Voivod—Killing Technology

 

Last night I drove to Dundee to watch the new Lamb of God documentary ‘As the Palaces Burn‘ I listened to Voivod‘s third album Killing Technology (1986).

Voivod, from Canada, were one of the first metal bands I got into along with Celtic Frost, Metallica and Slayer. Plenty of friends, both then and now, listened to Killing Technology and simply couldn’t understand what I heard in “that noise”.

As I drove north through the cold, dark, wet night beyond St Andrews towards the Tay bridge I was reminded of similar nights as a young teenager growing up in Selkirk in the Scottish Borders trying to make sense of life. This album is now inseparably fused with my memories of those early years. But I suppose it’s not so much sentimentality as thankfulness.

There’s an unpredictability about this album. There’s a boldness and a fragility, that saw me through many an early crisis. This is the music that gave me hope, that no matter how unclear or uncertain I was about how life may turn out it would be an adventure, and that life… LIFE… was bigger and more incredible and wondrous than the small glimpse that I saw as a frightened teenager peering between his fingers in a sleepy Scottish Borders town, wondering if his dad would ever be okay again (he had three brain haemorrhages in 1983), worrying about how his Mum was coping, as well as all the usual teenage stuff (spots, girls, school) and occasionally wishing that he could just escape. And this was one of those albums that helped me do that but remain there at the same time.

I listened to this album in the car last night, in the dark, through the rain and fog, and I remembered listening to it on my personal cassette player back in the late 80s. I remembered walking down Forest Road on a cold and moonless winter’s night, probably having taken our dog Zen for a walk, and I felt thankful. I felt thankful for the love and support that I got from my parents as I grew up. I felt thankful for the group of friends who accepted me as we were trying to figure out how this life thing worked. I felt thankful for the hours of music, on miles of cassette tape, that helped me through it all; music that challenged me, that opened my eyes and ears to ideas beyond my homely little cottage on Forest Road.

I listened to this album in the car last night for the first time in years, and while I acknowledged all of that, that history, I simply marvelled at the genius of this album that I don’t think Voivod ever surpassed on any other album (as brilliant as they also are).

Another bonus is that the production is such that the frequencies don’t get lost amidst the rumble of the road while listening to it in a car!

It’s funny how deeply attached I feel to the third albums of these four bands, my big four:

  • Voivod—Killing Technology (1986)
  • Celtic Frost—Into the Pandemonium (1987)
  • Metallica—Master of Puppets (1986)
  • Slayer—Reign in Blood (1986)

Even now when I listen to it my soul sours, it still makes me smile, it still delights me after all these years, and it still surprises me. This is music that continues to give me life and bring me hope.

For me this is an almost perfect album.

Аркона—Лики бессмертных Богов

This week’s 195 metal CDs offering is by a Russian folk-metal band from Moscow called Arkona (Аркона).

While searching for information about them I discovered this video released in 2010, from their 2009 album Goi, Rode, Goi! (Гой, Роде, Гой!).

It’s a song called ‘Liki Bessmertnykh Bogov’ (‘Лики бессмертных Богов’) which means ‘Faces of immortal gods’. I rather like it.

The song describes a human who has lost his reason for being. With his spirit in vexation, he stands on a crossroad, fearing death and having a wish to flee from the reality. Only the Faith can give him the will to live on.

“With life praying to your native shrines
You are looking into nowhere, in the mist of your dreams
And in this oblivion of the soul, in grey vain life
Will revive in your memory the faces of immortal gods.”

Perhaps one day I’ll finish learning Russian.

Jeff Hanneman (1964-2013) RIP

Jeff Hanneman in rehearsals (Source: Slayer website)

Jeff Hanneman in rehearsals (Photo: Slayer website)

Yesterday was a particularly sad day for me. Not only did I attend a memorial event for our friend and former neighbour Ian McKie (I’ll write more about that at a later date, once I’ve processed the news a bit more), but I also learned of the death of Slayer guitarist and songwriter Jeff Hanneman.

The first time I heard Slayer was in a church basement in Whitley Bay. The album was Reign In Blood, which is still regarded by many as the definitive thrash metal album. The album was released in October 1986 and as I was on a Borders Scripture Union summer camp I guess it must have been 1987.

Slayer was the first metal band I saw in concert, at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1988, promoting their South of Heaven album; Nuclear Assault were the support act.

Jeff Hanneman suffered a spider bite in 2011, which resulted in a condition called necrotizing fasciitis, a rare and horrible flesh-eating disease which almost immediately put his life at risk. As was reported on the Slayer website recently,

for a couple of days after he went to the ER, things were touch-and-go. There was talk that he might have to have his arm amputated, and we didn’t know if he was going to pull through at all. He was in a medically-induced coma for a few days and had several operations to remove the dead and dying tissue from his arm. So, understand, he was in really, really bad shape. It’s been about a year since he got out of the hospital, and since then, he had to learn to walk again, he’s had several painful skin grafts, he’s been in rehab doing exercises to regain the strength in his arm. (Source)

Despite his rehab reportedly going well, and making an appearance at The Big Four show at Coachella in 2011, Hanneman never rejoined Slayer in a full time capacity. His place in the band was filled on tour by Exodus guitarist Gary Holt.

Sadly, the news broke yesterday that he had died from liver failure, although it was made clear on some reports that as yet there is no clear indication whether this was directly related to the spider bite.

This is the news currently on the Slayer website:

Slayer is devastated to inform that their bandmate and brother, Jeff Hanneman, passed away at about 11AM this morning [Thursday, May 2] near his Southern California home. Hanneman was in an area hospital when he suffered liver failure. He is survived by his wife Kathy, his sister Kathy and his brothers Michael and Larry, and will be sorely missed. (Source)

He will indeed be sorely missed by many.

My albums of 2012

albums of 2012

This year was a pretty frugal one for me in terms of album buying, but a very prosperous one in terms of free albums acquired on Freecycle. I added only 15 albums and EPs to my collection, and five of those were free (but not free as in pirated!).

Unlike last year’s run-down, this year I’m counting down from 10.

10. How To Kill A Zombie (HTKAZ)—The Uprising EP

2012-09-htkaz-the-uprising-ep

How To Kill A Zombie is a death metal band from right here in Fife, Scotland. The guitarist, Chris Marr, is a friend of mine from St Andrews.

I’d heard a few demos of the band before I bought their EP, and I narrowly missed seeing them live here in Anstruther in 2011, but I sustained a back injury the afternoon before their gig. I need to make a point of seeing them live in 2013.

Musically they remind me of elements of old-school, British thrash band Xentrix, American thrashers Lamb of God, and God Forbid. Their songs are very well written, structured, and played. This is a band that definitely deserves a wider audience.

My current favourite track on the EP is track 2, ‘Revolution’.

9. Steve Lawson—11 Reasons Why 3 is Greater Than Everything (Remastered)

2012-10-steve-lawson-11-reasons-remastered

Strictly speaking this isn’t a 2012 album, it’s a 2011 album that was remastered and re-released as a free download. (I’m sure Steve will correct me if I’m wrong.) I should also declare that Steve is a friend, not that that guarantees that I’ll love everything that he puts out.

Steve Lawson is a critically acclaimed solo bass player. Which somehow seems to do him an injustice. It might be better to say that he’s a critically acclaimed musician who happens to express himself using a bass guitar and a floor-full of technical gadgetry that enables him to accompany himself.

This is an album that I should play more. As with much of Steve’s music, it’s beautiful, gentle and thought provoking. (Unlike the harmonica solo performed by a four year old that I’m listening to in the background while writing this!)

My stand-out tracks on the album are the opening two tracks: ‘A year afloat’ and ‘Travelling north’.

8. Dodgy—Stand Upright in a Cool Place

2012-08-dodgy-stand-upright-in-a-cool-place

Dodgy’s Free Peace Sweet album was pretty much my soundtrack of 1996. I’ve had a soft spot for Dodgy ever since, but had never seen them live until this summer when they rolled into Edinburgh and played a blinding gig in a tiny venue backing onto Waverley railway station.

This is a fabulous return to form for the English three-piece power-pop band; their first album since reforming in 2007. The songs are fun, complex and layered. It’s a rare album that lifts my spirits quite as much as this one does. Brilliant stuff.

My current favourite track is ‘What became of you’.

7. Down—Down IV, Part 1: The Purple EP

Down IV

This is the one and only CD that I got for Christmas, last week. It has done well to sneak in to number seven so soon.

Down hail from New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) and comprise members of Corrosion of ConformityCrowbarEyehategodKingdom of SorrowPantera, and Superjoint Ritual.

This is the first of what is rumoured to be four EPs, supposedly to get the music out to fans quicker than waiting for a full album. And it’s a great start with Down’s signature laid-back, southern, stoner metal groove to each of the tracks with more than a tip of the hat to Black Sabbath on a couple (the opening of ‘The Curse’, anyone?).

My favourite track just now is ‘Misfortune Teller’.

Here’s the video for their first single from the EP, ‘Witchtripper':

6. Candlemass—Psalms for the Dead

Candlemass

I first got into Candlemass when I heard ‘Bewitched’ from 1987’s Nightfall on Tommy Vance’s Friday Night Rock Show on BBC Radio 1. Candlemass were my first introduction to doom metal, and to my mind/ear they are still one of the best. (Writing this reminds me that I’ve still got five of their studio albums still to buy.)

Psalms for the Dead is supposedly Candlemass’s final studio album, an album about the presence and absence of time, about leaving, goodbyes and farewells. And true to the album’s theme Candlemass parted company with their fifth vocalist, American, Robert Lowe shortly after the album was released, replacing him with Swedish vocalist Mats Levén (At Vance, Therion, etc.).

All in this is a great album… apart from the intro to the final track ‘Black as time’ which is a spoken-word piece and possibly one of the cheesiest intros to a metal song I’ve ever heard; and it reprises halfway through the song. If I can ever be bothered I’ll edit it out! Which is a real shame as ‘Black as time’ is one of my favourite tracks on the album.

5. Prong—Carved into Stone

Prong

If there is a band listed here that deserves to be better known then it’s Prong. Fronted by Tommy Victor (who has also performed with Danzig and Ministry) the list of former band members is like a who’s who of alternative metal: Swans, Danzig, Fear Factory, Godflesh, Jesu, Killing Joke, Murder Inc.

There are a number of bands who can churn out fabulous riff after fabulous riff. Helmet is one, Prong is most definitely another. And this album is packed full of them. If I could be in any metal band on the planet then I’d want to be in Prong. I would never get tired of playing their twisting, heavy, melodic riffs.

My current favourite track is the friendly-sounding ‘Revenge… best served cold’.

4. Stone Sour—House of Gold & Bones, Part 1

Stone Sour

This is the fourth studio album from Stone Sour, featuring Slipknot front-man Corey Taylor and guitarist Jim Root (if you don’t include the special edition of Come what(ever) may) and it rocks!

If you like your metal melodic, heavy and thought-provoking with a few dalliances into acoustic ballads then Stone Sour is the band for you.

This album is the first part of a double, concept album. It’s a reflection of how crazy this year has been that I’ve still to read the lyrics and the booklet to figure out what the plot is.

My favourite song currently is ‘Tired’, simply for the opening riff.

3. Jessica Curry—Dear Esther Official Soundtrack

Dear Esther

For the last few years I’ve bought the latest titles into the Call of Duty or Battlefield PC games franchises. This year (until I received LEGO The Lord of the Rings in late November) has been about only one game: Dear Esther.

Set on a remote and abandoned Hebredean island, this is not so much a game as an interactive novel. It is simply the most beautiful game that I’ve ever played, and I suspect will ever play. Each time I’ve experienced it (not just played it but even watching walkthroughs on YouTube) it left me feeling contemplative and… I guess, in awe. It is quite astonishing.

And the soundtrack simply adds to the game’s beauty. It is hauntingly beautiful, and quite spooky in places, particularly if you’re listening to it in the pitch black, in bed, as I have done on more than one occasion this year.

There is a free version of the soundtrack available, taken from when the game was a mod rather than a standalone release. I also bought the full, final soundtrack which is slightly different. I only wish there was also an audio book version that included Nigel Carrington‘s perfect voice-over.

2. Storm Corrosion—Storm Corrosion

Storm Corrosion

This is an album that I had been looking forward to for quite some time: the collaboration between Opeth frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt and Porcupine Tree frontman Steven Wilson.

The resulting album, the self-titled Storm Corrosion didn’t disappoint.

It’s a thoughtful and ponderous album that in many ways helps make sense of both the last Opeth album Heritage and Steven Wilson’s 2011 solo album Grace for drowning. It’s an album that you have to listen to again and again to get into, to unlock, to appreciate the various layers and subtleties. It could easily be a soundtrack, as demonstrated perfectly in the official video for the opening track ‘Drag ropes’.

1. Testament—Dark Roots of Earth

Testament

There are some who say that the Big Four of thrash (Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax) should have been the Big Five with Bay Area thrashers Testament filling that final spot. I actually think this album equals, if not betters, anything that the Big Four have put out in the last couple of years. This is a great metal album.

The album kicks off with the adrenaline-fueled ‘Rise Up’, tanks through ‘Native Blood’, before slowing down a little with the melodic but crushingly heavy ‘Dark Roots of Earth’ that reminds me in parts of 1992’s The Ritual, which is not surprising given Alex Skolnick’s return to the band.

The rest of the album is a lesson in how good old school thrash metal sounds with modern production.

One of my favourite aspects of this album is the bonus CD which includes a rather disappointing and incomplete cover of Queen’s ‘Dragon Attack’ from The Game (1980), and a rather better cover of Iron Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’, from the 1984 album of the same name.

LAST FM CHARTS

Of course, this year I’ve listened to more than just the music that has come out this year. Whenever I listen to music on my PC, and I’m connected to the internet, the tracks are recorded to my Last.fm account.

My top-ten most played:

Artists

  1. Metallica (367 tracks)
  2. Lamb of God (324 tracks)
  3. Opeth (321 tracks)
  4. Prong (246 tracks)
  5. Testament (223 tracks)
  6. Stone Sour (188 tracks)
  7. Big Country (184 tracks)
  8. Porcupine Tree (179 tracks)
  9. Paradise Lost (155 tracks)
  10. Iron Maiden (154 tracks)

Albums

  1. Lamb of God—Sacrament (341 tracks)
  2. Porcupine Tree—The Incident (334 tracks)
  3. Opeth—Ghost Reveries (293 tracks)
  4. Anthrax—Worship Music (281 tracks)
  5. A Perfect Circle—Mer De Noms (268 tracks)
  6. Mastodon—The Hunter (268 tracks)
  7. Godflesh—Streetcleaner (266 tracks)
  8. Slipknot—Slipknot (254 tracks)
  9. Opeth—In Live Concert at the Royal Albert Hall (234 tracks)
  10. Lacuna Coil—Karmacode (233 tracks)

Tracks

  1. Storm Corrosion—Drag Ropes (15 plays)
  2. Paradise Lost—Never For The Damned (14 plays)
  3. Paradise Lost—Ash & Debris (14 plays)
  4. Storm Corrosion—Storm Corrosion (14 plays)
  5. Storm Corrosion—Hag (14 plays)
  6. Paradise Lost—Requiem (13 plays)
  7. Paradise Lost—The Enemy (12 plays)
  8. Paradise Lost—Praise Lamented Shade (12 plays)
  9. Paradise Lost—Beneath Black Skies (12 plays)
  10. Lamb of God—Ghost Walking (12 plays)

Storm Corrosion

Video for Storm Corrosion’s song Drag Ropes.

An album that I’ve been anticipating for quite some time is Storm Corrosion: a collaborative project between Mikael Åkerfeldt from Opeth and Steven Wilson from Porcupine Tree. It was released in the UK on Monday 7 May.

I loved the last Porcupine Tree album, The Incident; the last Opeth album, Heritage, has been a grower; I enjoyed Steven Wilson’s second solo album Grace for Drowning. I knew that this album wouldn’t sound like any of these.

In an interview with Steven Wilson about the record he said

“If anything, it’s even more orchestral, more stripped down, even more dark, twisted and melancholy… but it certainly feels like it comes from the same place as Heritage and Grace For Drowning, which indeed it does because it was written during the same period. We were, in a way, egging each other on to do those particular records but also at the same time coming up with the music that’s now going to be on Storm Corrosion. So it’s a very orchestral record, as you’d expect, the songs are quite long and develop in unusual ways. I’m realistic about it, that half the people are going to hate it and half the people are going to fall in love with it. I’d be happy with that anyway.”

Metal Underground

I fell in love with it.

The album is dark and atmospheric and beautiful and odd and unexpected and it has the feel of a 1960s soundtrack (which is perhaps why I like the video to Drag Ropes so much). In many ways it reminds me of Richard Thompson‘s 1997 collaboration Industry with bassist Danny Thompson (no relation).

It is very much worth checking out.

I give it a rating of 5/5

Metallica celebrates 30 years

Last month Metallica celebrated their 30th anniversary with a series of four shows at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Monday 05, Wednesday 07, Friday 09 and Saturday 10 December. (These links are to the official ‘recap’ videos on Metallica’s YouTube channel—over two and a quarter hours of Metallica and friends.)

Metallica took up a residency at The Fillmore and essentially became the house band for the week, to which they invited friends and former Metallica band mates to come join them and play both their own music and covers.

It was really great to see Dave Mustaine (Megadeth/ex-Metallica) on stage playing with them, and Jason Newsted too. Wonderful to hear John Bush (Armored Saint/ex-Anthrax) singing with the band, whom apparently Metallica wanted to join them as their vocalist in the early days. As well as all their other guests, including King Diamond (Mercyful Fate), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Sean Harris and Tatler (Diamond Head), Animal (The Anti-Nowhere League), Lou Reed, Glenn Danzig (Misfits and Danzig), Marianne Faithfull, John Marshall (Metal Church), Biff Byford,  Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), Bob Rock and more and more.

I’ve been listening to Metallica since 1986, when their third album Master of Puppets came out (I first listened to it at a Scripture Union camp!), and I don’t think I’ve ever heard Metallica play so well live as they did during those four shows. James Hetfield’s voice especially. Wow! And how heartening to see James Hetfield so well, and confident in himself.

I’d love there to be a DVD released of these shows.

You can buy digital versions of the four concerts on the Live Metallica website for US$9.95 (MP3) or US$12.95 (FLAC and Apple Lossless formats). Having listened to them all, they are well worth it: full of great music, great chat, and great humour.

There’s also a great review of the gigs on the Metallica news page, and of course following the 30th anniversay shows they released the Beyond Magnetic EP which contains the four ‘new’ songs (recorded during the Death Magnetic sessions) they played during the four nights in San Francisco: one each night.

Beyond Magnetic EP will be released on CD worldwide on 30 January, and in North America (who apparently aren’t part of the world!) on 31 January.

Lamb of God vocalist to stand for US President

Lamb of God: Willie Adler, Mark Morton, D. Randall Blythe, Chris Adler, John Campbell

WARNING: There are some sweary words in the following post. They are not my sweary words—obviously, I never swear (ahem!). I’m just quoting them.

Without a shadow of a doubt Lamb of God are one of my favourite bands. Their new album Resolution is scheduled to be released in approx. 18 days’ time. I’m very excited.

Well, their vocalist, D. Randall (Randy) Blythe has announced that he is standing for US President in 2012.

“It’s 2012 now, the year some are saying the Mayan calendar predicts a cataclysmic upheaval across the board for our planet, perhaps even the end of the world as we know it. I don’t know if these doomsday predictions have any validity, but I do know one thing: the potential candidates in the race to decide who will be elected President of the United States look like pure shit.

“I’m not particularly stoked on any of the candidates. In a massive blow to our civil rights, Obama quietly signed the NDAA for the fiscal year 2012 into law while Americans drank in their party hats on New Year’s Eve. The GOP is parading around a bunch of ass-clowns in what has got to be the most embarrassing primary season in the history of their party. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than Sarah Palin, they bust out that lunatic Michele Bachmann. I have no clue what the Libertarians are up to now that Ron Paul is gunning for the Republican nomination. Probably loading their guns and preparing for the worst.

“Don’t even get me started on our current Congress, THE WORST CONGRESS I HAVE EVER SEEN OR HEARD OF IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES. It’s a relentless bipartisan pissing contest in Washington where not only is nothing getting done, nothing is ALLOWED to get done. There’s a bunch of squabbling children in Washington in charge of the business of running our country. These baboons are stopping any useful litigation from occurring by engaging in an endless game of “I know you are, but what am I?”. There is very little compromise happening in DC, and there is very little regard for the welfare of the American people. It’s PATHETIC.

“Something has got to change. America is falling to pieces around us and we are sitting back and letting it happen. We need someone to come in and REALLY take charge, someone who can’t be bought by corporate dollars because he doesn’t need or want ‘em. Someone who is not going to bullshit the country or the rest of the world about what’s going to go down when he steps into office, because he LIKES pissing people off and doesn’t give a shit about hurting anyone’s feelings. We need a man who is not afraid to stick his neck out and risk embarrassing himself while doing the right thing, a man, in fact, INCAPABLE of embarrassment anymore PERIOD because he’s ALREADY done almost every stupid WRONG thing you can think of at one time or the other. We need a hard-boiled, no-nonsense, mean son-of-a-bitch with a bad reputation who ain’t afraid to cock-whip the shit out of some randomly selected pussy-ass billionaire on live tv during his annual State of the Union Address just to make a point and let the mega-rich know that NO ONE is above the law here in the land of the free and the home of the brave. In short, we need a man who just DOES NOT GIVE A FUCK.

“America, that man is me.”

Source: Revolver

So, lets just assume that all goes to plan and Uncle Randy gets elected. What would be his first act as the 45th President of the United States of America?

“My first act as President of the United States will [be] to be shot. That’s right, SHOT. With a high-powered assault rifle. Immediately after taking the oath of office, I will be escorted about twenty yards away and be shot publicly in a non-lethal area of my body by a highly trained Navy SEAL sniper. It will hurt like fuck.”

Blythe says he will do this because he doesn’t expect anyone in the armed forces to do anything he wouldn’t.

“Me being shot will be broadcast live world-wide via satellite, with no bleeping out of the incredible string of curse words I will undoubtedly let fly with. I will be required to walk/limp/crawl on my own power a minimum of 50 yards through the mud to an ambulance that will take me away to patch me up. If I can’t make it on my own, I’m not tough enough to be your President.

“After all the nations in the entire world witness America’s new President, an insane looking heavily tattooed freak, getting shot ON HIS OWN ORDER as soon as he takes office, then crawling all bloody to an ambulance, cussing the whole way and screaming pure hate in a monstrous voice tortured by years of touring and Marlboro Reds, they will think twice before fucking with us,” he adds.

“Among his impressive list of promises are to:

  • Take 13 weeks of Marine Corps training.
  • Kill an enemy prisoners in hand-to-hand combat.
  • Kill the first enemy of any war.
  • Change the rules of engagement so troops can shoot before the enemy strikes.
  • Kick some ass.
  • Drink beer.
  • Get laid.
  • Bless America.

Blythe appears to focus on foreign policy rather than discuss economic issues, suggesting he may be better suited for the role of Secretary of State.

His slogan? “Fuck the dumb shit. Let’s get real here.”

Source: Ultimate Guitar

When we have a general election in the United Kingdom we get candidates from the Monster Raving Looney Party. We get candidates dressed as pirates. America gets presidential candidates who want to get shot. That’s metal!

Now do you see why I love Lamb of God?