Melt-Banana at the Sinclair, and Death Angel at the Middle East because I got there late

Art, man. That’s all I could think of.

I mean, damn, Neptune. That’s some art rock right there for ya. Imagine if The Boredoms were even more profoundly disturbed? Neptune is an appropriate name for them, as some of the more atmospheric and groovy passages bring to mind the gaseous cerulean winter waste of the aforementioned celestial sphere. It sounded like music made for garbage disposals with a taste for Mike Patton’s Pranzo Oltranzista, which was essentially an experiment with musique concrète that could be what an alien would consider good fuck music. I didn’t hate it, I was just a little disillusioned by the sheer ART of it all, what with the weird for weirdness’ sake home-made instruments, which included (but were not limited to) a guitar that seems to be made of little more than a few wires and transducer thingamabobs, a keyboard that appeared to have been made with an old lunchbox, and hip attachments that, when struck with a bowstring in a similar manner to a viol, will produce an abhorrently eldritch sound.

These men walk among us. It was interesting.

Next were a band that was somehow less weird even though they’re called Brain Tentacles and consist of a saxophonist and a drummer. At least Neptune had sort of a guitar, drums, and keyboard setup. However, since it appears the dudes in Brain Tentacles are wicked into metal, brah, they actually pulled off some pretty straight sounding Shining/Ihsahn-esque prog experiment with enough extreme metal tinges to make you nod aggressively at points. More catchy grooves to be found, and Gunface of The Red Chord (R.I.P.) made a guest bass appearance for the last song. Handsome guy hardcore hairstyle, well-maintained beard, and later-era Ulver shirts are the new black (metal).

And to top off this Dada sundae were Melt-Banana, though in a more adorable and lightweight duo format, consisting of the core members:  singer/squeaker Yako (also in control of the drum tracks and non-guitar effects) and guitarist Agata, and a short wall of speakers that made the lack of a drummer seem completely normal, as all the thump and thud was still there.

melt

That glowing thing is I suppose the device that controlled the audio fireworks. The setlist was (predictably) made largely of songs from the new album, Fetch, with some oldies tossed in like grenades of familiarity. Notable in my mind were the more recent “Chain Shot To Have Some Fun” off the catchy Cell Scape, the punk-meets-glitch of “Cat Brain Land” from Bambi’s Dilemma, and a handful of noiseballs from the artgrind classic, their debut Speak Squeak Creak. You can bet this was at least as crazy as when I saw them last at T.T. The Bear’s. A constantly undulating mass of excitable humans who had stood in wait since the beginning of the show to get ripshit. And how could one not wish to thrash about in response to the blasting, beeping, scratching, crashing dithyramb of constructed noises like a demolition of a nightmarish acidscape? Art, man.

As for the next one, I was busy making jam from sound waves up until I arrived in time to catch the later half of Revocation‘s set, smack in the middle of “Invidious”, and then coasting from “Dismantle The Dictator” to a lofty end at “No Funeral”. And all were at peace.

Then came 3 Inches Of Blood to make war with everyone’s brains, concentrating mainly on the newer material that sounds much more rooted in the epic and grand stylings of ‘Maiden and ‘Priest (who else?), rather than the raging power metal of their earlier releases. If anything, they found a way to make their songs even catchier than before, which I couldn’t have fathomed was possible.

Damn.

“Deadly Sinners” and “The Goatrider’s Horde” are the classic and mandatory tunes, of course, but the new tunes weren’t at all frightening or offensive, so I feel it was well worth the experience.

Snowcapping this event were Death Angel, who I haven’t familiarised myself with aside from tracks off The UltraViolence and Relentless Retribution. I know, I fucked up. So I was underprepared, and the only song I recognised was “Truce”. But hey, it was good to see one of the underrated titans of thrash in a cozy venue at the very least.

Thanks for the ticket, Scott!

Banned From The D.C.? Okay. Ramming Speed & Iron Reagan @ The Democracy Center

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This is the biggest I could find, honest. 

It’s good-natured small gigs liek these that make one remember how alike punks and Thrashers (and to a point, all Metalheads) are when you get them together. Think on it: Both wear black a lot, both are societal outcasts with atypical haircuts, they both wear patches and ripped clothing, etc. To say nothing of the music itself. Thrash Metal is essentially Iron Maiden and Judas Priest fans mainlining punk rhythms and throwing the resulting brew into a pressure cooker to ferment and sweeten. And now onto the show review before I turn this into an essay on how Thrash and Hardcore fans should hang out more.

Opening this festival ofthe damned was Meth Valley, a gang of talented local thrashers fronted by some crazy guy I’ve seen at mad shows, MDF included. Thrash is a hard genre to innovate in without turning it into something else by accident, so these longhairs played it safe and by the book, albeit without inducing yawns. If you like Razormaze, check ’em.

Next up were Boston Hardcore guys Draize, alternating between the slow and punishing and the fast and punishing extremes with equal skill.

Everyone’s favourite bespectacled baldie decided to go at this gig barefoot, which is a ballsy as fuck move considering how much punks usually love to wear boots or something. Nary a toe was injured, luckily, as the walls churned with heat, leather, and fist while the dance floor surged with pent-up anger and good times.

Oh how I missed my poetic verve.

It’s not very often one gets to see Draize, much less hear them, since a certain amount of mystery prevents them from posting tracks online, despite the many available avenues with which a band may do so today. If you don’t know the songs, you don’t know them, and you never will unless you buy their stuff, so there’s that. It’s all good and dark, and makes you want to kill, so it hardly matters in the end, as long as you don’t act a fool.

Highlights of the set: A huge fat guy herkie-ing like nobody’s business, and getting full-body lifted and placed back down by a guy half my height while I was in the middle of a graceless two-step.

Iron Reagan, featuring Tony Foresta from Municipal Waste and some other guys because fuck it, it’s Tony Foresta and that basically makes it Municipal Waste by proxy, followed to bring some groovin’ Thrash served in a radioactive barrel. Or something.

This being their first tour as a band, it’s amazing how quickly they’ve all settled into the whole live dealie. Granted, they are seasoned musicians, and probably all hang out, but my word, you’d think they’ve been doing this as Iron Reagan for years already. Tony’s charismatic control of the crowd’s friendly violent fun, the vivious axe attack of fellow ‘Waster Landphil, bass duties gregariously filled by a certain guy named paul, and drum noise made by Darkest Hour’s own Ryan Parrish. You’ve got yourself a crew that’s ready to rock, and has a Cro-Mags cover to lay on you troglodytic fucks. It’s pretty rad. The circlepit isn’t a frequent sight at the D.C., so get educated and run around.

Headlining were local heroes Ramming Speed, who have been bestowed the honour of being a possible gay porno title by The A.V. Club for their year-in review of band names. I’m sure they gained about 54 new fans as a result.

Imagine you took the Party Hard attitude of Andrew W.K. but turned party rock into party thrash, with a good helping of pizza and perhaps carrots, and proclamations of Shane Embury being the Brad Pitt of grindcore. It’s true, go listen. While Ramming Speed do everything they do in good fun, there’s some serious talent bubbling under the comedic skin. Major shreddage, vocals that vary from Thrash shouts to Death Growls and even some well-done highs, drumming that can go from standard speed-metal to extreme blasting, and not to mention the fact that they can keep up with themselves and not fuck up. It’s a recipe that’s best drunk in large quantities and with friends around.

You know, this marks a rare occurrence; I’ve reviewed a show the day after it happened. Golly, I’m making my comeback. This is the year of the gutter rat, and I’m doing well everywhere except mothafuckin’ school. Kill pigs, have fun.

Sound Of The Beast: A Complete Headbanging History Of Heavy Metal. It’s Anything But.

Ian Christe’s groundbreaking book, titled above, was a watershed moment as far as those “big book of x genre” tomes go. Metalheads worldwide cheered almost unanimously, I imagine, as its ink dried in the saturnine glow of hellfire. Its cover art, a twisted adaptation yanked most blasphemously from the Sistine chapel. Its attention to every last minute detail of all that’s heavy would bring warmth to the hearts of metal fans, while educating and (hopefully) bringing new recruits. It’s a timeless, deathless volume, and it got everything right.
And now for what really happened.
This review has been slow simmering for a while in my mind. I really want to like this book, being that there aren’t a terrible lot of comprehensive studies, emic or etic, that look at Metal from front to back, starting at Blue Cheer and ending wherever the publish date happens to be. I’ll be the first to say that this book certainly does cover a lot, and no one can expect one person and perhaps a team of editors and acquaintances to cover the entire metalverse in a single book, but honestly, this book should have been pushed back for another five years, at least.
I will suggest that this book be renamed “Read ‘Em All: A Headbanging History At A Glance Of Metallica, And Other Kinda Important Bands”, because by Jove, this guy has a Metallica boner the size of Vesuvius.

Pictured: A reason to never make music again, because this just about covers it.

It’s almost embarrassing how diehard this guy is about Metallica to the point where he can’t even make it through a chapter on Death Metal without haphazardly throwing their name in. This book is bogged down in passages that essentially read like this: “X movement and x band(s) were important, but here’s what Metallica was doing.” It’s fucked.
To say nothing of the painfully obvious oversight in the case of bands like Suffocation, Swans, D.R.I., and Entombed, to say the very least. Sure, these names are mentioned, but only once. Now, like I said, it’s nearly impossible to give every band equal face time, but to just skimp over the New York Death Metal, Swedish Death Metal, Folk/Pagan Metal, and even Japanese movements (though Sigh, S.O.B., and Sabbat do get a mention apiece, what of equally important X Japan or G.I.S.M.? Nothing) is nothing short of criminally lazy. How about the Finnish scene, and the (then) new sounds being brought forth by Children Of Bodom, fusing Yngwie Malmsteen pretentiousness with the frosty aggression of Black Metal? Tim “Angel Ripper” Owens’ first band, Winter’s Bane is not even brought up, and speaking of Winter, why are they not mentioned despite their influence in agonizingly slow and heavy Doom Metal? When speaking of the confluence of Techno and Metal, why were The Berzerker nowhere to be found, despite having formed in 1995 and thus being readily available for observation by the time Christe drooled on his proverbial typewriter? What about the brief stint that Blaze Bailey had in Iron Maiden? The man’s name isn’t mentioned, though perhaps this is for the better, because he sucked the talent right out of them, despite being a capable solo artist.

Pictured: The reason why Nicko McBrain lies awake at night in tears

For a guy who tracked every waking movement of Metallica and to a lesser extent, Megadeth, and seems to have no shortage of quotes from Katon de Peña of Hirax, he seems rather blasé when discussing Grindcore, not even throwing a mention to pivotal bands like Assück or Extortion. Sludge, Stoner, and Doom metal get their treatments, but besides Black Sabbath, Sleep, Cathedral and Saint Vitus, nothing is spoken of in true depth, and the latter two are only given a few paragraphs, which, yes, in this book is depth in comparison to the two mentions given to The Melvins.

Clearly not important enough to warrant more than two whole pages.

Christe is decidedly a tryhard, as evidenced by his overdescribing and overinflating of adjectives. At some points, he refers to Kiss as heavy, and uses the word ‘blasting’ to refer to Lars Ulrich’s drumming. Highly inaccurate on both counts. To say nothing of his being off the mark sub-genre wise, but then again, maybe I’m off the mark and don’t know it yet. All I know is that Metallica is not Power Metal, and that by the time Chaos A.D. rolled around, Sepultura were no longer Death Metal. The man seems content with bumping everything up a level or two higher than it actually is for some strange reason. In the same fashion that an average 20-something today would use the word ‘literally’ to mean “kinda”, Ian Christe calls Manowar ‘crushing’, and makes Death Metal seem like a deliberate counterculture set on proving that growls and police siren solos can be beautiful too. Guy, it ain’t all that serious, some guys decided to hail Satan with gruff vocals and rip-roarin’ speed is all.

One must read deep into the genius proclamation of “Fuck your God”.

Don’t know what genre to call a band, but it’s fast and old school sounding? Lump ‘em all into Speed Metal, that’s fine. Nu-Metal? Oh yeah, that’s definitely all Death Metal + Hip Hop. Talk about D.R.I.? No need, S.O.D.’s the only crossover thrash band that matters. Oh and for that matter let’s call Crossover Metalcore instead, that’ll make a lot of sense. We could go deeper into the history of Pantera, and Kurt Cobain’s involvement in bands like Earth, but let’s make this chapter about Metallica before I lose interest. Crust Punk? What’s that? I’ll just call it Grindcore, that’s fine. Slayer had rough record quality on their early releases? Black Metal, fo sho. Bolt Thrower? Not even gonna discuss that shit when Metallica’s sold-out dates worldwide in support of The Whack Album are oh so important.

Such is the writing process behind Sound Of The Beast: A(n In)Complete History Of Heavy Metal. It’s a testament to patchy music journalism, something I dearly hope I have successfully avoided, in that it briefly touches on a lot, and certainly does delve into specifics on the major innovators and small-time foundation shakers, but is too stuck on something the author personally feels has captured “it”, it being a band they feel encapsulates the spirit of Heavy Metal as a whole. Should I have written a history of Metal, I sure as hell wouldn’t end up basing it around Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath or some shit with the attitude of “This is what happened while X member of Y band was addicted to screwing mangos”, so why would Ian Christe? It’s a shame that an informative book, despite its many downfalls, was written by a flamboyant Metallica fanboy with a penchant for exaggeration and hyperbole coupled with some mildly impairing spatial perception, because this man seems unfortunately colourblind when it comes to detailing the finer points of the genre he clearly loves.

Man writes book on Heavy Metal. Eats half of it. Publishes vomit.

It’s imperative that if anyone attempts to take Metal into their custody and write about it as though documenting the growth and development of a child, that they feed it a balanced diet, or else it’ll actually grow up to think the Black Album was actually Metal. But you know what really, truly upsets me about this book? Like, really rocks me to the core and makes me more prone to colon cancer? The fact that the man called “In The End” by Linkin Park a Metal power ballad. Oh, you dirty rat, I’m going to find you, and the pigs will never take me alive after they see what I do to you for this most egregious offence against all that is sacred and intellectual. The whole “Metal Lists” appendix is cringeworthy, and calls the credibility of the whole book into question, moreso than the shoddy writing itself. I must apply corpsepaint, headbang into a pot of boiling sulfuric acid, and cleanse myself.

A negative book review wouldn’t be worth its salt if it didn’t have some quotes demonstrating the utmost stupidity with which this material was at times handled. I’ll also include some quotes from interviewees that just don’t make any sense when applicable.

Presenting: The Most WTF of SOTB.

“Heartwork was a brilliant standard-setting accomplishment. It was the Metallica Black Album of death metal.” p. 246

I don’t see the relationship between Carcass and Metallica aside from the fact that they both use guitars and are white, personally.

If not exactly living up to Metallica’s sales precedent, death metal remained profitable into the mid-1990s.” 256

The man can scarcely go more than 5 pages without saying the M word. It’s as if he held his breath for as long as he could while typing and wrote about Metallica on impulse when he reached his limit without passing out.

‘Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Kid Rock are rappers,’ says Chuck D from influential rap group Public Enemy. ‘They probably rebelled against rock in their teenage years, because it was too white-boy or something. Now it’s available to them, and you have to tip your hat to these guys for doing it.’” 325

Chuck, just because you were one of the main driving forces behind Hip-Hop doesn’t mean that makes any sense.

“’Metallica can do whatever they want’, says Shawn Crahan of the band Slipknot. ‘They won. They earned the right to do what they want today’.” 307

Including sue the world for essentially tape-trading online?

“Combining the spectral influence of Faith No More with snippets of the hardest death metal, the nu metal bands proved that pancultural metal could pay off.” 329

Dude.

I would search for even more, but this is painful enough.

Lost Boyscore: Death By Stereo at The Great Scott

It’s not every day I see a band I’ve known about for over 6 years. It’s also not every day that I study up on said band 3 days prior to the show, since that coincides with my discovery of the aforementioned show. A series of coincidences later, here I was listening to three albums by said band to try to at least know what more to expect, having only heard one song by said band for the previously mentioned period of 6 years. If I can make that any clearer, I’m God.

For this here tour, which is apparently the first time they’ve been in Boston in over 3 years, Death By Stereo has been genial enough to drag along the Mathcore supergroup-ish outing RETOX from their region of SoCal. These miserable fucks are headed by Justin Pearson of faslegrind warriors The Locust and Some Girls, the soundtrack to your plane crash. Opening this here festival of rock-against-establishment was local -Core crew Jack Burton Vs. David Lo Pan, which I can’t even say fast in my mind without tripping a bit.

JBvDLP did little wrong in their performance, and as I am quite new to them I can find nothing to critique about how they play without sounding like a right jerk, but something seemed a bit off and I found myself almost wishing they’d be done faster than they ended up being. They wrote songs in a somewhat predictable fahsion, with some dissonance, oddly timed breakdowns that consisted of more than one chord, 2-step parts, etc., but the build of their tunes was a tad bit lanky and dare I say, not muscular enough to hold its own in a live setting. On record they sound fabulous, but on record I’m not waiting for bands I’m actually excited to see.

Up next were RETOX, whose sole existence is to fuck eardrums in a fashion achievable by the most thuggish of decibel use.

Short songs, and even shorter tempers make the bulk of this band’s aesthetic. With their vitriolic mixture of Powerviolence, Grind, Mathcore, and a measure of sardonic wit through good humour and malicious intent, they’re not a band for normal people. But of course, if your band is fronted by the same guy in The Locust, expect it to sound like your Converge wrestling with Trap Them in a washing machine, all refereed by The Dillinger Escape Plan circa Calculating Infinity. Oh yes, it’s a headfuck, but they keep it organized enough that it’s oddly catchy.

RETOX are clearly not interested in writing mosh music, with the crowd more content with watching Justin’s lithe, almost wispy form contort, slither, and find odd ways to force air out of his lungs than causing one another injury. RETOX is a big fan of feedback, as is evident in the above video, and made sure that it sounded like a chainsaw committing seppukku rather than a computer undergoing cellular mitosis. Needless to say, it was damned loud, if the dithyrambic clatter of four men shapeshifting between angular Hardcore to borderline noise is your game, please investigate, and mind your ears.

Death By Stereo, as I mentioned before, is a band I’ve known of for a long time, but never felt an urge to investigate. I made a huge mistake there, and as a result was not ready for a band that actually seems to enjoy every second of playing live.

Now, allow me to preface the actual review of their set (which was awesome, by the way) with Efram and co’s drunken antics. Mainly Efram, but there was scandal on the hands of the other members as well.

• Efram claims that Van Halen stole “Panama” from a song that they wrote called “Boston”, which is only about 15 seconds long. If you ever needed an excuse to hate David Lee Roth, that’s it right there.

• Efram is secretly defending America from the horrors of “Post-Piano Screamo”, which was birthed in Germany by the unholy We Butter The Bread With Butter. The band’s holy water for this most egregious offence to music was a liberal dose of Slayer’s “Raining Blood”. Cross my heart and hope to die when I say it seems his crusade is waged in vain, as the unspeakable Sisyphean curse of Synthcore has already made its way to our shores in the form of Attack Attack!, Abandon All Ships, and Design The Skyline.

• The entire band except for a single guitarist and drummer Mike got off the stage to order drinks while still playing, at which point Efram stood on a stool with a full shot glass while he sang the rest of the song.

            ›› On that note, Efram and bassist Robbo repeatedly got off stage , the former of which grabbed and buddied around with people, regardless of how much they actually seemed to be enjoying the show, the later bumping into everyone within a two-yard radius of the stage.

• Efram grabbed a broomstick in one of these trips off stage and broke the head off on an overhead beam, at which point he tossed the lonely stick down in the middle of the crowd.

• Efram offered oral sex to the first man to buy him a beer.

• Efram frequently two-stepped and windmilled with a velocity that could remove the trunk from an elephant, often dangerously close to other human beings. Luckily no one was injured.

• Efram said Henry Rollins was Black Flag’s worst singer, and admitted that since they both live in California, he could easily be murdered by the giant himself.

It goes on and on. Wikipedia didn’t lie when they said DBS’s live shows are energetic, oh no they did not. With a small group of people out of the approximately 30 or so that were actually in the venue who sung their hearts out and hopped excitedly as the band belted out their paeans to liberation, it became obvious that they are one of the last standing great Metalcore bands. And I mean Metalcore as in a true fusion of Hardcore Punk and legitimate melodic Metal riffing inspired by Sweden’s legion of Melodic Death and Iron Maiden alike. They were one of the bands that actually spawned a lot of the common tropes associated with Metalcore, but it seems everyone’s forgotten who they should thank. If their reawakening in the form of this tour proves anything, it’s that Metalcore isn’t always a misnomer.

What I lacked in knowledge of lyrics, I made up for in appreciation for being able to see a band that I’d always thought had a pretty cool name, as well as having one of the angriest songs I’d heard for a while, entitled “You Mess With One Bean, You Get The Whole Burrito”. Always made me hungry, that title. Death By Stereo are one of those forgotten legends that inspired countless bands but are lucky to get even cursory mentions and play in front of a small audience in a neighborhood whose venues smell like spilt beer on a good night. Good music sometimes just doesn’t hit it big. Actually, scratch that, it almost never makes it big. That’s why Green Day plays in Gillette Stadium and most of the Powerviolence bands from the 90s are defunct.

If you get a chance, even if you don’t know them well, go out and see this band. They’re quite friendly, and care more that you enjoy that show than if you know all their songs word-for-word.That’s the positive thinkin’ that got me a picture with Efram and Dan “The Man With The Handlebar Mustache That Is Straight From An Era When Strongmen Were A Thing” Palmer!

I have also been awarded the distinct honor of having the best shirt of the night, so fucken ace night overall. I just wish I weren’t the only person under 21 there.

Worst Logo Changes

I’ve been struck with a creativity bug, if you count my meandering attempts to arrange thoughts into prose creation. And yes, I am a sodomite.

Some bands can’t just be happy with what they had, or went and fucked it up for another reason. Some bands were wise enough to fix it. Others haven’t survived.

Napalm Death goes Elephant font

While this change didn’t necessarily mark a change in their musical quality, it raised a few red flags. Why go from perfectly fine electric fire to what basically amounts to a ransom note on quaaludes? It has since been mercifully reverted.

Tiamat decides their logo should be an italicised Helvetica typeface

I’m pretty sure fans wrote in complaining that the old one was a bit too hard to draw and the intricacy hurt their poor widdle hands.

Death hires pest control, a priest, a team of firemen, and a ghostbuster

It’s a tad hard to find a stand-alone of the middling logo without the spider but still with the Reaper head and a little fire’n’blood. Though this perfectly illustrates the odd cleansing the logo has undergone, as though someone up and sprayed it with holy water.

In Flames flirts with fonts, but then scratches it in a wooden desk

It’s a slight improvement, but only cements in people’s mind the fact that In Flames is now for angsty youngsters armed with a pen and an urge to destroy school property.

Sepultura goes to their roots in basic typography

Notice how they get less cool as the band does the same.

Fleshgod Apocalypse is tired of being a few steps away from unreadable, or so they say

If the music on Agony (which is good, but not as much as the first two) is as much an indicator, it’s also a sign of them being weary of having a guitar driven sound.

Immolation decides Death Metal needs Felix Tiling

This is a case where one must REALLY ask what was wrong with the logo. It looked like fire and a sword on fire! How much more Death Metal can you get?

Neuraxis felt that they needed to look towards a more geometrically sound future

While the new logo is certainly still great in its own way, looking at the masterpiece that was present on their first few albums almost makes you wonder what happened along the way. Like being fed bologna your whole life and then being given a small sampler of steak, if you’re one to think in those terms.

Judas Priest. Yes, I went there

Metallica loses its edge(s)

Metallica’s history of logo changes really tells its story; They started out badass, then they decided to drop their weapons since they appeared a bit too grizzled and hard, and once they realized their mistake, they attempted to re-grow their fangs, only to have them come back in a little crooked.

And that’s all I’m willing to do for you tonight, so put your wallets away for now. If you want a few examples of bands who have stuck with the same logo for their the entirety of their existence, peep these and remember; keep it simple, stupid.