Posts Tagged ‘metallica’

20160818_193928_7549_939483Metallica albums are so hard to judge. To me, Metallica are so absurdly superhumanly important. They are so larger than life. Each album release is not just an album, but an event. It is a climactic shift for my whole culture. I feel like Metallica releases are as significant to me as major life events like first kisses or first drinks or going to university for the first time. Metallica are as close to a religious leader as I’ll ever experience in my life time. As such, objectively judging them is somewhat impossible.

You are talking to an avid, ardant St. Anger defender here. You are talking to someone who could spend twenty-five minutes talking about ‘The Judas Kiss’ on a first date should you let him. You are talking to someone who feels like a chink in Metallica’s armour is a worry almost able to spoil a whole day over. When Metallica do Metallica well, its otherworldly levels of special and when they disappoint its a talking point for months. I don’t know how the hell I’m supposed to judge or review them, then, given that this band wrote Master Of Puppets, which I do honestly and with all the sincerity in my soul, think I might feel about the same way devout religious people probably feel about their holy books. I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful, but its important for the context behind the review to convey how truly disproportionately this group affects my sense-of-self, worldview and culture. Ever seen a grown man cry when his sports team loses a game? That same ludicrous thing is what Metallica taps into in me.And I don’t even consider myself that big a fan compared to a lot of people I’ve met. You’ll never see me scoffing at someone and saying I’m a bigger fan, or getting jealous and competitive about another fan. And yet…

When I hear tracks like the first three singles; ‘Hardwired’ ‘Moth Into Flame’ and ‘Atlas, Rise!’ then, considering everything I’ve just written about this band and its cultural and emotional significance to me, I am suddenly filled with a sense of hope, excitement and the feeling that everything is all right with the world. This is the feeling of being a teenager, I can still feel the green sofa on which I first really got into ….And Justice For All, can still see the swings in the park when I roared the chorus of ‘Blackened’ at the top of my lungs out in, to amuse my equally excitable teenage friends. I can remember being younger than that and feeling genuinely frightened by the darker moments on the Black album. Feeling like I might go to hell for listening to it. I can see the movie I was ignoring when choosing to inspect the Black Album closely for the first time on headphones instead of engaging with the family movie night. (What Dreams May Come). I can still feel the rattle of the cheap bus windows the first time I realized Kill ‘Em All wasn’t old fashioned, it was charming. I can smell, see and taste things when I listen to Metallica. I have super clear memories of almost any time someone insulted St Anger when I was in the room. These three singles bring all those memories back faster, harder and clearer than Lulu, Beyond Magnetic or ‘Lords Of Summer (First Pass Demo)’ were able to, or indeed any live broadcast since about 2004 could.

Metallica were undoubtedly in a bad place before they dropped ‘Hardwired.’ They had whittled away a boatload of goodwill with LuLu, with the failed 3D movie and with ‘Lords Of Summer (First Pass Demo).’ The Metallica who were unstoppable to me seemed to be gone. People were stopping to care. Metallica were becoming a joke. What fans from the ’80s felt around the time of the ’90s eyeliner or ’90s fans felt around the time they watched Lars slamming doors on the documentary, its was starting to feel like the only feeling that could be felt about Metallica. That feeling, or worse still, ambivelance. This is the most important band in the world for the love of all things sacred… being ambivalent towards them feels unnatural. It feels tantamount to defeat. To depression almost. It was with a great sigh of relief then, that ‘Hardwired’ was equal to, if not better than even, the weaker moments on St Anger or Death Magnetic. We can never expect them to follow up the first six albums, that way sheer unbridled madness lies, but if they can keep up with the best half of their latter day albums and not turn into ‘Lords Of Summer – The Band’ then all would be well. As long as they sound like they, y’know, give a shit.

Then comes ‘Moth Into Flame.’ Pow. Same again. Its like Death Magnetic with better production, better vocals, and more concise songwriting. Oh, what’s that? ‘Atlas, Rise’ ? Just as good. Oh thank goodness. Its going to be good, I can feel it. I can feel it in my bones. Its going to be… uh, oh, ok, nevermind.

Yeah, its nice, its nice to try and capture the vibe of C.O.C’s ‘Heaven’s Not Overflowing.’ Its nice to capture the vibe of ‘Devil’s Dance’ again. Its nice to have two six track discs each ending with a lengthy closer. Another song about Cthulu is a good idea. You’ve had success with that before. Its nice to do a tribute to the fallen Lemmy condsidering the specific impact he had on Metallica and vice versa. I mean Lemmy outright praises, thanks and accredits Metallica more than once in his autobiography and covered ‘Whiplash’ …Metallica covered numerous Motorhead songs and shared the stage with Lemmy. Sure. Its not going to be just another hollow tribute by any other band, its going to be personal and meaningful, yeah?

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Lemmy & Metallica share the stage

Well; here’s the thing, that Heaven’s Not Overflowing on the silly-title-of-the-month award winner ‘ManUnKind’ moment is fun and awesome, but the song doesn’t fit the mood of the rest of the record at all, really sits out like a sore thumb and probably could’ve served better as a B-Side. Just because something is fun doesn’t mean it fits. The awkward, complex drum pattern just reminds me of that section in the Some Kind Of Monster documentary where Lar’s father recommends they ‘delete that’ …is it an attempt to redeem awkward beats or is it another moment someone should’ve saved them from themselves. ‘Murder One’ for all its potential is a forgettable, skippable, unnecessary addition to the album. Was the best way to pay tribute to the man really by writing the most boring song of the album, and just adding in some of Lemmy’s lyrics? Is that what Lemmy would want. Is that what Lemmy’s fans want? Is that what anybody wants? With the accompanying music video I get the Lemmy tribute aspect comes across more, but hey have you ever read Lemmy’s autobiography? I bet that a better tribute would’ve been just to cover a track off of one of those albums like Bastards or We Are Motorhead that he felt didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

When I’m on the subject of niggles… why have a song called ‘Am I Savage’ with no Diamond Head relation, but then have a direct Diamond Head reference in the intro on Confusion? Not just any Diamond Head reference but an ‘Am I Evil’ one specifically. Like. What are you trying to do. Surely, those two things are supposed to go together?! Where they initially together and got separated later in editing? Are they two separate similar shout outs to the same song? ‘Am I Savage?’ ‘Am I Evil?’ or Am I reading too much into this?

I like the two disc closing tracks ‘Spit Out The Bone’ and ‘Halo On Fire,’ …but they’re clearly on the wrong discs! Disc one is much more focused on Thrash. Disc two is much more focused on the Load style. Swap the two disc closers around and you’ve almost got themed discs. Might have flowed better. ‘Spit Out The Bone’ for me is arguably the best song on the album, maybe even of the last four albums. It could do with having a shorter build up time. It could do with sitting closer to ‘Hard Wired.’ It and ‘Hardwired’ are like the focused and expanded evil twins of eachother. They bookend the album. They’d bookmark a disc of the thrashier stuff even more strongly though. A disc each of each direction would be cool and you could pick which disc you were in the mood for.

I wonder what happened to the rest of Metallica’s catalogue though. Metallica were more than just Thrash and Load. I can hear lots of Kill ‘Em All. I can hear lots of Load. I can hear lots and lots of Death Magnetic. What about The Black Album or Ride The Lightening though? Or even poor misunderstood St Anger. Well, upon repeat listens actually I can hear some Black Album on ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Am I Savage’ actually. Initial gut reaction underplays that. You just feel like its Here comes Death Magnetic band trying to play more like Kill ‘Em All… you like that? Ok, well then here’s some Death Magnetic band trying to play Load a bit heavier.  Uh…what?

I have to say. On first listen, tracks like ‘Am I Savage?’ and ‘Confusion’ really missed the mark for me. They bored me. Had me questioning the band’s choices. Was this really on the same album as ‘Moth Into Flame’ ? Repeat listens have revealed more depth. Have highlighted the swinging in-the-pocket grooves. Have allowed me to forget my expectations and just let the album be its own thing. So, maybe ‘Here Comes Revenge’ isn’t just a poor man’s ‘Broken Beaten Scared’ after all, and hey, that vocal during the guitar lead has an almost ‘Outlaw Torn’-esque emotive quality to it. A watered down, middle-aged version of it, but a version of it none the less. Repeat listens are this album’s friend. Its a grower. I bet much of its reputation is already formed, and all of our initial ‘Yay’ or ‘Yuck!’ gut reactions will stick around for decades, but to be honest I hated over half this stuff on first listen and now I like a good three quarters.

This album is a bit of a difficult one to get straight in my head. UK journalist Terry Beezer once said Millionaires can’t make Thrash Metal. When hearing ‘Spit Out The Bone’ I’m happy to report he’s got it wrong but then ‘Murder One’ and ‘Dream No More’ have me knowing in my gut he’s dead right. I mean, stacked up against the worst songs on Metallica’s worst albums, maybe they kind of pass, barely, but against the best moments of those albums, not even close to being close to close. And the mythical quality of the best Metallica albums? Not even visible on the horizon. I mean, would you honestly want to see half of this album live if you knew what else you’d be missing out on. Even if Metallica did a show with no hits and no fan favourites, I’d still want to hear the deep cuts off of everything else prioritized over the deep cuts on this. Or would I? Hmmm. Its like a war inside my head (and not the PTSD war in my head of the ‘Confusion’ video). First impressions say I’d skip this stuff when choosing a live setlist, but repeat listening to the vocals in ‘Now That We’re Dead’ …hmm, I’m not sure anymore. Hmmm.

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Could use more ‘Spit Out The Bone’ …doesn’t even need a pun.

Ok, Ok. Let me think… So yeah. I’ve had some criticisms of this album, especially on the very first listen. That all being said. This is no bad album. Not even close. The band just get judged so much more harshly due to their significance. The intro to ‘Now That We’re All Dead’ ? Amazing fun. Who could possibly not enjoy that? The best riffs in ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and ‘Confusion’? Yes of course they put a smile on my face, of course I’d want to learn them on guitar. This is Metallica we’re talking about here, James Hetfield knows a thing or two about writing memorable riffs! Increasingly though, they don’t seem to know how to edit themselves, how to cut out the flab, how to be concise. The best thing about this album is that, on those first three singles, it felt like the band had finally worked out how to be concise again, and that’s probably where a lot of disappointment on my part came from, the realization that it was not to be. Should’ve guessed… it was a double album after all. Its hardly a medium known for its focus and discipline.

Then again, the best song on the album is 7-minutes long, so being concise isn’t everything. Just ask …And Justice For All. One things for sure. Metallica dodged a bullet with this album. They were about to slide into the ‘I don’t want to hear anything new ever again’ folder along with the likes of The Rolling Stones, but with the best moments of the record, they’ve dug their nails into staying relelvent. Of course, this isn’t a perfect record. I strongly wish they’d record firier, angrier, more personally invested performances. I wish they’d sound more excited. I wish they’d be livlier and convey more energy. I mean, if Exodus and Testament can still do it, at the same age from the same background, then we know it is physically possible. Have you heard the title track to Blood In Blood Out? It can be done.

Anyway; Despite the one or two filler tracks. Despite the slighly flow-diminishing running order. Despite the surprisngly unfitting tribute to Lemmy. Despite the performance not rocking the hell out. Despite any niggles or nitpicking, this is an album I’ll be listening to in five years time. Its an album that gets less dissapointing with each listen. Its an album that whether its a sane or rational thing to happen or not will inform a disproportionate amount of who I am as a person. I’ll never be objective about this so I won’t even pretend to be.

If history is anything to go by, I’ll have a different oppinion on this in a month, quarter and year from now. I’ll probablly have a different opinion every time you ask me. This review is by no means the last you’ll hear from me on the matter. But overall; I’m glad Metallica made new music and I’m very glad to own an album with ‘Hardwired’ and ‘Spit Out The Bone’ on it.

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What a good song!

….

Thought that was the end? Think again. This is a Metallica album. Initial gut reactions are one thing, measured multi-listen reviews are another. Even later revalidations are also required. Having absolutely hammered listening to this now, I’ve more left to say. I’ve listened track by track as they were released, all together as a piece of work, in custom orders of my own choosing, accompanied by videos or all alone as audio only, focused or in the background, and all that has melted together in my mind into one whole where I now have a much better grasp on my feelings.

Overall; I think this is a strong album. In all honesty, perhaps a single disc of all the Thrash stuff and a disc of the Black/Reload stuff six months later would’ve worked better, but overall, there’s nothing poor here. Well, maybe ‘Murder One’ for my personal taste… but that’s about it (and I’m sure there’s people out there who are throwing cheetos at the screen screaming that its their favourite song, so live and let live). Tracks like ‘Confusion,’  ‘Am I Savage’ and especially ‘Halo On Fire’ all have really strong endings and work better on repeat listens and in album context. When you deconstruct them or try and guess what they’re going to do, instead of just letting them exist, sure they don’t live up to the standards of your own imagination, but they do work the way Metallica planned them and you just have to accept that your hypothetical perfect version does not exist. Like my Andy Sneap produced, non-brickwalled version of Death Magnetic, it doesn’t exist but that doesn’t stop ‘That Was Just Your Life,’ ‘Judas Kiss’ or ‘All Nightmare Long’ from being bad-ass.

What also becomes apparent after all the dust has settled is how right my gut was on the positive matters. ‘Hardwired,’ ‘Moth Into Flame,’ ‘Atlas, Rise,’ ‘Now That We’re Dead,’ ‘Here Comes Revenge’ and especially, especially ‘Spit Out The Bone’ are my favourite tracks. They are all exactly what I want from the band, and proof that they can still do amazing things even with all the fame and money and age and expectation and conflicting fanbase demographics. These songs, each and every one, I WOULD love to see live.

On repeat listens; I also really connect to parts of other songs, the end of ‘Halo On Fire’ once the guitar lead comes in is priceless, the harsh vocals later in ‘Here Comes Revenge’ are really exciting, the clever mid section of ‘Confusion’ is good. The guitar solo on ‘Dream No More’ is like the best stuff on Reload and I can see now how the ‘you turn to stone’ section is trying to channel The Black Album’s slower tracks. That main riff in the admittedly-still-out-of-place ‘ManUnKind’ is pretty infectious. I mean, they aren’t as great as the best moments on the best albums, (but then, what is?), however they do still warrant attention and respect. More than that even, genuine warmth.

On the matter of the special edition bonus tracks; firstly, the new version of ‘Lords Of Summer’ is a huge improvement. The production, the performance, the attitude, the arrangement, and especially the guitar solos. It all just works so much better. It feels more vital and less like medicority eating Metallica alive. Its celebratory lyrics even put me in a good mood.

The Maiden and Deep Purple covers we’ve heard before, sure but its nice to have them all the same, and the Ronnie medley in particular is pretty great. Their guitar tone on these songs works really well, almost like a history lesson or through-line. Then there’s a ten-song live set: A Diamond Head cover, songs exclusively from Ride The Lightning and Kill ‘Em All and then ending with a live version of ‘Hardwired’ from another concert, ten live tracks, three covers and an extra Metallica song… overall its a pretty substantial bonus. On the Rasputin Music show; the performances and banter all seem happy and grateful and fun, and it all has a great jovial atmosphere. Its a nice addition. I don’t think I’d buy it on its own or anything, there’s plenty of alternative Metallica live shows (especially on their extensive website) to choose from elsewhere, but it is by no means a let down and is actually really rather good indeed. If this was your first Metallica album and you got this on the end too, it would really rule.

Ok. A bit of a fractured review, but it matches my fractured reaction to the album and the fractured way in which I initially consumed it. To summarize: My initial reaction to it, especially disc 2, was disappointment but it really grows. It is not perfect and could easily loose two or three songs, or each song could easily loose thirty seconds to a minute each. The running order could be slightly different [and for my own future listening I am listening to it in the custom order in the appendix below the review]. ‘ManUnKind’ doesn’t fit no matter how good or bad it is or not. ‘Murder One’ is my least favourite track despite Lemmy being amazing and specifically important to this band, directly.

…All of those niggles aside, and they are just niggles, this is pretty damn good. The songs each have something good about them (Hello daaaaarkness, say good-bye), and the aforementioned half or so of the album that I really like, well, I really really like it now! Those songs each have something to love about them. They are very good indeed, and really keep Metallica alive and relevant and live up to all my expectations.

This band are too gigantic, larger than life, and both culturally and emotionally significant for me to have any sort of detached, logical, impartial idea about the objective quality of the record, but in my guts, when I hear ‘Spit Out The Bone’ I know that everything is right with the world; at least for today (despite what the dystopian lyrics would have you believe). Lords of Summer undenied indeed.

 

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Custom track order:
1. Hardwired. 2. Moth Into Flame. 3. Atlas, Rise. 4. Now That We’re Dead 5. Here Comes Revenge 6. Spit Out The Bone

1. Confusion. 2. Dream No More. 3. ManUnKind. 4. Murder One. 5. Am I Savage. 6. Halo On Fire.

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average fisherman’s knowledge of lures and lines. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Fishing. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the compilation album Complete Discography, by the US Hardcore Punk band Minor Threat. It collects all their officially released studio material, including the highly influential Out Of Step. I got it for my birthday, just like the Manowar albums I mentioned in the last First Impressions article, but I’ve been saving it until now because I’ve been portioning out my gifts because I didn’t want to “lose” albums in the herd. I’ve learned my lesson. Every Christmas or birthday something loses. In 2009 Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier lost for example, and I still never feel like I listened to it enough, so this time… I’m spreading out the gifts so they all get their own brain-space.

Heck, when I got back to the city after my awesome holiday, my flatmates had gotten me four CDs for my Birthday, (what great guys, and what a prosperous Birthday this year!), which upon consideration I have decided that I am now locking out. The new Judas Priest album for example is banned until the start of next month and the rest are banned to the start of the next month… that way all this awesome stuff can all be appreciated, and none of it “lost” in the herd. Also, it will help me not buy new things if I know these new things are coming.

Now; I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. The genre of this one is Hardcore Punk, as I mentioned above. What do I know about Hardcore Punk?

Well; apart from groovy, Metallic, 90s NYHC, not much to be honest. All my Hardcore knowledge is pretty second hand, or Metal-informed. My history with Hardcore is pretty much that I got into Biohazard in 2001, and have loved them ever since (well, in waves, it waned for a while and came back strong in 2006 and never went away). I saw Sick Of It All’s “Scratch The Surface” on MTV2 around the same time (and later “District” too) and loved it, but didn’t get around to buying an album until last year , as part of this series. This was shortly after becoming a
Madball fan
, which I got the idea for when Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed (who I’d liked since 2001, but properly fell in love with in 2009 following my 2008 acquisition of their Live Dominance DVD causing a building love for them that exploded the following year upon the released of their suberb 2009 Self Titled album) listed his favourite albums in a magazine, including Madball’s Set It Off, and I got curious.

In that same year, I also got into Life Of Agony, who are in that world but are rather unique, and bought a Vision Of Disorder record (well, a two-in-one set of the first two V.O.D albums), and that band are within that world, but are a lot more ragged, unhinged , noisy and high pitched. Oh yeah, and Downset, who were sorta half in that world and half considered Nu Metal. In the same way Hatebreed are more in the Metalcore scene than the Punk scene.

This was all about two years or so after I’d watched the excellent documentary American Hardcore and learned all about the American Hardcore of the ’80s… the kind of stuff like Bad Brains and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and indeed, Minor Threat. The kind of stuff Slayer covered on their Undisputed Attitude album. Since that time I’ve been really in love with the song “Fucked Up Ronnie” by the Canadian band D.O.A, which I bought individually off iTunes, but I haven’t gotten around to hearing a full album by the band yet. I also got gifted an autobiography of their singer Joey Shithead last Christmas and it was excellent. Really made me want to get into the band… which I probably will eventually. Anyway, that one song is probably my only comparable thing to Minor Threat in my whole iTunes… unless you count S.O.D, or the Punky joke tracks on any given Nuclear Assault album… but that’s really Crossover Thrash if we’re splitting hairs.

Speaking of which, after the band gave it away for free online, I also did a First Impressions in the early days about the Crossover Thrash band Cro-Mags’s debut album, The Age Of Quarrel but its not something I listen to a lot these days. I actually stuck it on out of the blue some time this week, and it was OK, but I didn’t fall in love with it or anything.

Then of course there is Gallows’ Grey Britain, which I guess is technically Hardcore, but comparing it to this ’80s American Hardcore is like comparing Tool’s 10,000 Days to Iron Maiden’s debut album. Sure, they’re technically both Heavy Metal according to some people, but lots of people will get pernickety about that, and also they sound a million miles apart because one is raw and true and the other is adventurous and genius but also way-out-of-basics so people can argue the genre.

AAAAAAANYway.

This is about Minor Threat. All I know about the band is that they are in part responsible for the straight edge scene… which I more and more can understand these days, seeing as I dislike drinking, don’t smoke, and have no interest in drugs at all. Sounds like a good enough scene to be apart of if you are so inclined. I’ve also seen straight edge people extending that idea into things like fitness and vegetarianism and the like… and my current headspace is all about fitness, and I’m also experimenting with meat reduction. Anyway…. That’s all a side-note. I’m not going to tattoo two “x”s on my hands anytime soon, don’t worry.

What else do I know? Their singer is called Ian McKaye and he is also the founder of Fugazi, who I haven’t heard, despite their massive fame and importance to my musical world. I also know Minor Threat have a song called “Guilty Of Being White” which isn’t as racist as it sounds, although it sounds even worse when Slayer cover it and then say “guilty of being right” and come across as a bit Neo Nazi for doing-so and make us all feel pretty uncomfortable. I guess that racial issues can spoil anything. Maybe that’s why Dead Kennedy’s wrote a song called “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” because it must suck to like Punk and then be associated with Nazis. Just like enjoying Black Metal means you have to put up with NSBM and their Nazism. Nazis and music maybe shouldn’t team up. Nazi’s should at least team up with chocolate instead… so then losing weight would be easier.

Other than that? They’re a short-lived Hardcore Punk from the ’80s (in the D.C. scene) and lots of Metal bands like them. I’m hardly an expert as you can tell, and this is more or less a blind-purchase (although it’s a gift anyway) based on reputation and the fact that I might like it, and even if I dislike it, I’d enjoy the learning experience and associated blogging (Nerd, remember?).

So, without further ado, I’m going to crank this.

[Play]

The album starts off with a track that I recognize from the Slayer cover; “Filler.” Its only quick at 1:32, but that’s what you’d expect from a band at that time in this scene. I think a lot of Hardcore is quite short, and that’s probably how Napalm Death got to writing “You Suffer,” – an evolution of that idea, many steps down the evolutionary road.

The production of the rhythm section reminds me of early Overkill, the production of the guitar reminds me of The Sex Pistols. The relationship between the bass and the guitar reminds me of Motorhead. The shambly guitar playing and fluffed notes remind me of The Libertines b-sides like “Mayday” and “Skag & Bone Man.”

“I Don’t Wanna Hear It” – 1:13; This is quite bouncy, a bit more catchy than the previous song. It was also covered by Slayer. The music kind of reminds me vaguely of Overkill’s “Rotten To The Core.”

“Seeing Red” – 1:02; This song reminds me of Green Day’s heavier material, like “Geek Stink Breath” or “Take Back.” Again, that d-beat in this production reminds me of Feel The Fire era Overkill. It’s a lot more up my street than the Cro-Mags album, but I couldn’t actually explain why.

“Straight Edge” – 0:45; This is what the majority of my brain tells me Hardcore Punk sounds like. If I think of Hardcore Punk… my brain makes a mental picture that sounds like this. I could do a perception of a genre by one track series, and if I did, the track for Hardcore would be this one. (Prog would be “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, Death Metal would be “Hammer Smashed Face” by Cannibal Corpse, etc.)

“Small Man, Big Mouth” – 0:55; Quite bouncy and fun. I like it when floor toms are used in this way.

“Screaming At A Wall” – 1:31; Nothing particularly new here. Its just another song in the same style as those before. Not a favourite of mine. The fast snare rolls are fun though. Oh, cancel that, I should have waited until the end before I said that, it gets quite different at the halfway point and has a slow middle-eight. It in fact does have an identity of its own. Fair dos, Minor Threat.

“Bottled Violence” – 0:53; This is short and energetic, but I can’t really talk about it in any other way. It reminds me of grasshoppers? This song was responsible for Henry Rollins painting his fence back in ’82? This is the Scottish National Anthem? I got nuthin….

“Minor Threat” – 1:27; This is a bit of a change of pace. It is more mid-paced, and has a lot more melody than everything else so far. Until it speeds up in the middle, but still, this is one of the more distinct tracks so far. It has more tuneful singing than you’d expect too. I can see how Punk got from Sex Pistols to this, to Descendants to Green Day, to My Chemical Romance. This is what I love about going back… I want to buy a Saxon album and inadvertently learn something new about Pantera. I want to go to the past and understand the present and even predict the future. I love the jigsaw aspect of all of this.

“Stand Up” – 0:53; Well, this is certainly a song in the Hardcore Punk style, other than that I can’t really comment. For some reason it is rather fun, sort of reminiscent of Metallica’s “Motorbreath” in some weird way.

“12XU (Wire Cover)” – 1:03; The band are experimenting with dynamics here, going between open chords, chugging, then cutting the guitar out. Well, I don’t know if Minor Threat or Wire are experimenting, I haven’t heard the original.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

“In My Eyes” – 2:49; This starts with a straight four-four Hard Rock beat and super messy bass fumbling and then purposely jumbles and ends and the real song begins… I can hear the Nirvana in that intro. Then its got a fun tom-build-up part. This is also a highlight so far for me.

“Out Of Step (With the World)” – 1:16; hmmm… it isn’t in my iTunes… I don’t know what happened here. Oh well, moving on…

“Guilty Of Being White” – 1:18; Ok, I mentioned this before. Musically, I can see why Slayer covered it, it is a quite fun song, lots of energy, and a bit of a hook to it. Just a shame about the lyric thing. Also I don’t like listening to it in this neighbourhood in case I look like some sort of BNP person. I’ll turn this one down and close my windows…

“Steppin’ Stone [Paul Revere And The Raiders Cover]” – 2:12; Ok. Back to full volume. A lot more variety here, reverb on the cleaner vocals, but then it is a cover. I can here Monster Magnet in this, in a way. I bet Dave Wyndorf likes it.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

“Betray” – 3:02; The production here is a lot better. There’s melody to the singing. This is the Out Of Step album’s opening track. It sounds a bit more professional, again I hear Motorhead in it in a way… mostly the high guitars over rumbly bass. Its quite a long track for this band as well! Hey, they even throw in a slow section just before the end.

“It Follows” – 1:50; Not quite as fun as “Fucked Up Ronnie” but it kind of reminds me of it. Also, I can now see why Green Day are pop Punk. Like, I can here the connection between this and something off Kerplunk or ‘Slappy Hours… or whatever.

“Think Again” – 2:18; Quite a different sound for the band, a more distinctive riff than the usual thrashing. A bit mid-paced. Quite soft in parts compared to the all out thrashing of the first few tracks.

[A quick break to go on a nice date with my lovely gal to The Handmade Burger Co, which incidentally is awesome! Go there if you can. Their spicy bean burgers are sublime! Be warned however, chips portions are so generous two people should never buy two separate portions, if they don’t want to burst!]

“Look Back and Laugh” – 3:16; This opens with a slightly Russian-sounding slow riff, that reminds me of Brent Hinds for some reason. Then it turns into a slow sunny punk song, that reminds me of people skateboarding on Venice Beach, LA, while eating Goodburger burgers and high-fiving Ronald Regan-themed cardboard cut-outs (my mind is a confused place).

It reminds me vaguely of that one Pennywise video where the guy skateboards around town and goes to a record store and paws a Black Flag vinyl but doesn’t buy it. Its quite varied and diverse and fully-realized. Its not just a quick blast of speed, its got dynamics and lots of different ideas.

“Sob Story” – 1:50 ; This song is halfway between the last one and a quick angry blast from earlier on the record. It’s got dynamics up to a point but is fairly straightforward.

“No Reason” – 1:57; Pretty much the same as the previous track but ever so slightly more aggressive, and the guitar solo segment is more melodic.

“Little Friend” – 2:18; I’m getting a bit exhausted with the formula now if I’m being perfectly honest. I haven’t stumbled across anything as noteworthy as “Fucked Up Ronnie” yet. This song is another slightly samey go around the Minor Threat wheel. The coolest thing is at the halfway point there is a slow part that feels like a “Mosh Part” as described by Scott Ian in any documentary about Thrash and Hardcore’s link.

“Out Of Step” – 1:20; This one is the one that helped spawn the Straightedge thing. (“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t fuck, I gave up, I’m out of step with the world.”) Its ok I guess. I thought I’d identify with it more than I actually do. Its ok. It’s a bit more memorable than the last three or four tracks. I was expecting a giant anthem that I’d want to scream out embarrassingly loud and be too-into. Oh well.

“Cashing In” – 3:44; This one is probably the most musical and advanced track on the record so far. Its got lead guitar, recurring choruses, a messy prog bit and that leads into a rousing heavy metal section in the middle where he keeps saying “there’s no place like home” and they play a kind of NWOBHM part, and that’s the end. I don’t know if it is a send-up of Metal or not, I can’t really tell on initial listening. A lot of Punks hated Metal so its pretty likely, although cross-over happened too, so maybe it isn’t ill-natured. Hard to tell.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

“Stumped” – 1:55; This is more advanced, this marks the start of the Salad Days EP, and it is a bit of a step-up in musicianship and production, but still more or less the same sort of thing. It starts off with a slow, pleasant bassline that could be Green Day or The Offspring. The chugging guitar slowly builds, then the song lilts into a soft gentle groove that reminds me of colourful pop-punk music videos from the ’90s. Rancid videos. The vocals are kind of half-assed and lazy, in an intentional punk way. The song dies, intentionally.

“Good Guys (Don’t Wear White) [The Standells Cover]” – 2:14; It reminds me of the 1950s. I don’t know the original, just like I don’t know the original bands that Poison (“Your Momma Don’t Dance”) or Motley Crue (“Smokin In The Boys Room”) cover (parenthesis, much?). Hmm… turns out they’re a garage rock band from the ‘60s, like when Heart cover “The Witch” by The Sonics. Its ok. Its quite summery and bright, it kind of reminds me of The Proclaimers for some reason. Also, the acoustic guitars with punky production thing reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins and the entire ‘90s.

“Salad Days” – 2:46; Here we go, final song. It starts with some loose strumming on a guitar, then a raucous Motorhead style rumbly bassline, and then a disco drumbeat and bells come in. When it finally kicks in, it goes into a D-beat. Its kind of their usual style, but with cleaner production and a bit more melody. Its all a bit smoother. I could see some wieners saying the band lost their edge or whatever, but it’s a decent song.

Ok. And that was that. It didn’t really make for good reading. I can’t really discover much on an album that is pretty samey. I’m not sure how I feel about this collection overall so far. Maybe I’ll love it after a few more listens. I often find that when writing about these records at the same time, I don’t enjoy them as much… Dream Theater’s ‘Scenes From A Memory being a prime example. Maybe that album was just a grower though? I’m sure I loved it in a past life or something…

I think I could take this band more in small doses. Maybe a whole discography all at once was a bit of an overkill (is that good grammar? “A bit of an overkill” ? Should it be “A bit overkill” ?) (Should I just go and listen to Overkill?). I guess that’s why most of these type of bands released EPs and singles so much. Actually that’s not true, it was because it was cheaper, it was a financial thing. Also, what band would want to limit their audience’s consumption of them? Still… I think I’d like a Nasum or Terrorizer or Agoraphobic Nosebleed EP more than a full album. So, maybe it is a small-doses situation? Maybe. If anyone knows, comment that shit!

I enjoyed this one from a historical/educational perspective… but I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it. I still really want to check out things like Black Flag’s Damaged and Bad Brains’ Self-Titled debut, and all of Dead Kennedys’ early albums, but at the same time, I can foresee them being a bit boring and not-to-my-tastes. I think it may just be the case that I’m not a Punk person. Its ok. Not everyone has an ear for everything. My housemates just can’t enjoy Metal. My brother just cannot enjoy Hair Metal. My friend just cannot like any Extreme Metal…. Maybe I just am not equipped to like Punk.

Well; that’s why God invented Crossover, Groove Metal, Stoner, Grunge and Metalcore isn’t it?

I think I’m going to go listen to Napalm Death cover “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” instead of listening to the original. And that’s Ok.

Hello and welcome to the 15th day in 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.

I’m half-way through the challenge and have not caved in yet. Its been about a week since I last did a write-up. I have been pretty tempted at times to go into town and see what I could pick up… a quick visit to HMV or Forbidden Planet couldn’t hurt, right? NO! Stay focused….

I’ve also found myself drifting onto Amazon a lot. Maybe I’ll just pick up a copy of Emperor’s In The Nightside Eclipse, what with all this reunion concert stuff in the news…. NO! Just listen to the three Emperor albums in your existing collection idiot!

Well, maybe I’ll just go on Amazon and read reviews of Death’s Leporasy and Venom’s first three albums….whoah, what’s this, “add to basket”?…. Aaaahhhh! Undo, Undo Undo!

“Ok, I’ll just distract myself by re-reading DC’s Final Crisis, since it confused me the first time I read it but now I know more background and might be able to understand more… oh, Green Lantern is kind of cool, Captain Marvel is kind of cool. I wonder if there is a Justice League TV show… oh there is. I wonder if its available on Amazon……..Oh no, not again!…undo, undo, undo!”

I did eventually manage to distract myself by finally cracking open my copy of Dave Mustaine’s autobiography, which I actually received back in December as a Christmas Gift. Great book. I’m enjoying it a lot (despite the homophobia practically seeping through the pages and making me want to wash my hands) and I’ve got through the bits when he was in Metallica, to when he invented Megadeth and all the way up to where they’re just about to record Rust In Peace. Its cool. I never knew Ellefson was a drug addict too. I never knew the backstory of how Jeff Young and Chuck Behler got and lost their jobs. I never realized that Megadeth were almost as bad as Motely Crue for Sex Drugs and Rock N Roll decadence.

This made me go on a gigantic Megadeth listening spree, which is always a good spree to go on, if you ask me. Like Pantera, I never want to go too far without hearing some Megadeth. Its easy to let the bands that you really love go un-listened to when exploring new things, but its always good to just cast off the explorer’s hat and sit down in your favourite country. (What an odd analogy).

I really like rock star biographies and especially autobiographies. I’ve read Marilyn Manson’s one, no exaggeration, at least 20 times. If anyone would care to recommend some in the comments, drop me a line. Is Motorhead’s White Line Fever any good? Are there any good Metallica ones? Is Heavier Than Heaven good? Has anyone written one about Judas Priest? How about Anthrax?

Also, my non-music time can still result in a Metal-spotting news update; I watched the movie Zombie Land on Netflix recently. Metallica and Van Halen tracks were used. Reminds me of spotting Pantera on Orange Is The New Black. Sons Of Anarchy was great for that sort of thing, lots of stuff like Monster Magnet, Clutch, Soundgarden etc.

Zombie Land itself was OK. I like Jesse Eisenberg now, after The Social Network made him seem more than just “we can’t afford Michael Cera, hire someone similar” so just his presence is enjoyable. I wasn’t never a zombie fan and that always put me off trying out this movie. It just seemed like a lazy cash-in on what internet-users enjoyed that year (like if they made a Bacon movie last year). I’ve also watched the documentaries Supersize Me and Food Matters, but you’ll be disappointed to hear that there weren’t any Cannibal Corpse tracks in their soundtracks.

So yeah anyway… the week was going OK temptation-wise. Getting shaky but nothing I wasn’t able to stop when I thought about it. Then comes today…Oh, dear. You know what I just did? I just broke my damn challenge, didn’t I?

At the time of writing, I’ve just received an email about Machine Head tickets going on sale, and I automatically went and bought some straight away in case they sold out… temporarily forgetting the whole “don’t buy anything challenge” even as I was simultaneously writing about it here. Idiot. I should’ve waited until September to buy tickets, and if they sold out by then C’est La Vie.. at least I’d saved money, at least I’d learned discipline. Woops. Well, I guess this challenge is now going to be extended then, to make up for it. Damn. Shall we say another 15 days? A month from today, instead of a month from August 1st? No, today had a purchase in it, so I better make it 16 days. So, on September 15th it now ends. (August has a “31st”).

“Couldn’t have put tickets on sale a few weeks later, could you, 02 Apollo?” “Its not as if Machine Head are going to struggle to sell them out quickly in the UK. Are they now?”

Oh well. Nobody’s fault but my own. Still…. Machine Head tickets, ey? I haven’t ever gotten to see Machine Head before. This will be great. Think of the absolute thunderous up-wards trajectory they’ve been on for the past decade or so! Three absolutely superb albums, a fourth about to drop that seems every bit as excellent. I’m very excited about this. Its not like I broke the challenge by buying an album of Obituary B-sides or something… they say the key to happiness is buying memories instead of possessions. I reckon I’ll remember seeing Machine Head for some time to come.

Or so I’ll tell myself so I don’t look too stupid for breaking the challenge.

So. That’s the temptation and random thoughts aspect covered. What about the whole listening to things aspect of these articles?

B.J

I decided to augment my weightlifting experience today by listening to Jethro Tull’s Aqualung (hardly an under-listened gem seeing as its one of my favourite albums of all time and I listened to it almost daily for the three years or so after I initially bought it) and Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet; which I bought a while back, along with some other Bon Jovi albums, to celebrate the end of my Exams. I’ve not listened to any of the Bon Jovi albums as much as I should have since that purchase, but they still aren’t in the under-appreciated zone yet, even if it is starting to look a bit like they might head that way. They are still in my new-purcahses drawer in the filing cabinet of my brain.

Slippery When Wet is a lot of fun. The hits are excellent. Even “Wanted Dead Or Alive” which I used to hate as a teenager, due to never sitting and listening to it all the way through. I had a gut-reaction of “yuck” and never questioned it. Well, much like the million faces Bon Jovi have seen, it now has rocked me. The only moment that is a bit questionable is the slow ballad “Without Love” which sounds too much like a high-school dance in an 80s movie for my tastes, but that is easily skippable. The rest of it? “I’d Die For You” is a monster. Really enjoyable song indeed. “Wild In The Streets” is similarly fun. I like “Raise Your Hands” a lot too. I certainly wouldn’t mind if this became a regular-listen of mine. Wouldn’t mind at all. OK… its not as heavy as W.A.S.P, or as infectious as Quiet Riot, or as brilliant a guitar-show as Dokken, or whoever else I’ve been listening to lately… but it is a very smooth, enjoyable listen.

The rest of my day has been spent listening to Kings Of Leon and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged album because I’m visiting someone else’s house at the minute and they’re fans of acoustic Nirvana and electric Kings Of Leon. Its like how I listen to Arctic Monkeys’ new album AM even more when my girlfriend is round… not everyone can listen to Megadeth and Exodus without feeling a little put-off, but AM is a record no one could find too crazy. That and its awesome. So if you have non-Metal-fans visiting, you can still listen to music you enjoy, without putting on something your companions don’t enjoy. No need to be so Metal that you are just selfish, ey?

K.O.L

But anyway… Kings Of Leon got a lot of flack in the Metal community over the last few years, especially around 2010-2012. Listening to them now, I notice a lot of similarities with Pearl Jam, and sometimes their use of slide guitar or bluesy shuffle evokes a certain Zeppelin-y-ness. I think, yeah… they’re a credible rock act. A real band of actual musicians who write real songs in a room together. Its not some cynical pop music and its not an elevated-above-their-station-by-NME band with one hit single and no substance. They’ve got a lot to offer people who listen to 60s and 70s rock bands, and the less-metallic 90s Grunge-era bands (Pearl Jam, post-Core Stone Temple Pilots, Smashing Pumpkins etc).

I’ve got a lot of respect for them now after hearing deep cuts and songs I didn’t hear-to-death on the radio or in adverts. I mean, listen to “McFearless” with its awesome drumbeat, buzzy production and lead-bass. Until the singing comes in, that could be off of Antichrist Superstar. The intro to “Charmer” has a dirty punk feeling like Bleach-era Nirvana, and when the guitar solo and bouncy beat are going in “Black Thumbnail” they could be Black Country Communion or something… its that old rock done nowadays sort of thing. “My Party” wouldn’t be too out-of-place on Pearl Jam’s Vitology album. I’m not saying that you could mistake Kings Of Leon for Slayer any time soon, and they shouldn’t get on a concert bill with Lamb Of God or anything, but… they’re not exactly Jedward.

But hey, I am a huge Libertines and Arctic Monkeys fan (and a decent-sized Frattellis fan), and most of the people who hated Kings Of Leon in 2010-2012 would see that as a reason not to trust my opinion.

So um, yeah… **Cough Cough** “Death to false Metal, only listen to Manowar” and all that…

Am I credible now?

In honour of my un-Metalness, today’s Top 5s will be of the British Indie bands in my music collection. There aren’t many, but I like them just the same as Testament, Fear Factory or Carpathian Forest.

The Libertines :
1. Good Old Days
2. Never Never
3. The Man Who Would Be King
4. The Delany
5. Skag And Bone Man

Dirty Pretty Things :
1. Bloodthirsty Bastards
2. Last Of The Smalltown Playboys
3. One To My Left
4. Kicks Or Consumption
5. Best Face

Babyshambles :
1. Back From The Dead
2. Fall From Grace
3. A’rebours
4. The Man Who Came To Stay
5. Baddie’s Boogie

Yeti :
1. Never Lose Your Sense Of Wonder
2. Midnight Flight
3. Up And Down
4. Working For The Industry
5. The Last Time That You Go

Arctic Monkeys :
1. You Probably Couldnt See For The Lights But You Were Looking Straight At Me
2. Still Take You Home
3. RU Mine?
4. My Propeller
5. If You Were There, Beware

The Fratellis :
1. My Friend John
2. Got Ma Nuts From A Hippy
3. Creeping Up The Backstairs
4. The Acid-Jazz Singer
5. Tell Me A Lie

Hello and welcome to the fifteenth 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 buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

This week, I’ll be covering Cacophony; a brief three-issue story (but part of a wider trilogy with The Widening Gyre and Bellicosity) which was written by Kevin Smith. Kevin Smith is best known for his films and impressive podcasting empire, as well as his part on the TV show Comic Book Men, and has worked on numerous comics before including Green Arrow and Daredevil. I haven’t read those. I haven’t read his comics about other superheroes yet. I have read his comics about his own films though, in the Tales From The Clerks compilation, but that’s about it.

I’m a huge, huge fan of his podcasting though (amazing free entertainment by the bucket full), and still have a lot of fondness for most of his films which I loved as a teenager but have seen too much and heard too much criticism of, and overall learned too much about to be able to ever really “just watch” anymore.

Kevin has a sense of humour which includes frequent jokes about sex, sex organs, drugs and scat-humour, as well as a tendency to talk about and reference real life people he knows. These seem sort of incompatible with Batman. All the other Batman I’ve ever read has avoided joking about sex, or talking about Batman’s genitals, or involving all that much faeces.

Needless to say, people, as far as I’ve read online did not appreciate when Smith included some of his sense of humour in Batman. Its very un-Batman to use the words “I saw a bit of your Junk when you were getting changed.” It just is.

I would just say this however… what did you expect? Kevin Smith + Batman = Kevin Smith’s Batman, surely? Why would you get someone unique like Kevin Smith and then have him just lose his uniqueness and not seem like Kevin Smith? That would be like getting Quentin Tarinto to direct an episode of a TV show and then just expecting him to do what the previous director was doing… a bit of a waste.

If you really dislike Kevin Smith…why did you read it? Its not as if there is any shortage of alternative Batman books to read. Its not like Metallica, where they only make one album every five years. There are many, many Batman books released and re-released every year and if you really can’t stand Kevin Smith it would be quite easy to give Cacophony a miss.

I’ve been wanting to re-read this for quite a while (every time I listen to Fatman On Batman I get the urge to read it) but I’ve been saving it until I was ready to write one of these articles about it. I’ve kind of shot myself in the foot a little by starting this series, but oh well.. I got to re-read it now and that’s all that matters.

Batman

Batman – Cacophony:

– Writers: Kevin Smith
– Art: Walt Flanagan
– Colours: Sandra Hope

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Joker, Zsasz, Deadshot, Onomotepeia, Maxie Zeuss

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police)

– Bystanders: N/A

– References: Barbara Gordon, John Paul Valley, Jason Todd, Mad Hatter, Amygdala, Calendar Man, Scarface, Riddler, Clayface, Connor Hawke as Green Arrow,

– Story: [/Spoilers] A new villain called Onomotepia, comes from Star City to Gotham to kill Batman, via the means of distracting him by freeing the Joker from Arkham. He interrupts an unrelated assassination attempt by Deadshot during which Joker learns that Maxie Zeuss is selling Joker Venom as a designer drug. Joker is offended and starts a war with Zeuss including murdering his nephew and setting fire to his nightclub with a flamethrower while impersonating a celebrity DJ. Batman, fresh from stopping Zsasz kill random innocents tries to recapture joker, meets Onomotopia and they battle. Onomotopia betrays joker to save himself leaving Joker mortally wounded and Batman choses to save Joker’s life rather than pursue Onomotopia despite the arrival of Commissioner Gordon who tries to convince Batman to just let the Joker die from his wounds. After a lengthy coma, Joker awakes to find Batman, dressed as Matches Malone meet him in hospital to clear up this issue of whether the two want to kill eachother or not. Batman says no, Joker says yes. In an epilogue Batman jokes with Alfred and Onomopepia goes back to his life as a family man and his secret plans to kill Batman.

– Tone: I’ll discuss this at the end, because they kind of go hand in hand.

– Art: Inconsistent. Walt draws so many different faces for the same Joker. Gets better as it goes along though, just needs more consistency. Also, he draws humans better than either Batman or Joker. His Gordon and Maxie Zeus-as-businessman look perfect, I’m just not keen on the way Batman’s face and mask look. The book is beautifully coloured actually though, it looks gorgeous with glossy paper and vivid colours.

– My Thoughts: Not the worst Batman story I ever read. Not even close. I actively enjoy Cacophony. If you ignore the fact that the dialogue has a bit more Smith-esque humour than would usually be found, this is actually a pretty entertaining and enjoyable story with some neat, memorable moments. And you know what, some of the jokes actually made me smile too. Its not like its 100% liking it despite the jokes, sometimes its just liking it… on its own terms. I liken it to listening to Megadeth. At first you are like “Dave Mustaine has a weird voice” but then you are later like “Screw it, a good song is a good song.” Admittedly, nowadays I love Mustaine’s voice totally and completely… can’t say I’ll ever love penis jokes within a Batman story, but hey, I can’t make every analogy 100% critique-proof.

I really enjoy some moments such as Zsasz getting surprised and also getting kicked through the door in a presumable homage to Madlove. I really love Jokers’ “Now do you get the Joke?” moment with Maxie.

Also, I just really love Onomotepia. He is a really neat villain uniquely suited to the medium he was invented for. Good look, good gimmick. If I ever wrote a Batman story, I’d include or at least reference him. His coolness adds a good few points in the book’s favour.

Negatives-wise; I do question some of the Jewish humour, slightly wary that it’s a bit distasteful (“Unholy Bris” ? Hmmm…). …And admittedly some of the dialogue and choices are contradictory to a lot of other writers (Gordon encourages Batman to let Joker die when other books make Gordon stop situations like this.)

It’s a Batman book I don’t regret buying, and would have no problems reading again. Maybe I’m being unfairly lenient to balance out people who were unfairly critical, that is possible, I mean, I don’t think I’d forgive other writers for a Batmite-themed Deadmaus-style DJ or a letter in which Joker calls Batman emo-boy (does Joker keep abreast of music trends and internet-era humour and expressions? Maybe, maybe not…).

Either way, I don’t think I’d recommend it to you if the idea of toilet humour in Batman is appalling, but I enjoyed it more than all the negative internet vibes made me think I would. That’ll do…

Now that I’ve covered the spend/temptation/distraction aspects of Get (Into) What You Paid For, its time to cover the titular aspect, by which I mean I’m getting back to reevaluating old purchases which I overlook, and try to get my money’s worth out of them.

S- AHiG

In honour of the return of Slipknot, I’ll kick things off by re-listening to their fourth real album, 2008’s All Hope Is Gone.

It opens with “.execute.” Their first two albums had clearly “intro” intros, and on their third they essentially made a proper song instead but acted like it was an intro. Here, they take the route Lamb Of God took on Resolution and confusingly stick the drum-introduction to a song (track 2, “Gematria (The Killing Name)”) in a previous track (track 1, “.execute.”) while simultaneously sort of re-doing the intro to “Pulse Of The Maggots.”

A few thoughts…. I wonder if Craig titled this intro? Why not just have this be part of “Gematria (The Killing Name)” like they did with “Pulse Of The Maggots”? When they play “Gematria (The Killing Name)” live, do they actually play that drum intro, or play that bit over the speakers and start where the CD cuts the two tracks?

[Quick side note – In my iTunes, “Pulse Of The Maggots” is now split into two different tracks, “Pulse Of The Maggots” preceded by “Intro Of The Maggots” which separates the speech into a separate skippable track, because… song.

Also, I do the same with Slayer’s “Hell Awaits.” The intro is “Awaiting Hell.”]

Anyway… The song opens nicely, with a sort of complex intro like they liked to do so much on Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses. I like all the pinch harmonics. I think the quick d-beat bit is really out of place. I remember my brother really hating the lyric about “cigarette ash.” Listening to the song now, apart from the vague idea that it is pretending to be heavier than it is, I like this song. I like the fact that it has guitar solos. I like the DJ scratches. I like the catchy bits and the heavy bits. I like the big groove around 3.40. It might better (tighter) if it ended after that instead of continuing, but I think it’s a good song nonetheless.

Next up comes “Sulpher” which was never off music TV when this album came out. I remember being so sick of this song due to how overplayed it became. Now? Nice Death influenced intro. Brilliant main verse. The radio chorus, despite y’know…being a radio chorus… is awesome! I forgot that. I remember it being a sort of two-faced light/shade affair, but I didn’t remember that both sides were good. Nice guitar solo too, and the part under it is neat. Again, the Machine Head influenced big groove (which actually IS the ending this time) is awesome.

OK. Another good song. Call that the first two songs and it’s a 100% success rate so far. I’d easily put both of these in a “Best Of Slipknot” tracklist.

How about track four? “Psychosocial.” I remember thinking that this was trying a bit too hard to replicate the success of Duality. The main riff is actually kind of Ministry or Rob Zombie flavoured if you pay attention. The chorus, hmmm…. Its delicious but so out of place. Oh well, I like it. Who am I trying to please here? Some Blabbermouth troll in an Obituary t-shirt or MY EARS?

More lead-guitar goodness. Hoorah. The midsection with all the snares is cool. A bit “Hey, people enjoy The Blister Exists, what else can we do?” but hey, its cool. Get over it My Brain!

Also luckily, now, its been so long since I’ve watched music TV that its no-longer overplayed AND I’ve forgotten the viral video where its mashed-up with Justin Beiber. So its just a song. A good song.

Next up is “Dead Memories.” “Dead Memories” is awesome. Really nice drums. Some of the best Corey clean vocals in this band. Even though I struggle to accept this song as Slipknot and not Stone Sour and have a sort of principle thing against it, this song is excellent and I love it. Also…boy, oh boy was this thing overplayed at the time.

Wow. I’m really enjoying this record actually. I always think of it as their worst. The career nadir. Its not that bad, and I’ve just listened to the “one with the stupid lyrics” and the three overplayed ones. Now come the deep-cuts!

First up – “Vendetta.” Swirly, death-influenced intro riffs. Stompy feel. Kicks into a great main verse. It could do with having heavier vocals, I remember that being a discussion point against it at the time. I remember the first time I listened to it, in a cramped, smelly room. I remember thinking the band have lost their heaviness.

I think the song also takes a bit too long to get to the chorus. I like the chorus though. Could do with better lyrics… but whatever. I really enjoy this song. I don’t ever remember that this one is called “Vendetta” but I do remember every second of music. I like 80% of said music. This is a good track. The worst thing I could think about it at all is that some of the segments change jarringly, but even that’s stretching it.

“Butcher’s Hook” comes next. The first “weird one.” The Skunkworks one. All Slipknot albums have a few “weird ones.” Going right back to the demos, there was always a love of creepy, off tracks. Every album has a “Tattered And Torn” or “Skin Ticket” or “The Virus Of Life.” The ironic weird thing about this weird track is that it weirdly has a commercial chorus of sorts and despite its clear and obvious weirdness, it is somehow a normal song. If you follow. Its either deceptively digestible despite its progressive nature, or only weird in a token check-box way but actually a normal song. Either way, every part of it is good. I like it. I think of it as this album’s “The Shape.” “The Shape” was weird as balls but could fool you if you weren’t paying attention. But then I guess that’s this band. If you don’t concentrate, you miss the depth and subtleties of a nine-member band who hate conventional song structure and sneak in odd time-sigs without boasting about it.

“Gehenna” is next. It is a slow, creepy one. The lyrics feel like a sequel to the track “Iowa” but the music sounds like a sequel to “Vermillion” with a bit of “Virus Of Life” style synth in there too. The slow, drony verses have a Sci-Fi feel. That one bit where they keep throwing in the heavy snare rolls but going back to the slow dirge is cool. Then it does its own version of a clean chorus (kind of) and becomes a normal song. It kind of steals the song’s weirdness. But the vocal specifics and the part which follow it make me think its trying to be like Antichrist Superstar’s pained outcast artist vibe, and that its all a bit “Minute Of Decay” and we’re unfairly treating it as “Everlong”

Who is we? … cripes, I’m going a bit crazy here! You know what I mean right? I think on the one hand it seems deceptively commercial, but on the other hand it isn’t, its just clean prog not noisy prog. There! I’m not crazy, I’m just dorky! (And trying to please an imaginary, disapproving, super-nerd by protesting too much… totally a normal thing to do!)

Anyway, that song is fine. Not great, but not worth cutting either.

“This Cold Black” follows. This seems like a nice “Metabolic” or “Deluded” or “Welcome.” The good Slipknot. The deep cuts. The “this is Slipknot at their most Slipknot” Slipknot. That Slipknot.

I like this song a lot. The variety in the vocals is cool. I wonder if its Clown or Chris doing the backups, or just Corey putting on a funny voice? The chorus is a bit odd. Sort of jagged, and out of nowhere, and yet its catchy, and when it leaves it makes the next bit sound cooler by contrast. That and the build up with the broken key lyrics over it is cool. A build-up that doesn’t build up? Nice one!

Also, hooray for guitar solos and fast parts! Then that staccato part is nice. And the deathy transition riff doesn’t feel forced either. Definitely one of the better songs on the record. Shame it won’t get played a lot live.

“Wherein Lies Continue” comes. Comes like creepy mutant. Well, not that creepy actually. Pseudo-creepy. This is oddly tame, but still clearly another Skunkworks type thing. Its quite “Virus Of Life.” The heaviest of the three, its like Tattered And Torn if that wasn’t creepy. It does that clean chorus trick the previous ones did. The clean chorus is good though, so what’s the problem brain-jerk? The bit that follows that chorus is awesome. I love those multi-percussion bits in Slipknot. Then, wham! Another Machine Head influenced groove ending! Its not the ending…but, y’know it should be. And then it is, later, when it comes back…because OF COURSE IT SHOULD BE. Also some trippy robot-duck guitar hidden in there too, because layering.

“Snuff” follows. It is awesome. It has always been since first listen my favourite song on the album. Interestingly, for someone with so much difficulty accepting the clean vocals and commercial leanings of the album, my unashamed, un-ironic, honest favourite thing on the whole record is a ballad. A brilliant, powerful, non-cheesy and totally dramatic cinematic ballad. It is awesome. A masterpiece. Well done for writing it Slipknot! No matter what score you’d award this album, it is hugely boosted by this gem. There is more brilliance here than on the full rest of the record combined…. Kind of like how Motely Crue themselves think about Home Sweet Home/Theater Of Pain.

Then to close up the album, comes the final track, the Title Track, “All Hope Is Gone.” It has one of those Vol. 3 complex intros. It has speed. It has DJ scratches. It has noisy blast beats and death influenced riffs in the verses. The chorus is strangely a weird rolling post-chorus. Its quite impressive actually. Oh, that’s why, because its not the chorus, because there’s a groove, with a clean vocal instead. The whole bit before and under (during) the guitar solo is awesome, even if the solo itself isn’t amazing. Then a bit that is so massively Slipknot that it defies further comparison. What did Slipknot add to music that wasn’t there before, you ask? That! This bit!

OK. That song is decent too. This third and final time the chorus comes in its actually cool. I wonder would the song be better if that was the only time it was there though? Oh who cares…stop being so picky, jerkwad. This is a good song. This is a good album. Its still their worst. But now only by a hair instead of by a considerable margin. Jerk off, jerky jerk-impression! Your false memories, prejudice against Corey’s clean singing and sickness at the overplaying of the singles is now not how this album is. How this album is, is good!

PS. Oh yeah, and the bonus track, “Child Of Burning Time” which is pretty much Vermillion again. Only better. Maybe this should’ve been on it instead of “Gehenna” and also should’ve been a single? Considering that enjoying money is a thing…

Also, the decision to put a remix of a song from a track from a previous album in-between two proper songs from this album’s sessions is insane and so I’ve disallowed this madness from my iTunes. That song is put on the end of Vol. 3. The next song here is “Til We Die” because that makes much more sense.

“Til We Die” starts out like a creepy-ass sea-side song, in an alcoholic’s memories. Then suddenly turns into a powerful, real-song version of the intro from Vol. 3. (More real, I mean). It is awesome. This, the previous one, Dead Memories and Snuff are the best material here. They are better than all the ones that actually sound like Slipknot. Maybe they should’ve sold out harder…not tried to hide it with blast beats and death riffs.

[Or maybe it’s a good balance you knee-jerk reacting jerkhole. Maybe they aren’t “covering it up” but rather just mixing two things they enjoy.]

STOP HITTING YOURSELF, NUTCASE!

E – BbB

Next, from something with lots of derision to something with universal credibility in our world; Think 1985… Exodus’ Bonded By Blood.

At the time, even in the deepest throes of my Thrash-passion, from my first days of Thrash Obsession, I always felt that this album was poor. The title track was one of the best songs ever written by anyone and then the rest of the album was dull repetitive cack and the band were much better off on the fantastic next two records, Pleasure Of The Flesh & Fabulous Disaster.

Well; one listen and yup, the Title Track is fantastic. Perfect. No further comments, your honour. The defense rests.

The next song, the song actually called “Exodus,” opens up with a riff that kind of sounds like Dave Mustaine. The vocals are weirdly produced, painfully too-loud and kind of in a metal box. Not Metal. Just metal. That Mustainey riff is fun. The bit of the chorus with the “Get In The Way…” is catchy and sort of punky. I also like the little Iron Maiden-esque jangle before “…and Exodus attack.”

The song has a great guitar solo too. If the vocals were produced normally this would be a pretty perfect Thrash song. The deh-neh-nay-ne-neh thing sounds like early Overkill, which is a bonus. And some of the drum fills here are absolutely bad ass. The song only seems dull and repetitive but all the little touches really make it.

Then there’s the nuclear-themed “And Then There Were None” which opens up with a nice chugging riff augmented by a Tom pattern that I’m sure turns up on Nirvana’s Bleach album somewhere. Love Buzz, maybe? This is perfect mid-paced Thrash. It would be good DVD menu music. Or good under-the-narrator in a Thrash Documentary music.

Its kind of weird that the backing vocals just sing the melody. Like at an Iron Maiden concert…but in the studio. “AAAAAH, ah-ahhh-ah-ah-a-a.”

The whole adventurous mid-section and the fast bit which follows are excellent. I love it during the solo. This is a good song. I remember always wanting to turn the record off afterward though. I think it has that problem of the last few Exodus records that the song is just slightly too long. Of all Exodus records. Sometimes they have a song that’s just too long. They’re awesome, but sometimes they need an editor. Only sometimes.

Next comes one of the band’s then-signature songs (the other being “Piranha”) if my memory of various magazine articles from the time I bought this holds up, “A Lesson In Violence.” I remember resenting this song as a teenager for not being as awesome as it should be given how fond the band seemed to be of it. Interestingly, looking back now, these two are the two shortest and presumably therefor tightest tracks on the album. Free from that too-long thing then!

Oh yes, and the chorus is catchy and awesome. I remember hating the lyrics at first impression (essentially rhyming “lesson in violence” with “lesson in violence”) but now that I’m used to it for years and years, its just music, and that music is good. Also, I like the riffs, the speed and the solos. This is a good song. Bonded by Blood is better but this is still a deserving signature track. Consider me converted. Its great not being 14 anymore, isn’t it? 12 years in the future is a beautiful thing, ey?

Next comes “Metal Command” which I remember thinking sounding dodgy, but now it is charming and NWOBHMy and a sort of missing-link moment like early Overkill. Also the production on the solo is awesome and the brief little neoclassical noodle at the very end of the solo is neat. This song just got stars in my iTunes.

The aforementioned “Piranha” makes its appearance next. This song’s opening riff is kind of Slayer/Sodom/Kreator. It is for the mean-Thrash crowd. The people who don’t necessarily like Anthrax as much as they might. Then it kicks into a more bouncy part. The chorus is catchy. There are way too many effects on the vocals, but that’s a very minor complaint. Also, nice solo. The H-team always were awesome at guitar solos. This album in general is way better than my first impression of it was. I wonder if it was just the whole line-up changes thing messing my brain around with Exodus, causing side-choosing.

[Side note: Ohhh, ooooh. Remember that whole intro thing, like “Awaiting Hell”? etc. I do that with Exodus’ “Deranged” because…that intro makes me skip the whole of Deranged when really I should only skip the intro.]

Next up, a nice bit of variety. “No Love” opens up with a nice, fancy, tasteful Spanish Guitar, clean intro. That was a big thing on Thrash openers wasn’t it? – Sometimes separate tracks, sometimes not. – Pleasure To Kill, Alice In Hell, Ride The Lightning etc… they all have that. A little bit of Spanish guitar before the Thrash. I wonder why they didn’t make this the first track then?

Maybe they did, and then they realized that the title track was so absolutely fantastic that nobody had time to wait for it, and so that just HAD TO be the first track?

Anyway, once the Metal-bit starts, it’s a bit more midpaced again. In a slightly off time-sig that reminds me of a specific Dream Theater moment on Awake which I can’t remember right now. Also, the way he say’s “The Darkness Is My Lover” is clearly influenced by Accept. I would have never noticed that before. Also it sounds like he says “Leather” and not “Lover.”

Oh, there’s a neat NWOBHMy bit around 2.40. Then a neat solo. This song is full of surprises. And some bad-ass fills once it slows down around that next set of solos. This song is what we in the Thrash fan world call a mini-epic, and I never even realized. Shame. I wish I realized how good it was at the time I got it. Oh well. I know now.

Next up is “Deliver Us To Evil” which by its two-minutes-longer duration might actually be a mini-epic. It has some nice little touches. With its stop-start bit, and bouncy drums. It also has slightly choppy, but proggy complexity, which at the time I mistook for “not playing properly.” Woops. I guess my brain wasn’t developed enough when I got this initially.

It has a really fun Maideny/Priesty bit underneath the solos around the four-minute-mark. Some really fun riffs!

Lastly, the fast one. Back in the day, instead on ending on the obvious closer… they would usually end on a super fast, shorter song. That happens here. This speedy track could easily be described as a “teeth kicker.” This is pure Thrash. Absolutely pure. Almost too pure? I remember thinking this was too simplistic at the time. I was WRONG at the time. Good song, good album, good band. Good subgenre.

Oh yeah, and here’s a TOP 5s thing for Thrash:

Exodus :
1. Bonded By Blood
2. Fabulous Disaster
3. Brain Dead
4. Chemi-Kill
5. Seeds Of Hate

Testament :
1. The Preacher
2. Souls Of Black
3. Into The Pit
4. Practice What You Preach
5. Apocalyptic City

Metallica :
1. Blackened
2. Creeping Death
3. Master Of Puppets
4. Eye Of The Beholder
5. Ride The Lightning

Forbidden :
1. March Into Fire
2. Forbidden Evil
3. Twisted Into Form
4. Hypnotized By The Rhythm
5. Infinite

Kreator :
1. People Of The Lie
2. Coma Of Souls
3. Terrible Certainty
4. Stream Of Consciousness
5. Pleasure To Kill

Annihilator :
1. Alice In Hell
2. Road To Ruin
3. W.T.Y.D
4. Stonewall
5. I Am In Command

Anthrax :
1. I Am The Law
2. A.I.R
3. One Man Stands
4. Lone Justice
5. Death Rider

Megadeth :
1. Rust In Peace (Polaris)
2. Set The World Afire
3. Hook In Mouth
4. Peace Sells
5. Mechanix

Slayer :
1. Postmortem
2. Raining Blood
3. Blood Red
4. South Of Heaven
5. Crionics

Nuclear Assault :
1. Survive
2. Brainwashed
3. Critical Mass
4. Nuclear War
5. Game Over

Overkill :
1. Overkill
2. I Hate
3. Elimination
4. In Union We Stand
5. Feel The Fire

As for the bands who I don’t feel I can make a Top 5 for, my favourtie Sacred Reich song is “Whos To Blame.” My favourtie Death Angel song is “Veil Of Deception.” My favourtie Vio-lence song is “World Within A World.” My favourtie Exhorder song is “Un-born Again.” My favourtie Heathen song is “Pray For Death.” My favourtie Onslaught song is “Thrash Till The Death.” My favourtie Sepultura thrash-era song is “Beneath The Remains.” My Sodom song is “Agent Orange.” My favourtie Voivod song is “Tribal Convictions.”

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!

Hello and welcome to the ninth 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 buying and reading Batman comics, which I will now blog about for your reading pleasure and commenting-inspiration (seriously, I want to know what you think about these comics).

[First off, why not listen to this while reading this article: , that’s probably the way to get the most out of the experience.]

At the minute, I’m happily making my way through reading No Man’s Land, and just like last time, since I’m not finished it yet, that won’t be the subject of this week’s entry. I’ve also received Batman: Demon in the mail. It may surprise you to know that its not about Ras Al Ghul like Son Of The Demon and Birth Of The Demon and all those other Demon books… its about that Etrigan The Demon guy, who I only know from one of Kevin Smith’s two Batman books. He rhymes a lot. Is that a permanent character point or just a Smith thing? I’ll find out soon enough…

Anyway; Last time on Amateur Batfan, I covered Hush Returns, which was a bad story featuring the villain Hush. Today, I read an interesting article about how the original Hush book was quite poor (Read it here). The thing is I really like Hush (the character). I like him to the point where I frequently think the sentence “if I was ever in charge of a Batman Comic/Movie/Videogame then I’d make Hush one of the main villains” (Along with Onemotapia and The Architect in case you were wondering).

When I first heard of Hush, I went into reading the original book with a negative eye, expecting to be disappointed, as my friend and Batman-advisor Paul had said that it wasn’t good (and after I read it and asked why, he said “because it treats the reader with absolutely no intelligence”), but I remember at the time really really enjoying Hush (damn its getting confusing having the book title and the villain both be called Hush, isn’t it?) partly due to Jim Lee’s beautiful artwork… (that’s how I want all comics to look, even if he could do with being less sexist. Also, everyone online ever also informs me that all his male characters have the same face and body). It was also partly due to the entertainment value. Its not a strong mystery at all, and the “insert thing into the past” line of story telling is one of my pet peeves (…and its actually doubly unnecessary here, because if Loeb wasn’t so attached to the name Tommy Elliot, he could have used the Bruce’s childhood friend character from Batman Gothic and then he’d just be expanding rather than shoe-horning) but I think the whole ride was pretty fun in a low level blockbuster sort of a way.

I also remember disliking the [Spoiler]Clayface/Jason Todd plot point a lot though. So… I guess you could say that I disliked THE POINT OF THE BOOK. But I enjoyed the ride. I really ought to re-read it and see where I stand; because of Paul (my friend, not Paul Dini), and a coincidental series of other people disliking it, I kind of assumed most people hated it. I was reading a lot of reviews about it today though, and it seems almost universally loved. I guess it’s the Metallica thing. Everyone loves Metallica, but you see a lot of criticism too. Is Lars a bad drummer? I can’t even tell anymore. Linkin Park are the same… if you’re actually in a University Halls Of Residence, you are never more than 10 feet away from at least 15 people who love Linkin Park, but go on Blabbermouth and you’d think they were the most reviled band on the planet.

Given that those two other Hush books aren’t very strong (or maybe Hush is… I’m still not sure), I’m not really certain why I enjoy Hush so much as a villain… but I do. I was even really pleased when he had a brief cameo in Gates Of Gotham, it really put a smile on my face! …Maybe its just because he looks cool. Maybe its just because I hadn’t heard of him before and I then when I saw him at the right time, I bonded to him, like how a zoo animal thinks the puppet that the Zoo Keeper uses to feed it is its mother. Maybe its because he shows up in Arkham City, and that game was great. Who knows? Anyway, this week, I’ve decided to cover a Hush story that isn’t poor. In fact, its one of my favourite Batman books so far. In fact, this story is almost like an apology or justification of the original Hush’s flaws.

As an example of those flaws, I’ve heard the motivation of Hush in the original Hush (confusing aint it?) described as “ludicrously juvenile.” Hush’s motivation is more understandable once he is more deeply characterized here though (heck, even his costume is). As an example of how Dini has retroactively rectified those flaws: While still having to work with what he’s been given (the car crash, wanting his parents inheritance, Wayne Sr. saving his mum plot), Dini manages to add depth and therefor quality by making the reader understand that Hush as a character is a ludicrously juvenile person, and that its not just bad writing. The guy is a total born prick, and he is also tortured emotionally by a belittling and draining upbringing. His parent’s inability to let him grow explains, in part, his ludicrous childishness, which only compounds his born wanker-ness. Its quite a clever workaround.

You know what else? I really hate shoe-horning in a previously unknown childhood best friend into any story (just like I hate a long-lost brother, or a secret lovechild), but when this is the third appearance, and its already established… its kind of dulled, or lessened. Its not a shoehorn anymore, it just “is.” Hush, by this stage, just is Bruce’s childhood best friend and we all know it, and its no-longer an insult on our sensibilities so we can now all just get on with it. Consequently, that particular turd isn’t gathering as many flies in this book. It left me softened up and more ready to just enjoy the story.

Speaking of softened up… as a sort of apology to what I’d said last week… I also had another thought when reading through several reviews and Wikipedia articles about all three of the Hush stories I’m talking about which softened me up a little to Hush Returns, which I had criticized for mis-characterizing Hush as a brawler when the original establishes him as a slow-strategist type (a callback to Bane’s wearing Batman down with villain after villain?). This softening-thought was that in Hush (the book) itself, it wasn’t Hush (the villain) who came up with the slow long-game plan, it was The Riddler. I’d forgotten about that by the time I’d read Hush Returns. So Hush wading in himself in Hush Returns isn’t so out of character after all. I can admit when I’m wrong.

Also, because I can’t completely divorce myself from writing about music, I just thought I’d inform you that at the time of writing, I’m currently listening to The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth, featuring Tim Ripper Owens, specifically the epic three-part, 30-minute long “Gettysburg.” If you haven’t heard it but like Heavy Metal in the vein of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, its an absolute gem. That’s my Heavy Metal recommendation for the day. You can all sleep easily now.

Batman

Batman Heart Of Hush:

– Writers: Paul Dini
– Art: Dustin Nguyen
– Colours: Derek Fridolps

– Continuity: Post-Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Very Late Career, Ties in with Batman R.I.P

– Batman is: Bruce Wayne

– Villains: Hush, Dr Aesop, Scarecrow, The Walrus, The Carpenter, The Joker, Mr. Freeze

– Allies: Alfred Pennyworth, Tim Drake as Robin, Dick Grayson as Nightwing, Barbara Gordon as Oracle, James Gordon (Police) Bullock (Police) Montoya (Police), Catwoman, Zatana,

-Bystanders: Detective Sam Emerson Bradley, Colin, Peyton Riley

– Mentioned: The Ventriloquist

– Cameos: Harley Quinn, Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Killer Croc, Thomas & Martha Wayne, Poison Ivy, Tweedledum & Tweedle Dee, Mid-Nite, Mr. Terrific

– Story: [Spoilers Ahoy:] The story takes place between the events of the books The Black Glove and Batman R.I.P, as the Black Glove Organization’s threat on Batman’s life drives Hush’s egotism into action. Hush is an asshole and he has to be the one to kill Batman. He sets up headquarters in the abandoned hospital that he mentioned in passing in Hush Returns, where now he has kidnapped and drugged-up a number people to use as almost zombie-like helpers. It might be a slight callback to The Cult… seeing as how Hush books love calling back to things. His plan involves attacking the people Batman cares about, including Alfred and Catwoman. The original Hush book saw Batman and Catwoman developing a romance, so after distracting Batman with decoy plans including an innocent little boy being given venom (…a callback to Batman Venom?), he goes as far as to actually surgically remove Catwoman’s heart. It is cryogenically frozen with help from Mr. Freeze to lure Batman into a trap.

There are multiple flashbacks to Hush’s childhood throughout the book, explaining the toxic relationship between him and his domineering mother (who’s bandaged face after the car accident from the previous Hush story adds an extra layer to the whole plastic surgeon and bandage themes from the previous book, rather than letting them be throw-away parts of a Two-Face subplot). Flashbacks also indicate that Hush’s councilor following the accident was Dr. Crane before he fully became Scarecrow. Hush teams up with Scarecrow as an adult, so that Hush has some help in his anti-Batman plan.

Batman infiltrates Hush’s Hospital but is drugged and wakes up strapped to an operating table. Hush uses his plastic surgery skills to make his own face an exact match for Bruce Wayne’s in a move that would have lasting impact outside this book. (Damien Wayne even spends time with Hush to feel like he is spending time with his dad later on in future Batman comics.) Hush, disguised as Bruce Wayne, infiltrates the batcave hoping to kill Alfred, Dick and Tim, and then mascaraed as Bruce to tell the Justice League that Batman is retiring and quit Wayne Enterprises. Batman escapes the hospital as you’d expect and tracks down Hush; there’s a fight between Hush and Batman in the Batcave, assisted by Nightwing and Drake-Robin, and when trying to escape, Hush’s bandages get caught in the rotar-blades of the gyro-copter that he is trying to commandeer, and he crashes into the water. His body isn’t located, meaning he escaped but isn’t an immediate threat.

With Hush out of action temporarily; Batman saves Catwoman and the two start a brief romance. In revenge for what happened to her, Catwoman dedicates her time, resources and favours/debts all to ruining Hush, by siphoning his money away (although graciously using it to compensate the zombified hospital workers) and leaving him a big “fuck you” sort of message. The book ends with an injured Hush receiving the message and hobbling off into the night, broken.

– Tone: I really enjoy this book. It tries to balance the supposedly roller-coaster ride feel of the original with having an actual plot. It brings in extra characters but doesn’t drown you in them. The original suffered from being a mystery that wasn’t mysterious enough… here, with no intention of being a mystery, it can’t fail on that regard and so is free just to be pure entertainment, at which it most certainly succeeds. The tone is a mixture of dark at times and yet there’s that comic-book feel to it too. Its not all grim horror, but its not all aliens and magic and long-lost twins either. Its good. Its a good comic book. Its what comic books fans talk about when they talk about comic books even if non-fans think of the B.S. (Like how non-Metal fans think its all noise and screaming and satanism… and no quality musicianship or intelligent songwriting).

– Art: In my opinion, Nguyen’s art isn’t as good as Jim Lee’s. Its good though. Very good. It really reminds me of Gates Of Gotham actually, its kind of stylized in a way that feels like the comics-equivalent of cell-shaded videogame graphics. It reminds me of Zelda Windwaker for some reason. Its not just as stylized as Broken City though, which I include as another random reference point.

Just because Jim Lee’s is prettier though, this is by no means an ugly book… its very good looking indeed (and in fact, better than Lee on the non-sexist drawings and varied character models side of things). I like how this book looks a heck of a lot.

– My Thoughts: If this book is a flop, and I was to imagine what everyone was to criticize this book for I’d guess just comparisons to other stories, or the fact that Hush is in it at all and they didn’t like the original. I mean, sure it borrows ideas from Face Off, and even Batman The Cult, but it does them well. I also have already explained how this improves immensely on the Hush story, so I’d say this is a good book to read if you disliked Hush. Its like “Ok… but do it properly this time.”

I guess the whole Aristotle thing, and all the Heart metaphors may come across as a bit cheesy to some, but I feel the right balance has been struck. I think it works well. Its not like in the Scarface videogame where they take the one off line from the film about Ice-Cream and then decide that in the game, Tony should mention Ice-Cream every five-minutes.

I don’t think it was a flop though.

Also, compared to Hush Returns… it actually ends. It wasn’t abandoned halfway through. It doesn’t massively misread the characters (Joker isn’t pining for a lost wife here).

There’s something that’s difficult to articulate… and that’s the fact that, its just good. It just is! It’s a very good book. I advise you to read it and find out why. Its well written. It flows well. Its entertaining. There’s nothing that makes you think “well, that was really annoying.” Overall; I really enjoy this book and I’d like to spread the word. So consider the word spread. Heart Of Hush is a good Batman book and you should totally check it out. (That’s my Batman recommendation for the day… what else needs recommending?)