Get (Into) What You Paid For – Volume 5, No. 2: ‘Tis The Season

Howdy; welcome once again to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about the music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 27, so that means I’ve made it 27 days without buying any cds, dvds, comic books or videogames. The man who started this blog four years ago could never have gone this long without consumerism. I’m pretty sure back when I worked my old job in 2010, I probably bought on average about two cds a week for the entire year at a minimum.

I haven’t actually posted much this time around because for the first 75% of the month, I’ve been super busy working crazy hours and having to fit in lots of academic work at home too for my final year. The other 25% of the month has been spent with loved ones and crazily poor internet signal. So, didn’t want to be rude and spend family time blogging, and didn’t have a good enough signal to do it much anyway, or at least do it easily.

Normally, going a month without buying anything would be quite difficult, but with the whole Christmas thing, I get to buy other people gifts and that sates the itch, so its been much easier. Also, you don’t know what you may receive as a gift and then buy nothing incase you’re gifted with it.

I’ve been really tempted a couple of times though, because, hey… I’m me. I saw Stratovarius and Accept albums in HMV this month and they never had them when I went looking for them. I saw Manowar albums on Amazon for between £1 and £3 that I’ve wanted for a while but are always more expensive. A lot of bands I like put out new albums and I’ve not gotten around to getting them (this year I’ve been so bad with buying new releases I can’t even put together an AOTY list!) even after seeing some of those bands live.

There’s also been numerous temptations within the world of comics. Just before starting this new fifth round of the GITWYPF challenge, I discovered Comixology. I mean I’d heard of it for the last two years, but Digital Comics seemed like a bad idea… I like reading physical books and laptops hurt my eyes and are the wrong shape for stories designed to be read in the shape of actual physical comics (unless you put a laptop on its side). So, for the two years I’ve been reading comics I avoided it, but the fact that so much is unavailable or only available on eBay for crazy prices, but available digitally for about £1 an issue (with no P&P because its digital) kind of won me over, and I can fill in gaps using this. Its not even poor to read due to the “guided view” feature, which zooms and readjusts the panels in order and blanks out the other panels, allowing you to watch the comic like a powerpoint or a slow cartoon. As a service, it’s a bit addictive though, and so a huge source of temptation. You the read two issues you want and then it makes you want to buy the ones before and after, or older ones of historical importance. Its too easy, too tempting, damn hard to stay away from.

Also, being in bookshops for getting others gifts makes me walk past lots of comic books and that makes you very close to just slipping one in there with the rest of the less-selfish purchases.

Videogames haven’t been a temptation at all, because I don’t have the time. It takes time to start up, time to shut them down or find savepoints, and your brain is abuzz afterwards so you can’t play them right before its time to sleep if you have to go to work in the morning. Compared to a book or comic book that you can just pick up and set down at a moments notice, its harder to fit them in. I got God Of War Ascension for my Birthday in the Summer and only managed to play it when Uni broke up about a week or so ago, and even then only for two days, and I still haven’t opened up Darksiders 2 which I got last Christmas. Theoretically I could now, but I don’t have a console with me at the moment, and by the time I get back to my term time address I’ll be hard at work again.

On the subject of God Of War Ascension, it was pretty good. I love that series, it is one of the most consistant and dependable series going. The combat is absolutely perfect, and its fun to see what vast-scale ideas they come up with next. It felt maybe like GOW 3 backed them into a corner and this prequel wasn’t just as impressive, but it was damn good regardless. I only got time to play one run-through of single player and no multiplayer, bonuses or second attempts, but on first impression it was very entertaining.

Anyway, the reason I right these things is to stop myself slipping up in the challenge. I may not have written many entries this time around, but I haven’t slipped up. I’ve stayed true, stayed the course (and whatever other “stay” phrases apply) and haven’t bought anything for myself since starting the challenge. Its been helped immensely by the Christmas presents.

I got the new Mushroomhead, Slipknot, Machine Head and Corrosion Of Conformity albums, as well as Helstar’s Nosferatu. I also got Spawn, Batman, X-Men and Spiderman comics. All delightfully nerdy gifts that stave off the “buy new stuff” urge very well. (Until I finish the comics and want the next in the series, at least).

Over the month, I’ve been really heavily listening to stuff I got for my Birthday, like the Tirivium, Judas Priest, Soundgarden, Helloween, Manowar and Savatage records I’ve already discussed on this blog ad naseum, in addition to Rishloo’s superb new album (of fucking course!) – because this year is going so ridiculously quickly that those still feel brand new despite being several months old – and in the last two days I’ve been blitzing those Christmas gift albums.

Did you know the Mushroomhead one has a cover of Adele’s “Rumour Has It” ? I had no idea until the chorus came in on my first listen through. Quite the surprise! Usually, I hate when Metal bands cover pop songs, especially if they aren’t particularly old. Covering a current pop song is a bit cheesy. But this works. Also, I’m way less snobby these days – Five Finger Death Punch covering “Moma Said Knock You Out” and nailing it will do that to ya.

The new Slipknot and Machine Head albums are good, by the way. Really good. The Machine Head one in particualt seems like a bit of a min-masterpiece in fact. If I heard enough new albums to do an AOTY list, it’d be damn tough choosing the top spot between it and Accept’s Blind Rage. Slipknot’s new album is interesting, beforehand I could not have been more cynical about or suspicious of. I was convinced it would be rubbish. It really isn’t though. Its strong. Damn strong. Stronger than the last one for sure. It seems to be a grower. Even all the lyrics about Paul’s death aren’t as cheap and cheesy as I imagined. I’d streamed “Skeptic” a few times because I’d heard that it was about Paul and I really cringed at the lyric “the world will never see another crazy muthafucker like you” – it just felt so dishonest and cheap, as if it was purely written to get sang along with and to make headlines, but the more I listen to it, in context, with the rest of the lyrics… I think its actually honest. Especially given how Corey and Shaun actually talk in real life.

The rest of that album is really good too. Its heavy, there aren’t any real ballads, the songs with poppier choruses never have as poppy verses as anything like “Dead Memories” or “Before I Forget.”

Not that heaviness in itself is good enough on its own. The thing is that the songs themselves are actually good. Memorable, catchy, the solos that feel more natural and less “look, I’m soloing.” There are some real fun, satisfying riffs on there and the new drummer actually keeps up Joey’s unique flappy, skittery style of drumming so it doesn’t sound like a huge departure.

I’ve also been listening to Machine Head’s older albums too. Inspired by the recent concert, and the new album, its always good to break out the ones I already own. Through The Ashes Of Empires has some of my absolute favourite Machine Head songs on it. “Vim,” “All Halls Down” and “Wipe Away The Tears” are the perennial favourites, and the concert made me reevaluate “Descend The Shades Of Night” and “Bite The Bullet” which I’ve overlooked in the past.

Then there’s Blind Guardian’s Nightfall In Middle Earth. Its like a mixture between Testament, Gamma Ray and oddly, Gentle Giant. I highly recommend checking that one out.

Being back with my family for the holidays I’ve also been exposed to my brother’s music. I’ve gotten to check out the new Animals As Leaders and Skyharbour albums. That is some seriously good stuff right there!

Check out the Animals As Leaders song “Physical Education” – such a fun tune!

I’ve also got access to my CDs again, because in my own place – half a country away – I don’t have the space to keep my CDs. My iTunes copies of a few Porcupine Tree and W.A.S.P. albums had glitches and faults in them, so being back here I was able to re-rip them. Its great listening to the songs properly without it skipping and cutting off short.

The rest of the time has been spent on romantic trips with my beautiful girlfriend, huge amounts of scrabble with the family, and watching all three seasons of That Mitchel And Webb Look and a series of Peep Show. I can’t go anywhere now without hearing Sir Digby Chicken Ceaser’s singing in the back of my head.

Its been an excellent break. The final one of this life as I’ll be qualified by the next one and go from someone who works to someone with a career – I forsee this will be my last Chirstmas day off for a while. I’ve been lucky in that my current job and my last job didn’t have me work on Christmas day (although I’ve done it before in previous jobs to that). Its been nice getting homework done and weights lifted in the same building as family instead of hundreds of miles away, its been nice having the time off work and its been nice having the free time to read so much. The crushingly slow internet was a tiny bit inconvenient but there’s only so many blogs about heavy music or Batman that a person can read in a month anyway.

Plus all this time in the middle of nowhere with no shops and too poor internet to access iTunes Store or Comixology well enough is pretty darn good for sticking to the challenge.

You can look forward to new album reviews and Amature Batfan articles too, as a result of all these lovely gifts. Merry Christmas, blogosphere!

Amateur Batfan Vol. 18 – Zero Year

Batman – Zero Year

Hello and welcome to the seventeenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

On with the show.

This article will be about the recent Batman story Zero Year (and I’m condensing the two books into one single article here, because they don’t work separately – its a single story for sure, missing the start or the end would be a mess).

Having had a brilliantly sleepy day off work where I was too broken and tired to move much or leave the house at all, I decided it may be fun to write another one of these articles from the comfort of under my duvet – its absolutely freezing here at the moment so above it would be unrealistically, threateningly cold (shame I didn’t chose a Mr. Freeze related story, like ‘Snow.’) – and in order to do that I had to read some Batman, and I had been meaning to re-read this one because quite frankly I thought it majorly sucked when I first got it, and I was hoping I was wrong about it.

Long time readers may remember that when I first read the previous New 52 Batman by Snyder & Capullo story, A Death In The Family, I thought that it majorly sucked as well. I’ve since way mellowed on that story. Way mellowed to the point of thinking its actually pretty darn good. I like a lot about it and only the inconsequence of it after the hype was the main issue. Sure there are small faults, but there are small faults with every other Batman thing Snyder has done, like in the otherwise amazing Court Of Owls – the awful twist (luckily though that is one of those copout twists where you get to chose for yourself if its true or not, so at least you can half-live with its inclusion).

So yeah, usually I read a Snyder story, balk at some choice because I don’t like it, think the book is lame, then read it again knowing about the choice, and hey – it’s a good book!

Will this work for Zero Year?

Well… no not really. Because there is no such choice with this book. The choice is the book. The whole book. The pacing, the paneling, the tone. Everything.

No. Not everything. The artwork is first rate, phenomenal, exceptional – all the positive words you can think of. The book looks incredible and there are so many pages I love and want as a poster for the wall they’re that great. The red lightning? The colours when he’s making a Bat Symbol out of tied up villians? FUGGEDABOUTIT.

So yeah… the book, as a book for illiterate people is quite pleasant. But… the other aspects sink it.

This book is supposed to be a rollercoaster; an explosive action meets sci-fi adventure (it says so in the liner notes) with bold editing choices and all these sorts of things. How it works out in reality though is like Dillinger Escape Plan’s debut album as a comic book. Its jagged, abrasive, lacking in flow, removed from sensible structure and downright uncomfortable.

Sounds pretty cool doesn’t it? I mean… here’s a guy who likes Prog saying “thing defies convention” – that must be good right? – Well, kinda no. There is a lot of good to be said for Zero Year… but the transgressive thing… that aint it. It’s a large detractor. This book would’ve been way better if it was three issues longer so they could fill in the darn blanks between scenes.

In comic books, I’ve come to expect that between two panels there is a certain minimum and maximum distance that can be crossed, a certain minium and maximum time that can pass… I’ve never thought about or quantified it until right now… all I can tell is that Zero Year disobeys the rules. Rule breaking is probably cool… I mean there’s a reason this blog is called King Crimson Blog and not AC/DC blog, right? But… y’know… “You Shook Me All Night Long” is one heck of a tune too, is it not?

This may just be a failing on my part, but struggling to know which panel follows which is not conducive to flow, as the time wasted searching interrupts the story. Also, in order to fit the word balloons, sentences are frequently reworded and end up feeling damn unnatural (assuming Snyder didn’t just write terrible dialogue – it feels more like medium-related compromise than a hack… and I know he’s not a hack because he writ’ Gates Of Gotham and The Black Mirror which are superb).

Also, the swearing bubbles should match the intended swear words otherwise you waste time guessing the swear and again the story stops flowing naturally.

But yeah… wah wah wah… I’m just a big baby who wants to be spoonfed mediocrity and never to feel uncomfortable. Or am I? Maybe this is just a poorly designed experiment that didn’t pan out. I don’t know… there’s one scene where the too-big gap ends with a vengeful foot on the riddler’s smug face… and in that instance the rule breaking leap actually caused me to laugh out loud… so… there’s that!

The first time I read it too I hated the idea that they are just doing another No Man’s Land and Dark Knight Rises movie idea… Gotham cut off, bridges uncrossable, civilization collapses. Its been done. Then I remembered a good story is a good story no matter what. Its not THAT similar to those other Gotham being cut off stories… and with one being a film and the other being pre-New 52, in this particular comic series it is an innovator.
All the machine gun robots and stuff felt weird and stupid for a set-in-the-past story, but when I thought deep there was advanced technology in all of the New 52 Snyder stories… so, ok I guess. And real life has Amazon drones flying mail across the country….so…

Oh. You know what else though… maybe I’m just stupid… but all the riddles sucked. Just my personal opinion but I wasn’t a fan of a single riddle in this book. Which is a shame for a Riddler story.

Also… Dr. Death’s motivation makes no sense. But… I’ve let Hush off with that..so… hmmm. Oh.. and throwing the “Red Hood One is clearly the Joker, oh wait, maybe he’s not” thing in was cheap. Of course he was… move on. No need to put in some half-baked mystery.

The thing I just hate about the book the most is just that it is too big for itself. The Red Hood Gang story starts halfway through… is plagued by cutaways and then ends with no consequence apart from weakly being tied to the next Dr Death story with a few lines of dialogue – which then that itself is all just a set up for the No Mans Land style bit which follows… so the first 2/3 of the story where a set up for a short-ass 1/3 that isn’t even all of it because its full of cutaways and has to have a resolution.

And in all that time, you’d think the Bruce Wayne character development and the relationships with Gordon and Alfred would have time to mature but no… if anything they feel rushed and weird… there’s just huge blustering conflict and swift unsatisfying resolution. While paradoxically, the main things about Batman being the city’s heartbeat and Bruce wanting to be someone else (BATMAN) are kind of subtle and understated, which feels wrong in a strange way since everything else was so overstated and hammy. Batman says I’ve failed and feels shame for not anticipating a different bomb plot!

And does Gordon’s coat NEED a damn backstory? Come on… its a coat. People wear coats. That’s all anyone needs. Where there legions of fans for the past 75 years going “if they don’t explain the origin story of that coat soon, I’ll stop buying comics”?

I think there was some brilliant stuff here, but it should’ve been about twice as long, with more structure, more background detail, slower pacing and less silliness (Bruce would never give someone the finger, surely? and why would you censor the phrase goddamn but not bastards? – and what kind of a line is “Gothamites are tough bastards, go figure” anyway?). And – ah, never mind. It feels like somebody took a whole new 12 episode first season of a new TV series called “SciFi Batman in an alternative past” (Catchy title, I’d buy that!) and condensed everything into just three comic books. And you just feel like “Dude, all the good bits are missing, they cut this wrong.”

Or maybe its Pulp Fiction and that’s the whole point. Maybe creating moods and asking audiences to write their own background and make their own stories is the whole point and I’m just a lame duck who wants something this was never supposed to be.

The backups of “Bruce Wayne In” stories were cooler than the main book. I’d love to have a whole book of just that but with it all designed from start to finish and told in chronological order, with a few side plots and stuff to flesh it out.

Oh wait… they invented the TV Show Gotham, right? Hopefully that will do just that. (Except it probably wont since its called Gotham, not Bruce Wayne training around the world).

What… the first half of Batman Begins still exists? Ok. Good. Maybe I’ll just watch that then.

Comments?

***Abandoning my usual structure in favour of long diatribes and jumping off half-formed thoughts to unconnected ones – not an intentional parody of Zero Year, but a nice mirror nonetheless***

****UPDATE:*****
I went through the internet to get a sense of what other people were saying and if I was missing stuff. The professional reviewers certainly make it seem like a better story and act as if all the characther development was deep and important and not rushed and unsatisfying as I had called it.

The people however had often a few complaints, which were 1. It shouldn’t be so world-shattering for Batmans first adventure. Its his first outing and he has to overcome such a gigantic city destroying event?
2. It was too long.

I don’t get the whole “it was too long” thing.

I felt that it was about three or four issues too short and that there was too much missing information. It made you “assume what happened” between and before panels too much and never actually showed you, and while yes we’re all intelligent people and hooray for intelligence, it might’ve been nice to just have a complete story with more flow.

Zero Year to me felt like Snyder had written a really good entire tv show season and then only showed the highlights.

It ironically almost needs a prequel of its own.

Also, those backups of Bruce’s pre-Batman globetrotting training were a cool idea… how about someone writes a complete story of all that training from start to finish with a satisfying sense of development and the transitioning of Bruce from angry orphan to Batman. I’d buy that.

I also totally agree with the point that as a prequel it feels like the wrong story to tell. What… Gotham is that badly devastated right at the start? With no lasting impact? No Man’s Land lasted way longer and had a longer lasting impact and it was only the Government stopping people coming or going… not a resourceful supervillian controlling the weather and electronics for the whole city.

And how did they get rid of all the overgrown plants… agent orange? Its not as if the only thing that happened to Gotham was Riddler turned off electricity and turning it back on fixes things… he flooded it, used Poisen Ivy’s science to turn it feral and he knocked over multiple buildings with a bulldozer-crane. That shit aint fixed by turning on the power. (Sure Bruce says in a speach that there’s work to do… but essentially, y’know… New Orleans isn’t fixed six years later… so how is Gotham not still pretty screwed in Owls and DOTF?). I know I know, suspension of disbelief.

Oh… and another thing; was the Riddler really doing it all to find a solution to climate change, overpopulation and world hunger? I don’t buy that, doesn’t feel right. I like the Arkham videogames version of the Riddler as some twisted Saw style serial killer so utterly obsessed with proving his worth that it causes him to become violent. Maybe the climate change line was BS… like the way Bane told the people he was freeing them in the third Nolan movie… it was just something he said in public but wasn’t his actual motivation or plan. Maybe its that?

Actually… a climate change focused enemy might be cool. Maybe it should’ve been Poison Ivy instead?

Amateur Batfan Vol. 17 – The Killing Joke

Hello and welcome to the seventeenth installment of Amateur Batfan, a series of blogposts here at Kincrimsonblog where I try something new. Instead of writing exclusively about music like I usually would, I’m dipping my toes into the field of writing about comics. I’m fairly new to comics. You can read about my history with the comics medium in the first entry of the series.

Long story short, I liked comics-related stuff but found the whole idea of being a comics fan too embarrassing, and some of the comics I did try were lacking-in-depth, so I didn’t like comics themselves until my friend Paul opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them. I had a sort of snobbery to overcome. Its been overcome now though, and I’ve spent most of the last year-and-a-half buying and reading Batman comics to the point where I personally own over seventy of them now, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

On with the show.

This entry is going to focus on Alan Moore’s sole contribution to the world of Batman; his one-shot graphic novel, The Killing Joke. There’s a lot of interesting opinions about this one. Some people consider it one of the top-four Batman stories of all time alongside The Dark Knight Returns, Year One and Arkham Asylum A Serious House On Serious Earth. Some consider it to be overrated trash. Some people think it is bad for Alan Moore and not up to his usual standard. Some people think it’s the definitive Joker story, others think that its almost blasphemy to give the Joker an origin and also that Batman acts out of character here. Some people hate the way Barbara Gordon was treated and hate it for being too gratuitous.

Grant Morrison thinks it ends with either Batman killing the Joker or vice versa (my memory is foggy after doing too many twelve-hour night-shifts, and not having been to sleep since the last one).

The copy I own is the deluxe edition where its been recolored and printed on nice glossy paper. Some people hate that because it messes with a classic. Some people love it and think it helps it look modern.

Batman – The Killing Joke:
– Writers: Alan Moore
– Art: Brian Bollard
– Colours: (in this case, Brian Bollard)
– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint
– Timeline Position: Mid career, pre-Death In The Family, pre-Kinghtfall.
– Batman is: Bruce Wayne
– Villains: Joker, Some Freaks, Red Hood gang, Danny Weaver
– Cameos: Two Face, Penguin
– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Barbara Gordon,
– Bystanders: Jeannie Kerr

– Art: I think everything about this book looks excellent. Its definitely good for its time and held up well. In fact its good even for now.

– Tone: I love the tone here. Its very much like an episode of The Sopranos or any other guns-and-cops HBO show you could think of.

– My Thoughts: Let me address the above points one by one… I do think it deserves to be in that list. I personally don’t think its better than some stories like Long Halloween or Arkham Asylum, nor is it anywhere near as brilliant as Year One, but I think it feels like its supposed to be ‘up there’ and heck, I personally enjoy it more than The Dark Knight Returns.

I haven’t read any other Moore comics so I can’t comment on whether its poor for him, but let me say that if its poor for him, good for him must be astonishing.

I don’t think it ends with a death, not at all. Not subtly, not hinted at, not metaphorical. I think it just ends. It ends with Joker being about to be arrested once again and I reckon it’s a statement on the banality of the repetition of the endless arrest/crime Joker cycle rather than any secret murder.

I love how this book looks. I read the original coloured version too a about a year ago so its not that I haven’t seen both. I just like it. I like pretty glossy paper. I like big easy-to-read print and I like this colour palate a lot. It’s a bit more Arkham videogame series and a bit less Watchmen comic. I love The Watchmen’s story and art (oh wait, that was Moore wasn’t it? Damn… Yeah, this aint as good as that!) but not necessarily the colour scheme.

I also don’t mind the Barbara thing, and all the slightly sinister, uncomfortable rapey overtones that some people complain about. I think it works well and gives the story a lot of serious dramatic weight. Makes it feel a bit Mystic River.

It was good for a book to point out ‘hey, Batman is a bit of an insane idea’ and even though it started a thing that people can get sick of, it works well here in this book.

Basically, I think this is a nice, tight, enjoyable book, with a sensible length and good pacing. I enjoy it more than the bloated Knightfall, but wouldn’t call it a favourite.

Down – Down IV Part II EP Review

Down - Down IV Part II

Down – Down IV Part II

Down IV Part 2 is the American Metal super-group Down’s 2014 release. As its title suggests, it is the second in a series of EPs released under the Down IV title, following up 2012’s “Down IV Part I – The Purple EP.” It was produced by Michael Thompson along with the band themselves and released independently.

This was the band’s first official release without longtime member Kirk Weinstein of Crowbar fame, who is replaced here by Bobby Landgraf. Ironically, this EP is probably closer in sound to Crowbar than to Pantera, Eyehategod or Corrosion Of Conformity (the other groups besides Crowbar that the band are usually associated with).

First up, for an EP, this is actually pretty substantial, a total running time of almost 37 minutes leaves it longer than many albums anyway.

The focus of songwriting this time around seems to focus on the heavier, mid-paced side of the band’s repertoire. I don’t think the distinction between EPs 1 & 2 is all that strict, as in, its not a clear cut case of one has all the fast songs, one has all the slow songs, or one has all the basic songs and the other has all the progressive songs. This EP is essentially more of the Down mid-ground. Its not the most “instant” release in their catalogue, and may take a few spins to really get to grips with, but if you give it the time it asks for, you’ll get the rewards it promises.

Highlights include the brief “Hogshead/Dogshead,” and “Sufferer’s Years,” which is particularly catchy with its “I hate this time of year” sing-along, and the fat ‘60s/’70s sounding riffs in the pre-chorus. It is a nice mixture of the band’s Doom, Sludge & Stoner sides, approaching vintage Hard Rock in 2014 from multiple angles. This is perhaps the most definitively “Down” track on the album, and hopefully it will become a concert staple.

The record ends with the almost nine-minute long “Bacchanalia,” one of the looser and more jam-feeling songs on the record. You imagine it got its title from the drunken party in which it probably spawned (as opposed to a secret love of Batman No Man’s Land). This track in turn ends with a softer acoustic moment, likely foreshadowing Down IV Part 3 as the promised all-acoustic EP originally mentioned when the band come up with splitting the album into different EPs.

Overall; this is not necessarily bold new ground for the band, and the focus on mostly similar direction material may leave some fans feeling an acute lack of variety or excitement, but for what it is, to me personally, Down IV Part II is an entertaining collection of Down songs and a worthy addition to the catalogue. If you’re burned out by the formula, or want something fresh and new from these guys, maybe give it a miss, but if you can’t get enough Down, then by all means jump on board.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 55

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 55. 55 days without buying myself anything. (Actually I can’t remember if I bought anything on the exact last day before the challenge, so it might be like, y’know, 60 days or something overall… my memory is fuzzy. 55 for sure though.

Anyway; I did a bad thing guys! I placed a bid on Batman Contagion on eBay, so unless someone outbids me, I’ll have broken the challenge tomorrow… woops. Lesson learned: “Don’t go on eBay during these challenges!” Common sense really… I also damn nearly bought a W.A.S.P. vinyl for my wall that I have absolutely no call to be buying in my current financial situation, but I snapped myself out of that pretty quickly. Its just that contagion was on the wishlist for so long (like Batman Cataclysm too) and it always sells for stupidly high prices like £33 or whatever, and seeing it at £4 was exciting. Oh well, it’s a process. Also hopefully I’ll be outbid and dodge this failure-bullet narrowly.

Fingers crossed.

Now here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with recently:

Any one song in isolation is excellent. The intro is even excellent. Russ’ voice sounds better than ever. There are great guitar solos and a decent production sound. There’s even guest appearances from other Bay Area Thrash heroes.

That being said… this album has gone from “Yay, they’re back!” to “Meh” pretty quickly. I’ve more or less ignored it since the year it come out. I think the problem is that there isn’t enough variety, there isn’t enough speed, and that all the songs are about a minute-too-long (Exodus disease).

The title-track is actually really fast at times, and pretty varied, I don’t think I’d noticed before because the album wore me down before that point most times. Anyway, yeah, doesn’t work as an album so much, but any of the songs in a playlist is excellent.

This is a classic. I like it a lot. Its got a good balance between their Slayer-esque side and their more Anthrax-sounding riffs. Its technical but not overwhelming, its aggressive but not just pointless hammering. There’s a surprising depth and more softness and melody than you may remember. Great album.

Another birthday gift. The latest one to be opened. I’ve waited almost a whole month to open it. It’s a pretty damn good album, just as I expected. There’s a lot of AC/DC sounding moments, along with the Speed Metal of “Fast As A Shark” and “Flash Rocking Man.” Also, it has “Demon’s Night” as covered by Cannibal Corpse. I already like “Princess Of The Dawn” and “Neon Nights” from the live Blu Ray that came with Blind Rage.

I read a few people say this album is inconsistent. I don’t hear it. This is all good stuff, and deservedly considered a classic.

Sometimes when I haven’t heard this in a while, I mistakenly think that I don’t like it. While I certainly could live without “You Aint The First” or “Live And Let Die” (or “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” for that matter, and also I always feel cheated by the two “Don’t Cry” versions…one is enough!) and I have to be in the right mood to enjoy “The Garden,” “Bad Obsession” or “Coma,” that still leaves over two-thirds of the album as certified awesome.

The fast heavy material like “Right Next Door To Hell,” “Perfect Crime,” “Don’t Damn Me,” “Garden Of Eden,” “Double Talkin Jive,” and “Back Off Bitch” is all exciting, energetic and enjoyable. They keep that spirit of Appetite’ alive. People often forget this material is on here too. I often forget it myself. They should release a version for Metal fans that starts off with all of these tracks first, and loses the acoustic tracks and covers. That would stop all the Appetite-whinging.

Also, “Dust N Bones” though not heavy, has been one of my all time favourite GnR songs since my very first listen of it. It is excellent.

Also, “November Rain” and “Don’t Cry” are awesome. Its just that I associate them with idiots from my high-school. When they catch me unawares I remember just how good a song they each are. They are fantastic.

Sometimes I think of this album as being 60% acoustic, 30% cover songs and trumpets, and 10% good. This is way, way, way off the mark. Excellent album. Also, as it happens, I indeed was in the mood for “Coma” this time.

I’m really becoming very, very fond of Hammerfall indeed. I just can’t stop cranking this and their debut. It also keeps getting better on new listens. Such a fun, entertaining, easily digestible band! They’re the musical equivalent of popcorn.

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 52

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 52. 52 days without buying myself anything. I think that’s a new record. I don’t think, since getting my first job at 16, ten years ago, that I’ve ever went this long without buying something along the lines of a book, cd, dvd, videogame etc. for myself. I’m a big old spoiled Western consumer of the hardest core.

I’m also tempted to break my pledge not to buy anything because Batman Contagion is on eBay at the minute for only £4 and that’s been on my wishlist for a year now. Time will only tell if I break my resolve and buy it. Maybe someone else will buy it first and the problem will go away.

I’ve also saw in town a shop selling In The Court Of The Crimson King on Vinyl. Its £17 though, and for my use of it as merely a poster for my wall, that’s not worth it. Why is no one selling it used for £3? Anyway…

Its been an excellent few weeks. I’ve been eating super healthy (constant soups full of dozens of veg, and smoothies full of dozens of fruit and veg, adding spinach to normal meals, eating less meat, massively reducing my intake of junk food, almost giving up chocolate completely) and I’ve been exercising a lot (going for walks almost daily, lifting weights frequently). Most of this was in the sun and away from the city, but even this last week when I did return to the city, I’ve kept it up. I even kept it up yesterday on my first day back at Uni. Next week, with a return to work, and full-week Uni, will be the real challenge.

At any rate, everyone is telling me I’ve lost weight. To the point where I actually believe it. Take home message: get more vitamins and go for walks = Thin Jim. Hopefully I can keep it up.

During this time, I’ve been experiencing the delights of Manowar, the new Down EP, a whole heap of Accept, some early Savatage, and trying out Minor Threat.

I’ve also been gifted a butt-load of comics related stuff which I shall try tonight after weightlifting. Those two things, lifting and comics, (with a healthy dose of Hammerfall in the background), should help me stay off eBay and avoid breaking my pledge.

Also, my house mates got me the newest Judas Priest and Trivium albums, as well as Ozzy’s Tribute live album with Randy Rhodes, and Soundgarden’s recently reissued debut EP, Screaming For Life/Fopp. I’ll deny myself these goodies now, and open them in a month, so I have something to look forward to in a month, and hopefully that will stop me buying any new music between now and then. Even if buying Raven or Tank albums on iTunes is tempting….

Anyway; here’s what else I’ve been up to, in order to distract myself from my materialism.

First off, for my own entertainment, and your information, I’ve complied the following list:

Albums I Have Fallen Completely Obsessively In Love With, in roughly chronological order of it happening:

Protest The Hero – Kezia
Gallows – Grey Britain
Helloween – Keeper Of The Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2
Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime
Accept – Stalingrad
Rishloo – Feathergun
Chimaira – The Infection
Mastodon – Crack The Skye
Kiss – Alive
Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway
Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick
Gentle Giant – Octopus
Pink Floyd – The Wall
Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am’
Forbidden – Forbidden Evil
Megadeth – So Far So Good So What
Anthrax – Among The Living
Pantera – Vulgar Display Of Power
Powerman 5000 – Tonight The Stars Revolt
Jetplane Landing – Once Like A Spark
The Libertines – S/T
Mudvayne – The End Of All Things To Come
Slipknot – S/T
Green Day – Warning

I also had huge Led Zeppelin, Nirvana, Napalm Death and Monster Magnet periods, but no single album ended up getting the focus of that huge obsession. Zyklon, Carpathian Forest, Mars Volta, Riverside and Gamma Ray are all almost up there for an album each (Aeon, Defending The Throne Of Evil, Ochtahedron, ADHD and Land Of The Free) but I can’t bring myself to fully commit to writing them down for some reason. Motley Crue’s Theater Of Pain is kind of getting this way at the minute so we’ll see how it pans out, its probably the newest name on the list. Some that are up there have faded, but some are as strong as ever.

Now here’s what I’ve been distracting myself with recently, excluding the aforementioned birthday gifts (I’ve been absolutely hammering Manowar, and that new Fratellis album):









I really like the Alice In Chains demo “Social Parasite” …its quite good fun.

I’m thinking of digging into some really under-listened albums next, like the Napalm Death covers albums, Anathema’s Falling Deeper, Sodom’s debut, Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine and Forbidden’s Green. Then I think, maybe I listen to them so little because they aren’t good.

I remember going back and listening to all my Nu Metal albums like Static X and Spineshank and Ill Nino for a similar reason, but I never blogged about it because I was so snowed under with Uni essays at the time. I found that to be be a worthy exercise for surprise enjoyment (“Ostego Undead” is more fun than I remember), so maybe listening to records that I think of as duds may prove worthwhile too.

I’ll let you know what I chose. Right now I’m off to lift weights while watching the Justice League cartoon. See you soon…

Get (Into) What You Paid For: Round 4 – Day 42

Hello and welcome once more to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For; a series in which I blog about music and media I own, to distract myself from the fact that I am sworn off buying anything new for a month (or in this case, two months).

Its day 42, and I haven’t spent anything new thank goodness, I’m actually on track. This time last year I was rolling around in Batman and Dredd Blu Rays, picking up White Zombie and Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots albums, picking up about 7 concert tickets and about 14 Batman TPBs, and generally just quickly and almost violently spending all the money I’d earned from working in a media-centered retail outlet all summer.

This September however, I’m not spending anything. I’m thinking of extending this already-extended challenge to be yet another month long as well. So… that’d be no purchases from August 1st all the way to November 1st. My reasoning for this is that I could use that money for fruit and vegetables. Also, I didn’t work this summer like I usually do so its not like the aforementioned that money is much anyway. I’ve got bills to pay people!

Also… I have so much stuff already. And so much borrowed stuff on top of that. And access to so much free stuff on the internet (how many comedy video shows like Zero Punction and web comics are there anyway? And how many bands like Miroist give their music away for free on bandcamp?). I could re-read each of my Graphic Novels, read all the books I got in the last two years again, re-read all my Game Of Thrones (Song Of Ice And Fire) books, listen to all the albums I rarely listen to, play through the backlogue of videogames I haven’t finished (or even started for some of ‘em) yet, and hey, I’ve got Netflix and so there’s always something to watch.

What’s the reason to buy new things anyway?

Apart from my burning need to buy things of course… (the hungry deamon who screams in my brain to ‘spend, spend, spend,”) and the fact that one thing leads to another (as discussed here by my talented friend Paul), in so much as if I read Batman, I’ll want more Batman…if I play God Of War I’ll want more similar video games, If I listen to a certain band, I’ll want more similar music.

Heck; on that tip, I got books about Black and Death Metal for my birthday from Paul (cheers, generous!) and once I read them that’ll make me want to buy Death and Black Metal albums mentioned inside.

…but apart from all that … I think I could do it. I think I could go three months purchase-free, just enjoying what I’ve already got. Getting to grips with what I’ve got. Getting into what I paid for… I think you can consider the challenge extended folks!

Anyway… here’s what I’ve been listening to whilst weightlifting, walking and wanking spending time on facebook for the last few days:


This is one of my favourite album discoveries of the past few years. This album is so well-crafted, so catchy and such good fun. Its also one of their most consistent, filler-free, and exciting albums… one where everything just “comes together” and becomes greater than the sum of its parts. It really is “the 3rd Keeper Of The Seven Keys” like people say it is. Its definitely my number three favourite Power Metal album behind those two aforementioned Keeper gems.

Continuing on a Power Metal theme, I finished the weights yesterday by listening to the melodic Metal stylings of Sweeden’s Hammerfall. This is a really solid and enjoyable album indeed. I’m not sick of it yet at all. Its been a sort of soundtrack to the summer. It is a really motivating album to exercise to as well, the sound of it just inspires activity and dedication. Something about the clean vocals just makes you want to do push-ups. I think if they played this sort of glorious victorious music in high school Phis-Ed classes (or “PE” for us Brits), there’d be much less fat kids. Maybe there’d be higher sales of Dungeons & Dragons and replica swords too, which could offset the economic disaster that thin kids would cause by not buying Big Macs and diabetes medicine, maybe.

Ok. No. I think its just me. I’m sure the average jock thug wouldn’t want Hammerfall during his dodgeball bullying time.

Can you tell I’ve watched much US teen television? Thought so….

I haven’t listened to this album in yonks. I think that’s because I temporarily lost it when I lent it to a former guitarist of a band I was in, on a day we were going to see Gama Bomb and Onslaught live. Turns out he was in Uni with Gama Bomb’s bassist and I got to meet the band and get into the gig for free. Good evening! I left this album in his car though, that’s the only downside.

That was probably one of the last nights I listened to it, even if it is in my iTunes library. Also, that was probably the first time I’d listened to it in a few years. I liked this band during my Thrash-obsessed teens, but they really were just “one more thrash band” to put into my metaphorical hungry maw. (Also literal hungry maw, hence all the weight-loss now). I mean look at me around the time I was listening to this album regularly:

Anyway… yeah, this album reminds me a lot of Slayer’s Hell Awaits in terms of its slightly ploddy nature and slightly weird black production job. Its thrash, its got solos and double kicks and all that good stuff. Its just a bit dull overall, but still good if that makes sense? Its talented enjoyable stuff… but every song is about a minute too long, and the album is about a song too long, and every idea is about one unit of plagiarism too many to get truly excited about. Still… its nice to hear it again after all these years since I first picked it up (2004? 2005?).

Now this was a real favourite of mine in my teen years. This is a brilliant album. I’m not sure why I am not listening to it regularly now… other than the fact that NEW STUFF NEW STUFF NEW STUFF SO MUCH NEW STUFF

Ahem, excuse me. But yes, Overkill’s Taking Over is a brilliant record. I don’t think there’s a single song on it I’d loose. I like Bobby’s voice on this album the best of any in the discography too. And the production is charming, with an excellent guitar tone. Also it has “In Union We Stand” on it. How can you argue with that? Fun, Fun, Fun!

I’ve been listening to this a lot recently anyway, but I generally squeeze new stuff in with the old stuff on these GITWYPF endeavors anyway… so, what the heck?

This is my favourite Dokken album. I think Back For The Attack is better and my favourite two songs (“Lightnin Strikes Again” & “Til The Livin End”) are on Under Lock And Key, but this one is my favourite album overall. The variety, the charm, the guitar solos, the choruses! Its all so good. Also the album is succinct and entertaining and doesn’t ever get samey.

I listened to this and Heartwork last night upon realizing that I’d gotten a lend of them over a year ago and never actually returned them (woops). Anyway, yeah, I like the idea of them, and there’s loads of riffs, vocal patterns and fills I like…. But each album is a bit tiring. Any song in isolation, yup. The famous songs like “Keep On Rotting In The Free World” “Tomorrow Belongs To Nobody” “Heart Work” etc. are all absolute gems, but deep album tracks all in a row aren’t as entertaining and can find me zoning out a little. Sorry!

I’ve had this album almost for as long as I’ve been into Metal, I got it pretty early in my time in high school. I rarely listened to it (if at all) after I left high school. I seem to remember it being almost 100% d-beats with very little variety, excluding the title track, which is awesome. (I’m always disappointed by how the title track isn’t as good live on the Monkey Puss DVD, and also the fact that the cool bit at the end is a “cover” and not just invented by the band).

Well, my memory was half-right. The title track is indeed awesome. But there’s way more variety than I remembered. Its not all d-beats. The drumming is really impressive actually. There’s some seriously inventive and impressive kick work and fills on here. This is a damned decent album! I think I’ll be listening to this more often nowadays!

I really enjoyed this. I stuck it on tonight. Its basically just a good, catchy Thrash album when all is said and done. Or at least the best songs are. The unarguably Death songs (eg. “Blaspherion”) are maybe the weakest moments for my own personal taste, but otherwise, this is some damn catchy enjoyable stuff. “Dead By Dawn” is great fun. Also, even “Blaspherion” has awesome drums, and some great sections in the middle and towards the end!

I like that this album is short. It’s a short, sharp, exciting blast of energy. It feels passionate. Its kind of that Reign In Blood thing… Succinct, powerful, effective. I think too much of this might get a bit old, but this is a nice snack (for my hungry maw, remember?).

This is not short. It is not Reign In Blood-esque by any stretch of the imagination (save for talent, of course). It is however, really impressive. Surprisngly groovy, musical and listenable, the album is really rather interesting. Its just outside my brain’s comfort zone, so I only enjoy it in a sort of technical way, I’m an observer who can tell that it is good, but I’m not actually enjoying it myself on a gut level. Oh well, maybe with more listens or some other band to “unlock” it for me, it will become a favourite once my objective admiration for it synchs with my gut-reaction.

Speaking of gut reaction…. Boy, this is a banger. Those riffs! Those riffs! Those riiiifs!
I don’t think I’ve found an extreme Metal band that better connects with me on a gut level than the mighty Melechesh (Napalm Death and Zyklon are the closest, but Melechesh do it more consistently).

“Ladders To Sumeria” for example just slays! That reoccurring riff is the bee’s knees. I can’t explain it properly in words, but it’s the “key” riff of the song, so just listen to it, and that riff you find yourself loving… it’ll be that one!

Another new one mixed in with the oldies. I like it a lot. “Demon’s Whip” is a great song, balancing their fast and slow sides well. “The Power Of Thy Sword” is my favourite on the album… it is pure outrageous Gamma Ray style fun!

The only complaint I have at all is that the drum solos and bass solo in “Achilles” rob its momentum, but the fact that they represent parts of the story through sound (the forging of armour etc) is cool enough to forgive that problem.

Ok. That’s enough for one article. Consider the challenge extended and have a good evening.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 4 Day 18

Hello and welcome to my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Ok. Its now Day 18. Apart from the mistake with the excitement of the Machine Head tickets, there have been no purchases. I damn near bought the comic book Crisis On Infinite Earths but fought it off at the last minute. I also nearly bought a few Megadeth b-sides as single mp3s but shook that off too.

Other than that, I’m pretty temptation free. I’ve spent most of my time watching documentaries on Netflix about health and food and vegetarianism (I’m not a vegetarian myself, but it was still good entertainment), lifting weights and eating more fruit and veg than I did in the entire last two months, maybe three months (I let my healthy eating slide about a year ago and am getting back to normal again now). If you watch the documentaries it really reminds you to get your vitamins and minerals. If I was in charge, I’d make kids watch them once every year to just remind them. At least they’d probably eat veg for a month every year. Even that small thing would add years to their lives and oodles to their quality of life later on.

But enough health propaganda. What about music?

I am also happy that my copy of Accept’s Blind Rage has dispatched. I should hopefully receive it tomorrow. Just in time for my free holiday to mainland Europe. It would be nice to have Blind Rage for the bus ride to the airport.

What else? I finally finished Dave Mustaine’s autobiography. It was really interesting, it goes from his childhood right up until the writing of Endgame, and although the period from United Abominations to Endgame is really, really short compared to everything else (every other album and tour cycle gets a detailed story), this is a remarkably consistent, honest, interesting and deep book.

He discusses his flaws, his embarrassments and his mistakes in a way that makes you understand how he thinks and how much of this can be attributed to drugs, and how much is just his personality. You can see where the different parts of his problems come from. You can see why the Metallica-firing hurt so much and really understand him. You can also see what a jerk he was to people. He points out his hypocrisies and bad decisions. On a human level, its just a really interesting and brutally honest book. (A warning though, it is a tad too homophobic at times.)

In addition to finishing that book I’ve also finished the DC Comic Book Crossover story Final Crisis. This is a story in which the stories from a bunch of different superheroes (Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern etc.) all crash into one larger story. It’s an apocalypse sort of story. Mind control, dark gods, the end of the universe. Big name characters die or are injured. The consequences of this story affected things for a while afterwards. Apparently it was a huge deal at the time.

It’s a remarkably intelligent work that works on several levels as a commentary on comic books, stories, authors, and the responsibilities and rights associated with those things. The first time I read it, roughly one year ago, I was beyond baffled. Impenetrable would be a fair description. This time around, armed with documentaries about its author, Wikipedia breakdowns of the plot and characters, a years worth of Batman experience, a detailed series of fan analysis online and more patience than last time… I went in prepared and was rewarded. I enjoyed it a lot. I was entertained, I was impressed, I was educated. Good job. I’d happily read it again now that I’ve “got it.” I’d recommend it too, so long as you already like Grant Morison’s style.

I’ve also been watching The Metal Voice. I had watched things like this before at times such as Dom’s Iron Sandwhich and Cover Killer Nation. Youtube shows that are basically a podcast about heavy metal, often in the form of a man looking at a webcam and reviewing a Metal album. The Metal Voice is slightly better than most others in that they put some effort into it and its more like a public access TV show sometimes. Plus its Canadian. I thought they were really unfair with Slipknot… but oh well, can’t have everything.

So… time to appreciate some albums I bought but never felt like I got my money’s worth out of:

Serj

I’m going to re-listen to Serj Tankian’s debut studio album, 2007’s Elect The Dead. This solo record, recorded shortly after the dissolution of the at-the-time absolute superstar band System Of A Down (an acrimonious demise that left you unsympathetic to the guys in the band), this album kind of passed me by as a bit throwaway.

Sure, here’s a new album, but who really cares?

It opens up with “Empty Walls” which is pretty much System Of A Down. Its also surprisingly awesome. I remember not liking it at the time because a) I had kind of got bored of SOAD and b) It seemed repetitive. Furthermore, it was 2007, so I was probably listening to nothing but Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, Camel, Rush, Gentle Giant, Jethro Tull and ELP… Serj doesn’t really fit in with that sort of palate.

Listening back now, this song is a real “hit single” or “classic song.” Regardless of its actual financial success, artistically, this is as good as any SOAD hit. Its as good to me as “Sugar” or “Chop Suey” or “B.Y.O.B.”

The next song, “Unthinking Majority” is pretty much the same… a brilliant catchy single that is as good as any SOAD banger. It has a bit more of an Eastern-tinge, and an awkward time-change dynamic with keyboards that is similar to stuff on his next album Imperfect Harmonies. This song is pretty great too.

Next comes “Money.” It starts off as a soulful, piano-led sort of ballad. Then there is an explosive BYOB-style racket of energetic metal/punk noise. Then it goes back to the keyboard stuff. This is also a pretty great song, and the softer side provides contrast to the previous tracks, but the chorus keeps it from feeling like a slowing-down. The pre-chorus is excellent. Nice song.

This is followed by “Feed Us.” Oh, what’s the point? You know what? This WHOLE ALBUM can be summed up by my feelings for “Empty Walls.” I wasn’t in the mood when the album came out, but this is way better than it is given credit for. A forgotten gem.

Every song is a short 2-4 banger that could be a lead single on any other album. Well, except the somber album closer… but apart from that moody number, every song could be a bouncy first-single.

Apart from the lack of Daron’s backing vocals you can barely tell it isn’t a SOAD album. The highlights for me are “Lie Lie Lie,” “Saving Us” and “Sky Is Over.” Even the track “Baby” which I used to hate for being a bit too wacky (in a cheesy way, rather than in a Protest The Hero tasteful-but-hectic way) with its silly pronunciation of the word “Baby” is actually a fabulous song. This is a rock solid album. Way, way better than it is given credit for. More consistent than most SOAD records. Better than the majority of solo albums from anyone in the Alternative Metal/Nu Metal spectrum.

Serj 2

Wow. This is good. Its lead me to listen to Imperfect Harmonies too. Its good. Not just as good (and if you are in the mood for a Rock Band playing Rock Songs its not right for you because its more like a Nine Inch Nails album, in that one artist with a laptop and a keyboard has written an electronics and vocals based record.) If it wasn’t for the big style-shift, this would be a lot better received. If you’re in the mood for it, this is a real strong album. In and of itself, for what it is, this is really strong.

Following that, I’ve just given his most recent effort, Harakiri, again. Its good. It sounds trite, but it is the halfway point between both of those records and his discography would make more sense if this was released between the first and second albums. I liked it at the time, I like it now. Its highlights, including “Figure It Out,” “Occupied Tears,” “Uneducated Democracy” and “Weave On” are all strong and worth your time. It mightn’t be the most strong and consistent record ever, but its highlights are all pretty sweet.

MSG

What else is it time to get my money’s worth? How about my boxset of Michael Schenker Group albums? I listened to all four studio albums in preparation for this article. They are a pretty decent band. They are sort of like a mixture between Thin Lizzy without the Thin-Lizzy unique touch, with 70s Judas Priest without their heaviness, with Coverdale era Deep Purple without their funk. Also some real pop radio choruses that can feel out of place. Awesome guitar solos as you would expect. Its really a guitar album (or albums). Its such a weird point between Rock and Metal that I can’t compare it to anything else I know (apart from UFO, obviously). I would love to hear Children Of Bodom or someone like that cover their songs. “Attack Of The Mad Axeman” is the prize find of the collection, an absolutely wonderful rock song. Such a fun riff! – The rest of it is a mixed bag of mostly good but rarely memorable. Every time I’ve ever listened to them, I’ve liked them more, but I’ve never gotten to the boy-oh-boy-I-love-this-band stage. Still, I don’t regret buying the nice cheap boxset of five albums (there’s a live album in it too), but I think it’ll take a few more listens before I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth.

FF

On the subject of getting your money’s worth. I also spent last night listening to Burn My Eyes and Demanufacture. What can I say, I liked these two albums a lot anyway, and I already feel I got my money’s worth out of them, but I had some sort of real revelation last night and I really, really “got them” in a new way.

Its like, every other time I listened to them, there was a cloud of static in my brain. Like when you see a difficult math equation and you can’t even try to solve it because there is a cloud of static in your brain. Its that same exact feeling, and it has just cleared. I heard what a truly wonderful album Demanufactue is last night in a way I never knew before, in the entire decade (and more) since I bought it.

Sometimes its hearing another album, or seeing a documentary, or using new speakers, or a new EQ setting, or simply aging, but sometimes my brain just totally changes shape and new things come in. On first listen, Dream Theater’s Scenes From A Memory was a cheesy mess of stolen ELP parts and no Metal, and now it is a masterpiece and surprisingly heavy.

Now, Burn My Eyes and Demanufacture just got some “golden ticket” invitation to the awesome centre of my brain. Interesting how this stuff happens. I’d like to see some neurological data about it, but…. Failing that, I’ll just blog about it here and see what you guys think is going on?

What is the cloud of static in my brain, and why has it shifted away from these two records?

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 2 Day 8

Hello and welcome once again my friends to the show that never ends this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt to not buy anything for a month, and reevaluate my opinion of records I bought previously but never really became a true fan of, taking this purchase-abstinence as a chance to finally “get my money’s worth” out’ve the more undervalued albums in my collection. That; and present thoughts and musings that don’t fit elsewhere on the blog.

Its now eight days into the challenge and yup…didn’t cave last night and buy anything. I don’t think I’m all that tempted at the minute. Maybe I am though. Who knows, maybe I’d sneak in during the middle of the night and buy Girls Girls Girls on eBay? I listened to Accept’s Balls To The Wall yesterday, that made me pretty tempted to pick up Restless & Wild actually. Ok…so maybe there are temptations. Get off my back!

A lot of my blog viewing this week has featured Savatage…maybe I’ll just quickly get the albums of theirs I’m missing?

No. Stay strong!… Ok. So. You’ll be glad to read (unless you’re an Amazon employee) that I didn’t do any of that. I’ve still been listening to that Motely Crue album I mentioned yesterday. Also a lot of Pantera. Boy do I enjoy Pantera. Sometimes you take them for granted and ignore them, and then all of a sudden you are refreshed and hear them again and its all like “Wow…how good are Pantera guys? Seriously!” as if it’s the very first time again. Excellent, timeless, brilliant band.

In non-music realms, I’ve been reading Batman Cacophony, a title (written by Kevin Smith) that I picked up and read over half a year ago but haven’t blogged about yet, but I’ve kept that in a separate post, in the Amateur Batfan series. Temptations-wise? Maybe I might buy Kevin Smith’s work on Green Arrow or Daredevil? I am curious… but, no, not now. Its still just Batman time for me.

So, what else is new then?

I’ve been reading a lot online today about the best selling Metal albums of all time. I would like to see how Avenged Sevenfold and Slipknot compare to Dokken and Quiet Riot…how Dream Theater did, if Anthrax or Exodus ever went platinum over time… things like that.

A few of the places to check out are: here and here, and also here. Furthermore, there’s here and here and here.

What I found out however is that there are massive, massive, massive differences in opinion/supposed facts/plain old lies about how well certain albums sold. Here are some examples of such disputed sales figures:

AC/DC – Back In Black: 49 x platinum (or 25/40 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon: 45 x platinum (or 22 as reported elsewhere)
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV: 37 x platinum (or 29 as reported elsewhere)
Nirvana – Nevermind: 30 x platinum (or 26 as reported elsewhere)
Bon Jovi – Slippery When Wet: 28 x platinum (or 12 as reported elsewhere)
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction: 28 x platinum (or 18/21/30 as reported elsewhere)
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory: 24 x platinum (or 10 as reported elsewhere)
Metallica – Metallica: 19 x platinum (or 16/30 as reported elsewhere)
Pink Floyd – The Wall: 17 x platinum (or 30 as reported elsewhere)

How can there be such discrepancies? Some of these are nearly double the amount! That’s not something you can mistake in your bank account, or shipping company traffic.

Here are other some surprises however:

Kid Rock – Devil Without A Cause: 11 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Significant Other: 7 x platinum
Limp Bizkit – Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water: 6 x platinum
Quiet Riot – Metal Health: 6 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – Greatest Hits: 5 x platinum
Guns N’ Roses – GN’R Lies: 5 x platinum
Alice in Chains – Dirt: 4 x platinum
Black Sabbath – Paranoid: 4 x platinum
Nine Inch Nails – The Downward Spiral: 4 x platinum
Linkin Park – Meteora: 4 x platinum
Disturbed – The Sickness: 4 x platinum
Godsmack – Godsmack: 4 x platinum
Metallica – Kill ‘Em All: 3 x platinum
System of a Down – Toxicity: 3 x platinum
Queensryche – Empire: 3 x platinum
Tool – Aenima 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Rage Against the Machine: 3 x platinum
Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Night Songs: 3 x platinum
Cinderella – Long Cold Winter: 3 x platinum
Papa Roach – Infest: 3 x platinum
P.O.D. – Satellite: 3 x platinum
Audioslave – Audioslave 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman: 3 x platinum
Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon: 3 x platinum

P.O.D, Cinadrella, Papa Roach and Disturbed stand out to me as odd. These guys all sold more than Slipknot? My perspective is way off. They all sold equal to System Of A Down…really? Also, I never, ever thought Godsmack would be that successful… You just do not hear of those guys over here in the UK (Godsmack’s record here is MORE Successful than Black Sabbath, RATM and Ozzy Osbourne? Really?).

Tool sold so many despite being so proggy and weird? Good on them!

RATM sold so few relative to this list despite the enormous crossover appeal?

What’s with the large gap between Metallica albums? If you like Metallica enough to buy Ride The Lightning, why not buy Kill ‘Em All too?

Significant Other sold more than Chocolate Starfish? – It really didn’t feel that way at the time.

Audioslave?

Queensryche did that well? Why were they so unheard of two years ago?

An unwanted, cover-song-filled GNR compilation so, so late in their career outsold Toxicity and Meteora? They seemed sooooo famous at the time to me, while that compilation seems so throw-away.

But anyway, enough about sales.

DT – A

Here’s something to reevaluate. Dream Theater’s 1994 album, Awake. It’s their third album, it’s the third of theirs that I heard if memory serves. I heard Metropolis’ and didn’t like it (this has since changed), then I heard Images & Words and liked that, then I bought a boxset and listened to the other albums in that; which included Awake, Falling Into Infinity and Train Of Thought.

The album opens up with drums on their own, and kind of reminds me of Jethro Tull’s ‘No Lullabye’ in a very vague way. Opener “6.00” comes in and samples say “Six O Clock On A Christmas Morning” in a way that is sort of cool because they made it rhythmic and part of the song like Ministry might do, but also slightly annoying. Sometimes this part is offputting and sometimes I love it, depending on my mood. They pulled the whole samples and randomness thing off way better on the previous album during “Take The Time.”

I like the keys, this actually feels like there is a lot of 70s Prog in it. The drums are nice and flashy and awkward. Its kind of, with the exception of the pre-chorus though, its kind of cooler to appreciate than to actually enjoy. You sit with your minds eye, casting it over the different things going on, focusing for a second on each, like watching Slipknot on stage with your real eyes, and that process is fun. The song isn’t as good on the ears as that process is on the brain however.

I like it during the middle during the “Inside coming outside” bit where it goes a bit Misplaced Childhood. After this point the song is pretty bad-ass actually. The solo and the parts underneath are all excellent.

Much like Theater Of Pain I kind of think this album-opener is a bad choice. Its doesn’t set up a good first impression. I think you have to know you like the song before you hear it to trust it, otherwise its just gimmicky and overly bouncy without being memorable. Its not. But it seems that way until the half-way point if you are unfamiliar. It should be buried later in the album, where it would be the exact same song, but better, because you’re already warmed up. Do you follow?

Next up comes “Caught In A Web.” I didn’t know that at the time, because as a rule I think I hate “Caught In A Web.” I hear some Dream Theater song though… The first minute…awesome. (Well; awesome except the synth… a weird seering synth over the top that feels like its mocking me. I had problems with Camel’s fifth album in the past, when the toplines mocked me even when the bottom was cool. The bottom of this song during the first minute or two is awesome, but boy-o-boy do I dislike that top-part.)

Anyway, the first minute is more or less great. Nice, the same excellent sound from their previous record Images & Words, but maybe a little tiny bit slower and with a tiny bit more Pantera creeping into things. Then a really ugly, ugly, sheen-y chorus which just doesn’t fit. Oh, I guess its “Caught In A Web.” Damn, I don’t like it anymore…I think?

It then bounces into a cool Alternative Metal/Groove Metal riff that really reminds me of Pantera and Pissing Razors a lot. Then there’s bits when they prog out on that riff and it sounds like Death and Opeth because of the long winding, ever-shifting guitar lines aspects. The whole mid section is fabulous. The drum build-up is cool, the Eastern-tinged keys are cool, the guitars are rhythmic and interesting.

I often think I dislike this song, but this song is fabulous, its just got the wrong chorus for my tastes. I’d love to edit the chorus out of it, and then it would be one of my favourite Dream Theater tracks.

Next up comes “Innocence Faded,” which opens like some sort of Tennis Match montage music. Its clean and commercial and not unpleasant. It then goes down into a quiet, diamondy sort of sound like Donkey Kong Country levels in an Ice Cave. The next bit is cool, kind of Genesis-reminiscent. The chorus is a bit “nothing” …a sort of swing-and-a-miss, but there are many other cool parts. LaBrie is awesome around the 2.05 mark. The drums are nice and flashy between there and the chorus too. Very nice. After that there’s some very 80s Rush sounds. Rush albums later than Moving Pictures. I like it. Its not very Metal in any way, but in and of itself, its nice. It kind of reminds me of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Genesis’ “Turn It On Again” combined in some sort of The Fly situation.

The instrumental “Erotomania” is next. A lot of Van Der Graaf and King Crimson influence here. It opens sounding like a warning siren on a train track. Its quite nice to sit and concentrate on, but not really background music. Queensryche and Tool, and even Mastodon can make Prog that you can not even notice is all that complex if you don’t pay attention. This is more like The Mars Volta in that…no one’s mistaking that for simplistic. It gets really cool from 2 minute mark onwards, all these parts are way cooler than the start part. Its interesting the mix of 70s Prog, with 80s sounds and then also even a bit that sounds like its trying to be Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in there in the background. Its also cool when it goes Neoclassical a minute later. This is the sort of thing you listen to a hundred times and never truly hear the same thing twice. I think two fans can hear it and their brains will tell them two completely different things depending on how closely each guy is paying attention.

The brief Metal bit towards the end, but before the repetition of the bits from the start, is cool. Also, the actual end-end really, really reminds me of both “The Trees” by Rush, and the bit in “2112” by Rush where it transitions from the heavy bit to the soft bit where the character discovers the guitar.

The lengthy “Voices” follows up. It is thunderous and reminds me quite a lot of “Suite Sister Mary” by Queensryche during the opening, but its a lot more technical and multi-faceted. It builds up quite slowly over almost the first three minutes, there’s sort of a “Don’t Leave Me Now” by Pink Floyd vibe to that build.

The those same bright ugly keys from the “Caught In A Web” chorus come in. The Metal bit which follows is really rather neat. I hear bits that would influence Protest The Hero in there. The ugly chorus is ugly to me. There’s a touch of the “Caught In A Web” problem, where this one part is causing a false impression of a good song and lowering my overall impression of it accidentally. Even though the rest of it is deadly, like the following part with double-kicks. I like the talk-boxy solo a little while afterwards. That whole section is excellent. The only problem I have is that this song really feels like an album-closer. But its track 5 of 11. Well it makes me want to stop listening because the record is obviously finished, only it isn’t, is it?

This album has a problem of being in the wrong order. That’s my diagnosis.

Anyway, next comes the brief, perfect ballad, “The Silent Man.” It is excellent; succinct, tasteful, memorable and interesting. Its just right, not too cheesy. A few more tiny hints of Zeppelin’s “The Rain Song” hidden in the mid-section. Deceptively varied and creative vocals. A neat little guitar lead. All good stuff.

“The Mirror.” Opens up in a huge and obvious Pantera tribute. Parts seems practically lifted whole-sale from “Domination” and “Walk.” Then it speeds up and some Phantom of the Opera chase keys come it, its all very intriguing. Then a fun guitar line that I’m sure inspired Avenged Sevenfold follows, the drums are fast and Metal. Back to Pantera.

I think this is my favourite song from the album. Maybe that’s just because I like Pantera so much? Interestingly though, its all the bits that don’t sound like Pantera which really make it cool though. I think I’ll change my iTunes tracklist of this album so that this and “6.00” switch places. This would be a much better opener.

It seamlessly transitions into “Lie.” That means “Lie” and “Caught In A Web” will have to switch places too, oh well.

“Lie” is really strong. Apparently it was a single. Its catchy enough. I love the Mary/Contrary/Promise/Doubting Thomas bit. That was always the one bit of the record that stuck out in my mind. I’ll have to remember that this song is the one with that in it.

Hey! A bit that sounds like Tool! That riff underneath the bit about leashes is reminiscent of Undertow-era Adam Jones. This is a nice song. Also the groove at 3.30 and the subsequent complex bit with the solo are possibly the most enjoyable Dream Theater moments that I’ve heard which aren’t on Images And Words. Skip to the 5-minute mark and yeah! That’s what I want to hear. This song is top notch! Yes, these two songs would make a much better album opener, get the blood pumped, the enthusiasm up, and then I’m ready to accept “6.00” because I’m in the mood now.

“Lifting Shadows Off A Dream” comes next, all broody, and seems as if its going to be Queensryche’s “I Don’t Believe In Love” for a few seconds, until it reveals its true intentions. Its almost a ballad, its almost a big build up. Its almost Hogarth-era Marillion. Its none of these things, its its’ own tasteful pop song with a lot on small toms and splash cymbals. Its kind of sprawling…its like King Crimson’s “Starless” in structure, but much, much, much, much more clean and bright and commercial. It sounds like a basket ball team in a movie winning its first victory whilst the dad shows up to see his son for the first time because he’s finally learned what’s important in life.

“Scarred” follows that. Also sprawling. Slightly jazzy flavoured but without any actual jazz. Full of mischief. Threateningly full of potential. Which way will it go? – Lots of ways it would seem. Groove parts. Staccato Metal parts (various ones in fact). Clean syrupy pop parts. Numerous time-sig changes. It’s a real “Hey, we can do a lot of stuff and we’re good at our instruments” piece. The clean chorus is a lot less lame than in either “Caught In A Web” or “Voices” though.

Then there’s another kind of chorus which feels like its got a sort of grunge influence. A touch of the “Evenflow”s about it, ey?

Do you know when bands say that their heavier stuff is heavier and their lighter stuff is lighter…this actually is. There’s not much on Images And Words that’s overly syrupy. Anyway… There’s also nothing as heavy as the part between the guitar solo in the 7-8 minute bracket.

Also, why does nothing Dream Theater ever play sound like Yes? I was promise Metallica meets Yes. Whoever promised me that (Classic Rock Presents Prog Magazine) doesn’t listen to much Yes… or Metallica for that matter.

This song could benefit from lots and lots of repeat listens, because there’s tons of cool parts to enjoy, but its lack of purpose or structure make first-impressions a bit confused.

Finally comes depressing album closer “Space Dye Vest” which I already know that I enjoy, but will listen to here anyway. Its moody, its tasteful, its got samples that are mechanical sounding instead of dialogue. Ok, actually it does have diagloue samples too… something Anathema do a lot actually… this reminds me of the whole Anathema rant about “Death is not the opposite of life, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal.” I guess a woman is not a possession then, sample guy. Anyway, the end of the song is fantastic.

Ok. That was the album.

What do I think? Four awesome songs in “The Mirror,” “Lie,” “The Silent Man” and “Space Dye Vest.” The rest… good bits, but not good songs, or maybe good songs with bits that aren’t to my taste. Except maybe “Erotomania” which is good but just has an intro that makes me think I won’t like it.

Meh… Its worth owning. I think a lot more listens are required before it hits me properly. Or maybe, its just a case of I should listen to half of it a lot and ignore the other half because I could listen to better music instead? Who knows…

Hope that was entertaining. Now, continuing the theme established yesterday, and based on this article’s inclusion of the Prog Metal band Dream Theater… here are some Top 5s from some Progressive Metal bands in my collection:

Coheed & Cambria :
1. Apollo I: The Writing Writer
2. Far
3. No World For Tomorrow
4. Key Entity Extraction I: Domino The Destitute
5. Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry The Defiant

Dream Theater:
1. Take The Time
2. Metropolis Prt 1 The Miracle And The Sleeper
3. Strange Deja Vu
4. Honour Thy Father
5. The Silent Man

The Mars Volta :
1. Cotapaxi
2. Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus
3. Vedamalady
4. Goliath
5. Day Of The Baphomets

Mastodon :
1. Blood And Thunder
2. The Czar
3. This Mortal Soil
4. I Am Ahab
5. Crusher Destroyer

Porcupine Tree :
1. Anesthetize
2. Drawing The Line
3. Normal
4. The Sound Of Musak
5. Deadwing

Protest The Hero :
1. Turn Soonest To The Sea
2. Sex Tapes
3. Skies
4. Mist
5. Dunsel

Queensryche :
1. Revolution Calling
2. Roads To Madness
3. Where Dreams Go To Die
4. Murder?
5. My Global Mind

Rishloo :
1. Downhill
2. Weevil Bride
3. Alchemy Alice
4. Scissorlips
5. El Empe

Riverside :
1. Hyperactive
2. Celebrity Touch
3. Second Life Syndrome
4. Rainbow Box
5. Egotist Hedonist

Savatage :
1. Hall Of The Mountain King
2. Castles Burning
3. Believe
4. Edge Of Thorns
5. Of Rage And War

Tool :
1. 10,000 Days
2. Jambi
3. Eulogy
4. Ticks And Leeches
5. Vicarious

There’s dozens of others in my library, but for one reason or another I don’t feel comfortable choosing a Top 5 for them.

Get (Into) What You Paid For – Round 4: Episode 1 Day 7 (Part 1)

Hello and welcome to this fourth round of my “Get (Into) What You Paid For” challenge, in which I attempt (despite being an out of control, no discipline, shopaholic of sorts) to not buy anything for a month.

I also try and make this challenge easier by going back and paying more attention to what I’ve bought already, and try and get into more and therefore get my money’s worth.

Have you ever picked up five or six albums in one shopping session or received several videogames all at once for a birthday and then found that some products get used more than others? This series is designed to reappraise and finally get into those sort of underdog products.

JP – RoS

If I was going to break my challenge, what would cause me to do so?
Well, I’m damn tempted to but the new Judas Priest album, Redeemer Of Souls. I’ve read absolutely universal praise of it, and Judas Priest are one of the band’s I’ve listened to the most in the last four years. If its anywhere near as good as Angel Of Retribution I’ll love it. Most people say its measurably better than Angel Of Retribution. Sounds pretty good to me. Plus its topical and up-to-date, and I’ve been lost in the 80s a bit recently, and it would be nice to be up-to-date with something. I’ll get that feeling when my pre-oder of Accept’s Blind Rage arrives, but until then, I’m sort of out-of-the-loop with modern releases at the moment.

In the opposite direction of being up-to-date however, I was watching a Lynyrd Skynrd documentary this week and that put me in the mood to try out some Molly Hatchet and Black Oak Arkansas, and expand my Southern Rock collection further than solely Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot. This was compounded the next day when watching a Van Halen documentary that featured Jim Dandy (Black Oak Arkansas’ frontman) as a contributor (discussing press accusations that David Lee Roth stole his stage moves). Both of those guys have Original Album Series boxsets and I kind of want to pick those up… but boxsets are a dangerous game. I’m still in a boxset “get my money’s worth” mind-war with Thin Lizzy, Van Halen, Dream Theater, Faith No More, Foghat and Mountain (and to a lesser extent Motorhead and Saxon a bit).

VOD – BV

Bit of a left-field choice here, but I’m really tempted to buy Broken Valley by Life Of Agony. It’s the only album by them I don’t own yet, due to buying that Roadrunner Boxset, and I’ve been absolutely loving their first two albums these last few months. I’ve been really, really heavily leaning on tracks like “Damned If I Do,” “Bad Seed,” “Underground” and “Drained.” Their reunion put them back in the press and that reminded me of this missing album in my collection (I think there was an article saying they’ll not be making a new record so fans “better get used to Broken Valley”).

F – F&W

A fairly new “want” of mine is Free’s Fire And Water. Fairly new as in yesterday. There was a vintage music channel playing music videos on a TV in the background of where I was at yesterday. It was primarily showing videos of 80s pop bands like Duran Duran, Culture Club and Wham. Then out of nowhere; a Zepplinny, 70s-Sounding Hard Rock guitar comes in with charming production and suddenly I sit up and pay attention. It turns out to be “All Right Now” by Free, which is probably up there with “The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy and “Sunshine Of Your Love” by Cream as one of the most famous and frequently pub-covered songs in Rock Music, and yet I’d never really noticed it properly before. I was impressed. I’d like to hear a full album. Turn it from a “Smoke On The Water” into a “Machine Head” and find a few “Pictures Of Home”s… if you follow my meaning?

I’ve also been voraciously consuming Batman comics over this last year (in fact, August 2013 was when my good friend Paul bought me a load of Batman books for my birthday and in-so-doing kicked my casual “Ok, I’ll try some Batman” phase into an “I am a Batman fan” phase.) So I’d be tempted to buy just about any Batman tradepaperback I come into contact with. My current “top picks” to get are Ego, Odyssey, Black & White, Year 100, Dark Victory, Time & The Batman, Bruce Wayne The Return, Bruce Wayne Murderer? and all volumes of the New 52 Nightwing series.
When its released I want all volumes of Batman Eternal, Zero Year and I also want any stories where Jason Todd is Robin…. release some sort of retrospective please guys?

Anyway, enough about what could make me spend money, what’s been saving me money so far this month? What’s kept my hands busy and stopped by notorious spending habbits at bay?

M.C. – T.O.P

Well; Its August 7th, 2014 and I’ve currently managed to go the first week of the challenge without buying myself anything. Right before the challenge started, I picked up a copy of Motely Crue’s third studio album Theater Of Pain from a Charity Shop for £1.99, and that has pretty much kept me interested for a full week.

I didn’t expect much from this album to be honest. I thought it might be a bit rubbish. I’ve read bad reviews of it. I’ve read The Dirt (Crue’s biography book) and the album is slated in that book. I’ve watched Google Play’s Motley Crue documentary (see here) and singer Vince Neil rejects the album. It seems like it might be a bad product. A bit of a mistake. A bit like Kiss’ Music From The Elder Album.

But you know me, champion of the bad-album, lover of St Anger, contrary semi-hipster who always seems to love the album with the bad reviews (Ok. That’s an exaggeration; I often also dislike unpopular albums too, but whatever…). I thought to myself I’ll find a way to enjoy this album.

On first listen, this album was a mess. Opening with a slow doomy track, then into a cartoony cover-song (and I’ve never liked songs singing about School anyway), then a rock song and then a ballad. Its confused, its all over the place. I heard people say this album is just “some songs” and that “its not a party album” and that “they were too high on drugs and bereavement for Razzle to make a good album.”

Then I heard the songs “Use It Or Lose It” and “Louder Than Hell” and they just connected with me. Unarguably and instantly two of my favourite Motely Crue songs. So I realized there is definitely something going on here. I’ve been listening to it repeatedly, in different combinations and orders until I came across the perfect listening order:

Now its not a mess. Now it’s a party album! Now it is a well balanced set of rock songs with diversity but a steady sensible flow. It’s a journey. It’s a good record!

In this order, I’ve listened to and loved the album about a dozen times now. What a big difference that the running order makes. I recommend you try it out this way, it is a much better album.

I’ve also been listening to the rest of the band’s catalogue these last two weeks. In particular, Shout At The Devil is a good record, with “Red Hot,” “Bastard” “Looks That Kill” and the Title Track all being stand out moments.

I don’t much care for their debut apart from the fabulous “Live Wire” and “Piece Of Action” or even the mega famous Dr. Feelgood album all that much apart from its own Title Track and “Kickstart My Heart.” I don’t have Girls Girls Girls yet, so can’t make a judgement on that one, but I will explain that kind of the reason for all this Crue interest is because I’ve loved the single “Wildside,” ever since I saw Dwight enjoying it too much in The Office on my most recent re-viewing of the series in its entirety. (I’d heard it before, but that moment just made me reevaluate it.)

In honour of this new found acceptance of Motely Crue (band who I’ve really struggled to allow myself to like due to my disapproval of their sexism, drug abuse glorification, domestic violence denial, and general selfishness and rudeness) I’m going to list my five-favourite songs by the band, and all their contempories in my music library.

So consider this a Hair Metal/ Glam Metal / ‘80s Hard Rock special episode.

Motely Crue :
1. Louder Than Hell
2. Live Wire
3. Wild Side
4. Use It Or Lose It
5. Shout At The Devil

W.A.S.P :
1. I Wanna Be Somebody
2. The Torture Never Stops
3. Ballcrusher
4. Shoot From The Hip
5. Chainsaw Charlie

Twisted Sister :
1. I Wanna Rock
2. You Can’t Stop Rock N Roll
3. The Kids Are Back
4. Kill Or Be Killed
5. Love Is For Suckers

Quiet Riot :
1. Metal Health
2. Run For Cover
3. Scream And Shout
4. (We Were) Born To Rock
5. Sign Of The Times

Poison :
1. Look What The Cat Dragged In
2. Let Me Go To The Show
3. Play Dirty
4. Nothin’ Buta Good Time
5. Look But You Can’t Touch

Dokken :
1. When Lightning Strikes Again
2. ‘Til The Living End
3. Tooth And Nail
4. Live To Rock (Rock To Live)
5. Kiss Of Death

Bon Jovi
1. Bad Medicine
2. King Of The Mountain
3. You Give Love A Bad Name
4. Runaway
5. Born To Be My Baby

With only one album by Extreme and Europe, I don’t feel its fair to do them, but I’ll say that my favourite one song by each is “It (‘s A Monster)” and “On The Loose” respectively.

For each of these articles this time around, I’ll try drop a TOP 5s of a particular subgenre in there. It’ll give this round a unique feature, ey?

T.P.B

In other areas, I’ve been keeping busy by watching Trailer Park Boys on Mike Ladano’s recommendation, and absolutely loving it. Thanks Mike. Thanks Netflix. It’s a great show! – Not only for guest rockstar appearances from Sebastain Bach and Alex Lifeson, but for the superb sense of humour and brilliantly real life (in a way) nature of the show. Its not skinny Hollywood girls buying Porches. Its much more down to earth (although it does get too surreal at times to honestly call “realistic” in fairness, but you catch my drift).

The characters are really enjoyable, from humorously selfish and flawed, to ludicrously irrational and dysfunctional. Its hard to pick a favourite character because everyone has got something going for them… even minor characters like Ray would be the best character in some other shows.

In a more British mood, I’ve been watching the absolutely excellent Getting On. A British show about Hospital Nurses, very much in the style of (and featuring cast members, and written and directed by people from) The Thick Of It. Just like The Thick Of It was a really astute and well researched satire of the British political system, Getting On is basically the same show but about the NHS. Its fun though, because instead of some lazy slamming of the NHS and unfair complaints, its mostly just a comedy about flawed individuals and their own personal weaknesses interfering with their ability to do their job properly. Its not “This is why hospitals are bad”… its “How did this clown get a job in a hospital” and I appreciate that. Fair humour, that doesn’t play too much on the same old negative hospital stereotypes.

BS – I

What else? Just before the challenge started, I got a lend of and finished, and Platinumed the videogame Bioshock Infinite (my first attempt at, and success at Platinuming a game in two years, despite my previously huge interest in that area). The game? It is a masterpiece. Although in hindsight, in comparison to Bioshock 1 & 2, a lot of the gameplay depth, setting atmosphere and cool enemies are missing, but I absolutely loved the story and the effort and depth there. I sat and read practically everything written about it on the internet afterwards and was wowed by the fabulous artistic achievement that this game is.

I won’t go too much into it because of spoilers, but wow… what a brilliantly executed concept. And I love whoever online said that the fact that it is a game strengthens the point its trying to make and the effort went to by the creators to make a piece of art strengthened by the gaming platform. Bioshock as a series is absolutely one of my favourites. Each of the three games has had some flourish of genius or other.

New Slipknot

A few other thoughts then – There’s a new Slipknot song. Not the single, we have now learned, but rather a heavier mid-album track as a gift to the fans. We don’t know who’s drumming on it, although the internet thinks it might be Chris Adler from Lamb Of God or Jay Weinberg. It might even secretly be Joey and the whole thing is a publicity stunt… is that legal? It might be Clown or Chris taking up a full time drummer’s job.

We don’t know who is playing bass on it either. Lots of members of Slipknot also play bass so, probably they played on the studio version and someone else will play it live. Chris is also a bassist. Perhaps Chris is the new Bassist and Clown is the new drummer? That would be good.

Anyway, the song, The Negative One… kind of like when they debuted “New Abortion” before Iowa, or the All Hope Is Gone Title Track before that album, its not really a catchy single, it’s a deep-cut given unrealistic limelight.

It has an Iowa-esque approach to the production and mix, and the vocals are less melodic and Stone Sour-esque than on the previous two albums, and there is a lot more sampling and DJ scratching than the previous two albums as well. Other than that, what can be said? Not all that amazing. Its not “Wow, this is one of my favourite Slipknot songs.”

In fact, if I listed all the Slipknot songs that were better than it, it would be most of the Slipknot songs. But whatever… early days yet. I hope, on one level, that the album is in this general direction…you know, far away from Stone Sour. On the other hand, “Dead Memories” is a better song than this so I’ll take a more commercial Slipknot so long as its good. I’d rather have good music in a commercial style than dull music in a good style. I will give it this though… the additional percussion in it is really fun. Especially in headphones. The mix on the final version is a lot better than in that initial stream too. Maybe that, or maybe its the same version but my speakers are better here than where I first heard it. Also, maybe its a grower. I don’t think “Everything Ends” or “The Shape” blew me away on first listen but I sure as heck like them now.

Metallica had a similar new song a while ago and I didn’t blog about it, but the feelings I had for it are similar. Its in a good style but not super-special in and of itself.

Another quick observation… Green Day totally and massively stole vocal patterns from “On With The Show” and “Merry-Go-Round” on American Idiot album tracks. Seriously, give it a listen!