day by day, show by show, but quite a few are doing pretty well. I do think the days of the millionaires metal star are over, but I think there is enough money to go around for bands willing to work for it.

On the topic of older bands stepping aside, I’m torn. A few months ago, i was adamant that the dinosaurs of days gone by needed to retire and let the younger bands step forward. Now, I see the void that would be left and the disservice this could be to younger bands. Older bands often take newer acts out on tour with them, giving them exposure they could never hope to achieve on their own. Also, there is very limited record company promotion for newer bands. As a result, these bands don’t have the drawing power the older bands have, resulting in smaller audiences, smaller paydays and a harder life. I still think some older acts do need to fade away. It’s painful to see guys in their late 50’s and early sixties trying to preen and strut like they did 25 years ago. But, as long as there’s an audience, these guys will keep touring (it’s a business with no real retirement plan).

I suppose this has been one of my less exciting blogs, but it’s allowed me to knock some mental rust off and maybe encourage some of you to get active in your own metal community. I was talking this morning with a person on facebook about the lack of a metal community in their part of India and how they are trying to generate excitement. Oddly enough, a person from rural Indiana chimed in and said they, too, lacked a metal community. For some reason that struck me as odd. I suppose it’s easier for me to think of other countries as metal hungry, but I forget there are parts of the US just as starved for metal music.

I am going to close now. My dogs are whining to go out and I need another cup of coffee. I’ll renew my efforts to review albums, discuss concerts and help fly the metal flag. I hope everyone has a great day and horns up!

Concert Review: Machine Head 01/25/2015 at the Masquerade in Atlanta

It’s taken a week for my hearing to return to normal and for there to be a a moment to write this review. Coincidence? I didn’t think so either. Here we go…

I will start with a confession: I wasn’t the biggest fan of Machine Head prior to this show. I liked a few songs, but they were easily dismissed from my playlist if I needed space on my phone. Plus, Rob Flynn’s latest interviews seemed a lot like a teen girl screaming for attention. I bought my ticket because I wanted to be able to say I had gone and not much more. Man, I was in for an experience.

My buddy, Matt, and I headed down early. I figured doors would open at 7pm, show would start at 8pm and we’d be home before 11pm. WRONG!! We paid the $5 for secured parking and i opted to not bring in a jacket, remembering the heat at the Periphery show only a few weeks earlier. It was a bit of a mistake, as we ended up waiting in line until 750pm. Doors were open, but for some insane reason, ticketholders were not allowed to enter. So, we stood in line and talked metal with other guys. There was the 40 year old preppy, with his Ralph Lauren attire and clean shaven face, who loved thrash. There was the businessman from Conyers who was psyched to be able to see his favorite band. There was the group of Slayer/Pantera shirt wearers who where stoked to talk about Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. There was the small contingency of hot women in fishnet stockings and short leather skirts who never joined our conversation, but were still nice to look at.

We made our way in and checked out the merchandise table. The merch guy had zero sense of humor and wasn’t fun to talk to, but the shirt I picked was a quality item and I’m happy I got it. Matt and I made our way to the front of the stage, only to be blocked about fifteen feet from the front by the other attendees. I warned Matt that we were at Ground Zero for the mosh pit. We then waited.

And waited. And waited. The crowd went through several chants of “MACHINE F***ING HEAD”, none of which caused the band to begin the concert. No, we stood there until approximately 9pm before the first note was heard. The packed room was hot and filled with a crowd that was turning ugly (except for the women in fishnet hose. They remained gorgeous). Finally, the band hit the stage. Within seconds the pit started. I was in the center of a violent storm.

I’ve moshed with an increasing frequency, but decided rather quickly that I had no need to be in a pit that night. There was a black guy that was around 6’3″ and 350lbs. He had a look that reminded me of a black, morbidly obese Hannibal Lecter. I honestly believed this man would like to enjoy my liver with a side of Fava beans and a nice Chianti. I made one run through the circle and fought my way out. I would be taking my liver home tonight, no matter how cowardly that may be.

The band was amazing. Everything I had believed was missing on their studio cuts was slapping my face repeatedly. The crowd was alive with violent energy and the euphoria of each soul was electric on the air. My hearing was nearly gone by the time we got to “Locust”, but that’s ok. The volume was plenty for an old deaf man to still enjoy the show. And what a show it was! From opening with “Imperium” (my personal favorite) to hitting “Ten Ton Hammer” (another fave), it was nonstop adrenaline. Rob Flynn was a true gentleman. He honestly thanked the crowd for their energy and told some great stories about the band’s early tour stops in Georgia. His demeanor was one of gratitude and I found my prejudice towards him melting away.

Machine Head played a blistering fifteen song set and left a war zone in their wake. Matt and I rode home with no radio accompaniment. We were both still on an adrenaline high and knew we had been part of something special.

I go to a lot of concerts, but it’s rare to find one that provides such a satisfied feeling. There was frustration, heat and lots of elbows. My hearing was shot, but it didn’t matter. I was part of something great and I knew it. The car rolled on.

A big thank you to new readers in France and Poland. And a continued thank you to my regular readers around the world! Knowing I’m helping someone have a better day makes my rambling all worth while.

First album, side one, track one

As I perused the the social media pages this evening, I found it filled with stories from my Deadhead friends, recalling their excitement of shows gone by and displaying their excitement for the “Dead Reunion” scheduled for this summer in Chicago. Stories of dope deals gone wrong, misplaced money, broken relationships limping along and all the other typical verses from songs of days gone by were there.

I was never a Deadhead. I own a few of their albums and enjoy their music, overall. Some of it makes me jump for the fast forward button, but I have that same reaction with certain songs from Metallica, Megadeth, Motorhead, Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, etc. All except for my own band that I’m eager to see one last time, if only to say my own goodbye from 200 feet away. There’s one band that I will complain through the songs, but typically skip the tracks.

I became a fan of this band after hearing about them from a friend at church. This was early 1980s and a lot of hard rock was impossible to sneak past Mom. Led Zeppelin still was preached against. Judas Priest called sacrilegious. Iron Maiden was deemed offensive by my parent due to the NUMBER OF THE BEAST album title. And Sabbath? forget it. But, Rush was a name that was hard to find fault with. This was the time period before their popularity hit it’s current mega levels and only nerds and outsiders admitted to being Rush fans. I fit right in. The friend from church drifted away after a year or so. But, the one thing he left me was interest in a band i had never heard. I bought PERMANENT WAVES simply because a geeky kid told me they were good. I was hooked before I put that cassette in the player and heard the opening to “The Spirit of Radio”. By the final notes of “Natural Science”, I was a full blown fanatic.

I’ve seen them twice. It honestly should have been a lot more, but I was stupid. I took the band for granted, like that friend that always answers when you call. I saw them in 1984, my first rock concert. It was amazing. I could bore you with details, but the reality was that Geddy could still hit the high notes, Neil still performed his drum solo in YYZ (not as a separate song) and Alex could rip the doors of the place with his solos.

I saw them again in 1994, after ignoring them in 1992. I was in my blues phase pretty heavy then and went to see Rory Block do a fantastic set of acoustic blues for 200 fans. It was good, but I still hate missing Primus and Rush on the same ticket. Anywho, in 1994, it was amazing. I was 23 and on that magic night, I got to relive a moment from ten years earlier as I screamed the songs at the top of my lungs.

I had to work in 1996, the next tour I had to work, etc. Neil’s tragic personal losses nearly finished the band. They bounced back and toured again. My ex-wife had reasons for me not to go see them. They came again and I missed again. The last tour, I planned to go and sit on the lawn and enjoy my favorite band from my youth. I remember getting mad about the ticket prices, getting mad at Ticket master fees and staying home. Yeah, that showed them. I’m sure they really missed my presence.

I’m going this May to say goodbye to three wonderful men who touched my life without ever meeting me. I never tried emulate them (though I have finally mastered “What I’m Doing” on the bass). I have little interest in their private lives. I have no delusions of wanting to follow them on tour (ala Deadheads) or trying to meet them. What would I say? “Thanks for the music”? No, not my style. Or bearable for my checkbook.

No, I’ll sit on the grass on the lawn with a bottle of water and close my eyes and listen. I’ll drink heavily of those pumping bass lines, snare shots, and high register guitar licks. I’ll smile. I’ll sing along and enjoy. When the night’s over, I’ll be able to put the “What if” questions of the shows I didn’t attend to rest. I’ll drive home happy.

I’m finding my way home, back the band started my love affair with music.