Thursday, September 18, 2008

This is your dad's Metallica

Remember a really good band in the late 80’s called Metallica? Didn’t think so. That’s because ever since “And Justice for all …” they’ve sucked out loud. Personal issues, egos, and poor choices in production killed anything that resembled the band that released “Kill ‘em All”. Gone were the mach 3 guitar riffs. Gone were the tempo and time changes. Gone were the ….. balls.

“Death Magnetic” will place those once removed balls directly on your nose, and not in a dainty fashion. Much like when Rancid released ”Rancid(2000)”, Metallica gleaned what they did best and went back to it..

“Death Magnetic” is a triumphant return. Instead of five minute gutless covers, the listener is carpet bombed with eight minute tracks that will gently remove your brain from your cranium, have sex with it, put your brain back in your head, and then smash your skull with a turbocharged sledgehammer. It’s like being shot in the face point blank with a bazooka filled with broken glass and hydrochloric acid. It’s Cloverfield on anabolic steroids.

If there was any doubt that Rick Ruben was a god prior to this release, his deification is imminent. Working with bands such as Slayer, Danzig, Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys, Rick Ruben has established himself at the top of the food chain when it comes to producers. With “Death Magnetic”, Ruben has taken a shit on anyone that has ever thought of producing music. He’s that damn good. The arrangements are unthinkable. This guy knows his shit.

The track Broken, Beat, and Scarred, is probably the best example of what’s been fixed. While it is not one of the faster songs, it does not drag along. It combines a more mellow sound, but does not resemble Creed, like other Metallica offerings have. It shows maturity, but still gives a nod to the early Metallica. sound. It is distinctly Metallica, yet new.

I hesitate to call The Day That Never Comes a ballad, but it is a slower song. Much like One, or Sanitarium, it is more harmonic and introspective. The guitar is haunting, and Hettfield’s voice complements the mood. Do not fear, like the aforementioned tracks, The Day That Never Comes culminates in the usual, rock your face off fashion.

The crowning cut by far is All Nightmare Long. This song encompasses everything Metallica does well: changes, gunshot-like drums, crushing rhythm guitar, impossible bass lines, lead guitar that seems to dance with you while cutting at your very fiber, and the copyrighted Hettfield growl. All Nightmare Long is a sonic ear raping of biblical proportions.

Suicide and Redemption is 10 minutes of unadulterated musical mastery. All 4 members are on display in this vocal-less audio beat down. Lars Ulrich once again proves he is one of the top percussionists in the world, providing unfathomable changes. Kirk Hammet’s solos move effortlessly from soulful to savage, starting slowly and moving into an audio blur, and then surrender themselves back into the groove. Hettfield’s rhythm work is equally complex, and very, very tight. Robert Trujillo is just what Metallica needed; fast and punishing, but able to transverse all the changes without missing a step. This line up is unreal.

This is a nonpareil complete album. Every song is, if not a masterpiece, epic. Definitely the best album Metallica has made since And Justice For All ….. From top to bottom, there is not a weak spot to be heard.
Buy. This. Album.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pennywise: House of Blues, Orlando 24 May 2008

If you’ve seen the X games, watched a surf/skate/snowboard/moto cross video, or been around anything having to do with “action sports”, then you’ve probably heard Pennywise somewhere in the background. The Hermosa Beach based punk rock band has been a staple of being associated with the “hardcore lifestyle” for the past twenty years. Their recent releases have been a bit more mellow, but are still distinctly their own. They have, as all bands have, aged a bit. Not to say their music of late has lost its edge, but it’s not the Pennywise of ’89.

Many people would use the phrase “sell out”. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although Pennywise has become more aware of the political landscapes and the truths of the world, they have stayed the same course. The frenetic pace might be a bit slower, but it still rings true. Many bands claim to do it for the fans, well, Pennywise’s word is bond; offering their last album for free on myspace. The 3 band lineup, Authority Zero, Strung out, and Pennywise was offered for $16.50.

I have seen about 6-10 Pennywise shows, including Warped Tours, and I have never been disappointed., always experiencing an excellent show. I was very excited when this date was announced, but as it got closer, there was some trepidation. The past couple Pennywise offerings have been good, with a few songs to my liking. I still visualize(if you can visualize music) Pennywise in Full Circle/About Time album modes. Not that I am opposed to slower rock bands, it’s just not what I want from Pennywise.

Driving to Orlando, I mentally ran down what I thought the set list would be: open with 2 older songs, then play a chunk of 3-5 new songs, back to an old standby, 3-5 more new songs, throw in 1-2 more oldies, then end in “Bro hymn”, as they always do. Were that to happen, I would be perfectly satisfied with my expenditure of time and money to go to Orlando to see a band that I am a huge fan of. I was going to pony up my $16.50 and watch these guys do a victory lap, and thank them for all the memories.

I can’t remember when I’ve been more wrong.

To describe my Pennywise experience succinctly: It was like being attacked by a 50 foot yeti made of fire and cholera, and that yeti is well versed in martial arts.

A few of the highlights: The crowd of about 1500 chanting “Fuck Authority”, in unison, middle fingers in the air; the band asking the crowd what songs they wanted to hear, and then actually playing those songs. They played “My own country”, a request, prefacing it with: “We haven’t played this in 5 years, so if we fuck it up …. “, and then they nailed it. The crowd rapport was great, as well:

Jim (singer) “I haven’t drank this whole tour, but tonight, I’m getting fucked up with you, Orlando”

Crowd: “yeeeaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”, beers in the air.

Fletcher (guitar) “It’s the second show of the tour”

Much of the show was a blur, not because of the Budweiser, but due to the fact that I was truly ecstatic, all the songs ran together, in a sonic wall of unadulterated joy. It all ended with the song “Bro hymn”, a song about a fallen friend that everyone can identify with. I guarantee if you hear that song one time, it will stick with you forever. The baseline, the chorus, is perfect in the context of the song. It is an unforgettable track, and to hear 1500 people singing “ …. If you die, I die; that’s the way it is”, will definitely make an impact on you. The rise and fall of the chorus is haunting, to say the least, and the listener bobs about on a sea of whoa’s.

The show was awesome, not in the fact that I was given a political message or was wowed by musical prowess; because that wasn’t the case. Pennywise did exactly what all of the 1500 people wanted: they came in and rocked 1500 people’s faces off. Jim, Fletcher, and the boys played the songs that got the crowd going, that got the pit stirred up like a downed hornet’s nest, and made me hoarse from yelling. They were the Pennywise I remembered, not 35-40 year old guys that I thought were playing a final farewell before heading it in. And it was glorious.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Duty, Honor, Country ?

Hero? I think not. I have no idea why anyone would celebrate this young man's fortune.
Having served ten years myself, I feel like Caleb Campbell is shirking his responsibility. Many people are trying to compare him to Pat Tillman, and nothing could be further from the truth. Pat Tillman left his contract to go serve his country. Campbell is dodging his duty that he signed up for to go play football.
Harsh? Yes. The fact is that Campbell went to West Point. He signed up to be an officer in the United States Army. Your tax dollars paid to house, educate, and train him to serve and defend this country. Now, he can take all that, and make a living in the NFL. Other athletes attend state schools on scholarship, but the athletic programs and merchandise offset that cost. At Army, this is not the case.
He still has to make the roster, but unless he fails, he won't be in any army I was a part of. The US Army says he'll be a great recruiting tool. Really? Showing people they can sign up and then not actually live up to their end of the deal?
I'm all for someone making vast amounts of money playing in the NFL; as long as they don't already have a commitment to serve their country. I couldn't believe the people at the draft chanting "U-S-A-U-S-A". This man is not any hero. He's someone that might renege on his own word. The US Army has a motto: "Duty, Honor, Country". I guess he missed that class.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Today, the wind isn’t like it was yesterday.
It signals a change. Today, I feel summer.

I actually FEEL summer. Not the full on, heat waves rising off the pavement, sweltering Florida in August summer, but it’s still here. The Summer Solstice is still months away, but summer is here. The wind is lighter, and you can sense the heat from the ground up, not just from the sunlight. The shadows are getting shorter, and the sunlight becoming richer, filling in the pale shades of spring. It’s a subtle change, but it’s definitely there.

I can hear the beach sand crunching underfoot; feel the sand baked to almost furnace like temperatures on the bottom of my feet. I feel the thirst that is so hard to quench that it leaves you breathless from trying to intake liquids to satiate. Instead of there being a hint of salt in the breeze coming off the ocean, the smell permeates the air, deep and rich, it fills the nostrils, announcing it’s presence, rather than alluding to it. It’s amazing how the sun solicits fragrances from seemingly mundane items and objects: asphalt, car interiors, grass, etc.

Things are starting to come alive again; the plants are getting prepared, much like soldiers readying themselves for inspection. Not quite at full attention, but you can sense that they are primed. A slight buzz is audible, as well. The insects are starting to signal that they are there. The incessant cacophony will be almost overbearing in a few short weeks.

The biggest change is in the sun. Sol is making the change from light source to heat source. It is the one constant in the Floridian summer. Never wavering, steadfast, domineering, overhead convectionary star. Giver of life and the sapper of strength. It will be overhead, bombarding us with cosmic rays for the next six months.

I, for one, welcome our returning solaric overlord.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Shit you should be listening to II

Around 5 years ago, a female acquaintance(read:hoochie that I met at a bar) asked me if I wanted to go see a band in orlando(45 min drive). She said she would buy me a ticket and beer at the show. That was the best money I've ever spent. The band was Authority Zero.
At that point in their short career, they had a minor hit on MTV called "One more minute", a beachy kind of anthem. I had heard the song, and it was catchy, and identifiable with the area I live in and the crowd I was hanging out with. The show was at the Social, an Orlando bar synonomous with punk/alternative bands that held about 300-400 people. A sparse crowd was there, giving me ample opportunity to see the band perform. I would have to rank them in the top 10 bands I've ever seen live, having seen well over 500 shows from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Slayer to Jane's Addiction.
The album, their first complete album is called "A passage in time", and I would rank it in my top 25 complete albums of all time. The album contains 13 tracks, ranging from Irish folk song to straight old school punk rock, reggae to ballads. The group can transition from one style to the other song by song, or within the same song. The band I would compare them to is Sublime, only for the reason that they can seamlessly switch back and forth from the different genres, not for musical style. The musicianship is excellent, lyrics are provoking, and the live performances are a must see. I see them EVERY time they come to Orlando.
The band itself is also very, very fan friendly. By that, I don't mean they'll bang your girlfriend, I mean that they'll talk to you if approached, and always hang out for beer after the show.
They've released 3 albums since then, but the best is "A passage in time". All of the albums are worthy of a purchase, but cut your teeth on the first, and then you can see where they've gone with their music. For acoustic, check out Jason DeVore, the lead singer's solo album. Also very good work.


Friday, April 4, 2008

Shit you SHOULD be listening to.

Well, I’m by no means a critic in any professional sense, but I will treat(?) you guys to my insights on things that I think are damn good. Or, are damn bad.About 2 months ago, I stumbled across a video of a couple playing acoustic guitars. The reason I clicked on the video was the title: "Acoustic performance of Orion". Being a fan of old Metallica(And justice for all and anything prior to that), I was, to say the least intruiged. This was one of the best choices I’ve made so far this year.Rodrigo y Grabriela are a real-life couple who happen to play acoustic guitars together. Their style could be classified as "Flamenco", but it’s so much more. I, myself am a fan of musicianship, not sticking to any one genre of music, and this couple doesn’t either.Rodrigo and Gabriela are from Mexico and played in the spanish/Mexican metal band Tierra Acida(also another band you should check out). Since then, they have moved to Ireland, and perform around the world.They play a mix of covers of rock and metal songs along with their own tracks. The covers have the odd ability to stay true to the original, but at the same time sound completely different, in the best possible way. The originals they do are Flamenco, but don’t sound like they are. If you are a fan of guitars in any form, you must hear these two do their thing. It is nothing short of amazing.