Saturday, November 24, 2007

Down Concert Review!!!



Bands: Down

Venue: The Music Box Theater at the Fonda, Hollywood, California

Date: November 23, 2007

I had five days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and there were a few concerts to choose from over the weekend. Even though I had to get up really early on Saturday for an unrelated matter (Malibu was burning yet again when I woke up the next morning), I chose to see Southern sludge masters Down, performing by themselves, at the Music Box Theater in Hollywood on a chilly Friday night.

I arrived an hour and half early to dutifully take my place in line, as this show appeared to be high on everyone’s priority list. After making my way into the theater (an old theater near the corner of fabled Hollywood and Vine), I was hoping that Down’s set would begin promptly at 8:30 PM as indicated, but by 9:15 PM or so, the capacity, general admission crowd was getting a bit antsy. Finally, the house lights come down, only for the crowd to be presented with about 45 minutes or so of film from Down’s tour of Europe. Interspersed with some of Down’s tour bus antics was plenty of archival footage of old bands from the 70s including rare concert footage of pre- “Alive” Kiss, Free, a Deep Purple clip from the California Jam in 1974, Thin Lizzy, Black Flag (I’m SURE that Henry Rollins was in tonight’s crowd, although I didn’t see him), Lynyrd Skynyrd, and a rendition of “Hole In The Sky” by Black Sabbath. Interesting, but I was really getting antsy by this point, as was most of the crowd. Finally, around 10 PM, to thunderous applause, Down takes the stage.

Immediately, the floor crowd really starts to move as I hurriedly snap video and pictures from my phone while dope smoke is blown in my face and Jagermeister is dumped all over me. I’m having a marvelous time! If you check out the videos, you’ll see that I’m getting shoved around all over the floor. From the get go, it’s obvious that the negative experiences of the last few years have changed, at the very least, Phil Anselmo’s approach to the crowd. Back in 2004, during Superjoint Ritual’s set in Southern California on the Ozzfest tour, Anselmo spent most of the time insulting everybody. Not so tonight. Throughout the entire set, especially during “Learn From This Mistake”, he made a point of addressing each section of the crowd, mouthed the words “I love you”, and made appreciative bows and gestures to the crowd. Other highlights from the set included “Ghosts Along The Mississippi”, “Mourn”, “I Scream”, and all of the classics from “NOLA”.

Ultimately, Down would perform a nearly two hour set, but, unfortunately, I had to depart after about 75 minutes or so. Although disappointed that I had to cut my attendance short, this was still a great show and well worth it.

Here are some photos...









The t-shirt haul...



And the videos...

First, the introductory footage...



Here's the crowd really moving...



"Learn From This Mistake"



Next up is the Death By Decibels tour on 12/3 at the HOB WH!



Here's a rip from Charnel Valley



Sorry, song removed.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Because I'm a perfectionist...

Frankly, I'm a total idiot. Every now and then, especially if I'm in a hurry, I'll make a grammatical error on a review and I won't catch it until after the review has been published. This has lately occurred with distressing frequency, namely with my recent reviews of "The Challenger" by Intronaut and "RE:BEL" by Infected Malignity. Rather than endlessly bug the Hell out of Steve to make corrections, here are the reviews without error...

Intronaut- The Challenger

(Translation Loss Records)



Los Angeles- based Intronaut is a progressive/ ”post core” band on par with some of the work from such notables as Neurosis, Isis, and, to a lesser extent, The Dillinger Escape Plan. I have to admit that my exposure to this genre is rather limited, although I do enjoy some of the Isis that I’ve heard over the years. “The Challenger”, released on Translation Loss Records, is essentially an EP with three originals, five live tracks, and a re-mix.

Although they’re from L.A., this is my first exposure to Intronaut. As I said, though, this genre is somewhat off my radar. At any rate, Intronaut’s version of “post core” is a bit more dissonant and generally faster-paced than the Isis that I’ve heard, with some frenetic, all over the map riffing, shouted vocals that almost segue into metalcore, time changes galore, moments of weird, jazz-like meanderings and interludes, and plenty of progressive song structures. At times, Intronaut is quite far away from the shoe gazing tendencies of Isis, The Ocean, and so forth, and is much closer to, say, Meshuggah.

As far as I am concerned, this is essentially a full album since there’s not much difference in the quality of the production and the musicianship from the three new tracks to the five live tracks; that is, the live recording is so well done that it might as well have been in a studio. The remix is a re-working of “Burning These Days” from the band’s “Null” EP. Not having heard the original, I have no basis for comparison, but the style is much more subtle and introspective than the rest of the songs appearing on “The Challenger”.

Certainly, Intronaut is an intriguing entry in a genre with which I do not have a great deal of familiarity, and I just might find myself seeking out this band’s other releases.

Intronaut

Translation Loss

Infected Malignity- RE:BEL

(Anticulture)



This really took me by surprise. A year or so ago, I wrote a review for the debut full-length from Japan’s Infected Malignity, entitled “The Malignity Born From Despair”. A powerful slab of brutal death metal that is evocative of the loosely defined Texas- style, I gave “The Malignity Born From Despair” a very positive review. Naturally, I was quite pleased to find the band’s second full-length, entitled “RE:BEL” from the U.K.’s Anticulture label, arrive in my mailbox.

I immediately spun the album (actually more of a long EP, consisting of only six songs), expecting an all out blast. Nope. Infected Malignity have totally switched gears and have considerably softened their sound. In my mind, things start to go wrong from the get-go as the first track, “Waltz Of The Rebellion”, begins with acoustical guitar that gradually segues into, I hate to say it, melodic metalcore. The remainder of the tracks pretty much fit the same bill with plenty of moments of guitar melody, the odd breakdown or two, shouted vocals, and occasional bursts of speed combined with some fast riffing that is a bit all over the map. The brutal death metal of previous releases from Infected Malignity is nowhere to be found, although the vocals still have an occasional deep growl thrown in for good measure.

My response to “RE:BEL” is one of disappointment for two reasons. Although I’m not one to fault a band for branching out artistically and trying a different style, the fact is that Infected Malignity was a promising brutal death metal act. Certainly, the potential was there to become a giant in the genre and Infected Malignity may have missed their chance. Secondly, although, frankly, the six songs in the new style are well written and rather interesting (for metalcore), the musicianship of Infected Malignity is outstripped by the top acts of the genre. Given that metalcore (and the somewhat related deathcore) is overloaded with bands with technically accomplished musicians, Infected Malignity have an uphill climb on their hands as the flashes of technicality on “RE:BEL” are rather few.

It is with some regret that I cannot recommend “RE:BEL”.

Infected Malignity

Anticulture

Here's a recent rip from Polish death metal band Mutilation. A great, meat-and-potatoes death metal act that has been quiet since their last full-length from 2004, Conflict Inside...



Sorry, songs removed.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Meteoric Rise...

Wolves In The Throne Room has taken a giant leap forward into the zeitgeist cultural consciousness with an article appearing in Slate Magazine. Slate is a major political journal founded by liberal columnist Michael Kinsley, who was once a heavyweight regular on political "talking head" shows in the United States. Recently, Wolves In The Throne Room perfomed in the woods near Santa Cruz and the performance was covered by Slate.



Actually, I ran across a link to the article while reading the Washington Post this evening, rather than from Blabbermouth or BW&BK. I'm not sure if either of those metal news sites have picked up the article.

You can read the article here.

Wolves In The Throne Room also continues to grow in my consciousness, as well, as I have been mentally formulating my Top Ten List for 2007. I haven't written anything down, as of yet, but I find myself thinking about "Two Hunters" often. Certainly, I welcome any of your thoughts regarding the top albums for the year...

At any rate, the flattering begins with another eco-tinged, atmospheric black metal band from the Pacific Northwest, that being the well regarded Blood Of The Black Owl...


Sorry, song removed.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

RIP Bob Muldowney. A Tribute.

Bob Muldowney, founder of the enormously influential pre-Internet 'zine Kick*Ass Monthly (KAM), died on November 5 at age 44.



Muldowney's writings were enormously influential to me beginning in about 1983 or so when I was 14-15 years old, and just beginning to discover the metal underground. Although I'm not entirely certain, I believe that my first introduction to classic bands such as Sodom, Hellhammer, Bathory, Medieval, and Destruction occurred in the gritty, typed pages of the old black and white version of his 'zine (essentially a blog). I distinctly remember a photograph of Tom G. Warrior wearing the barabrian helmet appearing in the magazine, as well as drawings such as some skinhead with an inverted cross for an earring next to an article about Destruction and so on. Needless to say, I became a huge fan of his writings and I eagerly searched the local record stores every month early in high school for the intermittent appearances of the magazine.

Muldowney had this personal style that greatly appealed to the anti-conformist kid that I was, as we shared a disgust for posers of any kind. He has been credited for widening the fault lines that appeared around the same time between early thrash/ death/ black metal and the hair/ glam metal scenes, and I eagerly read his magazine cover to cover. I even briefly dabbled in some demo trading through the magazine's classified ads and picked up demos from pre-Death Mantas, Medieval, Sodom, a long lost death metal/ hardcore band called Antichrist (does anyone out there remember this band and a song called "I Like Killing"?!), and many others. The classic "Ultimate Revenge" video at Studio 54, which my friends and I simply could not get enough of (until Craig ran over the tape in someone's driveway at a party), also featured a mention of Muldowney by Tom Araya prior to Slayer launching into a rendition of "Die By The Sword".



Unfortunately, the magazine appeared so infrequently in the record stores (and I didn't really have money for a subscription) that I lost track of the magazine after a few of the glossy versions were published. I didn't hear about the demise of the magazine, and the well-publicized incident involving a poorly received Medieval concert that sparked it, until well after the fact. Kick*Ass Monthly sequed into Metal Forces and, to a lesser extent, Kerrapp! while that magazine actually published decent coverage of underground metal.

Some of Muldowney's descriptions were hilarious and obviously from the standpoint of an eager fan, as well as his penchant for strong likes and dislikes. For example, he constantly derided Mercyful Fate and uproariously referred to King Diamond as Queen Rhinestone (although I disagreed at the time as I liked Mercyful Fate). Conversely, I recall, he greatly championed the cause of Nasty Savage, who turned out to be a huge letdown (my friends and I derisively called the band Nasty Cabbage). I also recall reading in his magazine about some Florida band called Shit-Death and, because my 15-year old mind thought that was the coolest name for a band ever, I drew logos for the band on my folders at school. I ended up never actually hearing any of Shit-Death's music (I don't think that anyone did, anyone remember them?), but that didn't matter to me. With a name like Shit-Death, they had to be good!

Although Muldowney dropped out of writing for the metal scene after he folded KAM, his influence continues to this day.

Secondly, the NY Times just ran an article about Enslaved as they embark on their tour of America. You can read it here.



For Vitek...



Sorry, song removed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Die For Metal!!! Suffocation/ Immolation/ Skinless Concert Review!!!

I know that it's been awhile since I've posted; however, Metal Flows In My Veins is still going strong, as well as my writings for Live 4 Metal. I encourage you to read my latest reviews here and here. In addition, I have a stack of albums THIS high to review. Those reviews will be forthcoming.

At any rate, my concert going continues, beginning with a monstrous show that just occurred...



Bands: Suffocation, Immolation, Skinless, and Warbringer

Venue: House Of Blues, West Hollywood, California

Date: 11/5/07

The absolute elite of death metal in the New York- style invades the still smoldering ash of Southern California on a chilly Monday night at the HOB, West Hollywood, and you had better believe that I was perfectly willing to lose some sleep to attend this one! The triumvirate of Suffocation, Immolation, and Skinless had never appeared on the same bill, so I eagerly made my way out to the HOB through brutal rush hour traffic to catch the four-band bill, rounded out by thrash metal upstarts, and local heroes, Warbringer.

Metal shows at the HOB run with the precision of a fine watch such that Warbringer started right on time and played a 25-minute or so set consisting of retro thrash from the early to mid-80s with a heavy emphasis on old Exodus and Slayer. Although I gave Warbringer a positive review from their contribution on the “Speed Kills…Again!” compilation a month or so ago, I ended up becoming rapidly bored during their short set. Frankly, I’ve heard all of this before and done better, and I’m doubtful that the current nostalgic mania for twenty- plus year old thrash metal will last much longer (well, maybe). What will likely occur is that one or two bands from this niche will emerge and eke out a career of sorts. The jury is still out on Warbringer, although scoring a recording contract with Century Media is, I suppose, a step in the right direction.

Skinless came up next, opening with their “Planet Of The Apes” sample from the “Trample The Weak, Hurdle the Dead” album leading into “Overlord”. Skinless just smoked through a huge set of gore soaked, crunch laden death metal that immediately got the rapidly filling HOB crowd into a frenzy. A huge pit opened up and did not let up through the set, which included samples galore, gore metal hilarity from vocalist Jason Keyser, desiccated skeletons, and a huge, thick, monstrous sound from the guitar and bass. Keyser proved to be a jovial front man, periodically acting as an emcee with various versions of mosh pit rules, and admonishing younger audience members for not being at home on a school night doing their homework (I should’ve been at home GRADING homework, but that’s another story). In addition, the humor was out in full force with detailed directions on how to walk like a zombie in a mosh pit, complete with an audio sample from the pedophile/ pop star’s “Thriller” video (“It’s all very innocent! We have milk and cookies, and light candles.”) Needless to say, I was thoroughly entertained.

The HOB was pretty much at full capacity when Immolation took the stage, firing through their brand of slightly skewed death metal with time changes, intelligible vocals from Ross Dolan, and an impressive drumming performance from Steve Shalaty. Highlights from the set list included “Shadows In The Light”, “Burial Ground”, “Swarm Of Terror”, and “Challenge The Storm”. Dolan also took a few moments to genuinely thank the crowd for supporting the band all through the years and briefly paid tribute to Vitek from Decapitated, who tragically passed away in a traffic accident on November 2. Overall, though, an excellent performance from Immolation.



The mighty Suffocation takes the stage to a roar from the crowd and just absolutely nails their performance as they blister through one gem after another. Top notch musicianship, incredible sound, and the usual banter from Frank Mullen were all on display for a full headlining set of over 60 minutes. Running through “Liege Of Inveracity”, “Bind Torture Kill”, “Subconsciously Enslaved”, “Infecting The Crypts”, “Pierced From Within”, a mind melting version of “Thrones Of Blood”, and so many others, Mullen also took some time to pay tribute to Vitek and gave the crowd a bit of insight into the perils of driving and traffic in other countries, briefly relating what was obviously a personally harrowing experience in Palermo, Sicily.

Finally, it was all over at about 12 AM, and I limped home to catch a few hours’ sleep before re-joining the working world. Here are some photos...

The t-shirt haul...



Warbringer



Skinless



Immolation



Suffocation



Suffocation



Here are some videos...

Warbringer



Skinless



Immolation



Suffocation



Suffocation



You can find the rest here.

In addition, here's a review of "Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead" that I wrote for Live 4 Metal awhile back...



Skinless- Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead

(Relapse)

Prepare to be thoroughly demolished! The somewhat dumb album artwork, clean production, and the technicality from 2003’s “From Sacrifice To Survival” have been excised from the new album from New York’s Skinless, “Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead”. Instead, what’s been emphasized and totally ramped up is a powerful slab of sludge-laden, New York-style death metal that should propel Skinless into the top tier.

“From Sacrifice To Survival” featured technical drummer extraordinaire John Longstreth (notably of Origin and Angelcorpse fame) and famed producer Neil Kernon, neither of which really seemed to be quite right for a band not known for technicality and glittering production values. As a result, I felt that “From Sacrifice To Survival” was an album that couldn’t find an identity and, ultimately, didn’t stay in my stereo for very long. Frankly, there are a lot of other bands out there that are better at the technical aspects of death metal.

Perhaps Skinless came to the same conclusion. Gone is Longstreth, and behind the kit is Bob Beaulac, whose pummeling, beat the absolute shit out of the drumheads style seems to be a better fit. In addition, the production, courtesy of Brett Portzer, is deliberately rougher, with very powerful, sludge-laden guitars alternating between slow and mid-paced, meat filled riffs, and bursts of speed to accompany the blasts from Beaulac. The combination of the drumming and powerful guitars really allows this album to shine. In addition, Jason Keyser, brother of bassist Joe Keyser, has replaced long-time vocalist Sherwood Webber. Keyser’s vocals incorporate a couple of different styles, combining a deep growl, a gore metal-esque gurgle, and a higher pitched screech similar to Mitch Harris’ backing vocals in Napalm Death. The combination of these styles fit the music perfectly and seamlessly.

“Trample The Weak, Hurdle The Dead” is relatively short and plows through seven tracks of perfectly executed, sludge-laden death metal. Simply put, this is New York death metal done right. In addition, there’s a masterful cover of a slightly out of sequence “Wicked World” medley that actually provides a fresh finale to the album and is not forced or out of place.

Along with Misery Index’s latest, Relapse Records has delivered an excellent one-two punch, and spews forth yet another essential album. Buy or die!

Immolation



Suffocation



Upcoming shows include Down at the Santa Monica Civic Center on Friday, 11/23...



and the Death By Decibels Tour on 12/3...



Lastly, here's a recent rip from Lowrider, a stoner metal band that lasted for one album and was derided for being essentially a Kyuss rip-off, but I happen to like their only full-length, entitled "Ode To Io"...



Sorry, songs removed.