Posts Tagged ‘ozzy osbourne’

Black Label Society – Shot To Hell

Shot To Hell is the seventh full-length studio album by the American Heavy Metal band Black Label Society, the biker-themed band started by ex-Ozzy Osbourne virtuoso guitarist Zack Wylde.

It was their first album on Roadrunner Records, and it was released in 2006, one year after their successful Mafia record. The album was co-produced by band leader Zakk Wylde and Michael Beinhorn (of Korn, Marilyn Manson, Soundgarden and Ozzy Osbourne fame).

The band are purveyors of big meaty riffs, frequent guitar slides, bends and squeals and of course Zack’s blistering solos for which the band are famous. The mostly guitar based songwriting is accompanied by Grunge-tinged singing, solid uncomplicated rhythms designed for head-banging and fist-pumping and a mixture of fast or mid-paced Metal songs with acoustic numbers (often with a slight Southern Rock hint or the inclusion of piano).

The vocals here have gone from a sort of blend between Neil Fallon and Layne Staley to having a larger Ozzy influence this time around. Other than that, this isn’t one of the band’s most talking-point albums. Not the rawest, the fastest, the doomiest, the most quiet, or anything else. This is just Black Label Society, doing their thing (meaty, simple, enjoyable Metal songs). It could be argued that this is a slightly more commercial effort due to the mostly shorter song durations and frequency of ballads, as well as the inclusion of the MTV friendly hit single “Concrete Jungle.” So; if you aren’t into the bands rawer, doomier side, skip their debut and start here, and vice-versa; if you want the band at their gnarliest start with the early stuff and work forwards.

No matter what direction you prefer from the band however, there are some really killer BLS songs on here; especially towards the end of the record. “Faith Is Blind,” as well as the acoustic-but-bouncy “Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” and especially the speedy “Devil’s Dime” are all particularly strong.

If you are a fan of Clutch, Alice In Chains, Pantera, ‘90s Corrosion Of Conformity, ‘90s Metallica, ‘90s Ozzy Osbourne, or even Soil then Black Label Society are well worth your time checking out. This album, while not boasting any easy descriptive label, is a good addition to the collection. I would also recommend Sonic Brew and Order Of The Black too if you haven’t heard them already.

Black Sabbath - 13

Black Sabbath – 13

13 is (counter-intuitively) the nineteenth full-length studio album by the legendary British Heavy Metal band Black Sabbath. It was released in 2013 (which explains the album title). It was produced by Rick Rubin, and saw original singer Ozzy Osbourne return to the band for the first studio album in 35 years, and original bassist Geezer Butler return for the first studio album in 19 years.

Despite a very public campaign to have original drummer Bill Ward rejoin too, Rage Against The Machine’s Brad Wilk provides the drums for this record, and despite having a different feel to Ward (and a very skeptical public), provides a very good performance.

It’s a very weighty album. Five of the album’s tracks are over seven minutes long each, and only one, the acoustic number ‘Zeitgeist,’ is less than five minutes in length. Its not really the sort of album you can just stick on in the background or take at face value, might take a few listens to really get to grip with what the band are doing here.

The record opens up with a very doomy, slow riff deliberately designed to evoke the self-titled opener of their debut. After about two minutes it kicks up a gear and gets livelier, slowly evolving through a few different moods and shedding comparisons to that eponymous track. There’s a few riffs that could be on the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath or Sabotage albums in there too, and an odd breakdown with the now famous line “You don’t want to be a robot ghost…” that wouldn’t actually be totally out of place on Technical Ecstasy or Never Say Die. There’s plenty of lead guitar action throughout, and the high-in-the-mix bass from Geezer brings a lot of character out.

That’s how most of the record goes… starting off sounding a bit like a deliberate attempt to remind you of past songs, shifting gears through different Sabbath eras after a while, and then ending up as relatively fresh overall somehow. Sure; you might think that part of “God Is Dead” is meant to remind you of “War Pigs” or “Fairies Wear Boots,” but then they’ll do something that would never fit on the Paranoid album, and then add bits that almost even sound like something off of the Dehumanizer album briefly at other times.

“Loner” for example quite obviously channels the spirit of “N.I.B” when it starts off, but even that takes a turn to sound like some sort of modernized “Rock N Roll Doctor” (or something) halfway through, but with a guitar solo that would maybe be more at home in the band’s Dio-era material.

It’s a clever way to get around fan expectation really. Suggest the past just enough so that people can’t say it doesn’t sound like the old days, mix in just enough of the post-Ozzy Sabbath sound so that fans of that can’t say its too regressive and then the loud modern production combined with Ozzy’s aged vocals help make it sound new enough too.

The only track which perhaps is a little too close to the bone is the aforementioned “Zeitgeist” which is a modern track but with the feel of “Planet Caravan.” While most other tracks mix in tails or drum fills from different Sabbath eras, because of the quiet, simple, sombre vibe they are going for, this can’t really happen here, and so for a lot of fans this is just going to sound a bit too close to “Planet Caravan” for comfort. If you can get past that though, its actually a pretty neat song.

If you are a huge Sabbath fan already or just getting into Sabbath for the first time and still in the excitement phase then I can imagine that this album is something you will automatically love. It ticks all the boxes of what you would want or expect from them. If that’s the case though, you’ve already bought it haven’t you?

If you are a bit skeptical and unsure of whether you might like the album however, I can fully understand. First of all, when the band reunited the last time, they stated that they didn’t have good new material within them anymore. Secondly, now that the album has been released and reviewed everywhere, it is very easy to see terms like “riff recycling” or “living in the past” or “Not as good as The Devil You Know” written online or in print and get worried that this album isn’t worth your time at all.

When I first got this album, I wasn’t really keen on it. I flip-flopped between disliking it for being a pandering exercise and half-enjoying it but not really paying it any attention. When given the attention that the album requires, and repeat listens for it to grow on me however, the album finally “clicked” and its virtues began to outweigh its drawbacks. Once it actually has clicked, it’s a real joy to listen to and becomes more and more entertaining each time you stick it on. Sure; Its impossible to listen to this album and not make comparisons to the band’s earlier work (or the recent Heaven And Hell and Ozzy solo albums) if you are familiar with it, but I think the band have done a very good job of acknowledging that reality and rolling with it.

Taken for what it is, 13 is a good album. Its even a good Black Sabbath album. Its even a good album from 2013. Its got some variety but is still massively consistent, and its got a good balance of fast and slow, loud and quiet, modern and retro. Take a moment, and give a track like “Damaged Soul” or “Dear Father” a good, clear, uninterrupted listen or two and see if it can click for you too.

[Ps. If you can, try and get the version of the album with bonus tracks (as many as possible, if you can). This is just personal taste of course, but personally, I think the bonus tracks are as strong, if not stronger than anything on the main album. “Methademic” in particular is very strong, and “Pariah” has a really fun main riff.]

Hello and welcome to the fourth 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 Magnum opened my mind, multiple times over the years until I finally allowed myself to enjoy them.

In between revising for exams, I’ve spent a lot of today playing Arkham Origins and really, really enjoying it. I haven’t even been playing the story, just running around collecting Riddler packages, scanning Anarchy symbols and architect plaques and enjoying the freeflow combat. Just Batmaning about the place. All that Batmaning put me in the mood to write another one of these blogs.

The soundtrack for this writing session has been Ozzy Osbourne’s Scream album. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with comics. I just haven’t listened to it enough and I want to get my money’s worth. I bought it at the same time as Black Rain and never really listened to either one enough. I heard a song off of Black Rain earlier this week and it reminded me to check them out again. I would say based on the first two songs (I’ve only gotten that far in so far) that this is a much more interesting album than the new Black Sabbath one. Make of that what you will.

Black Rain. Black Sabbath. My theme for this entry is Black.

For the fourth installment of the series, I’ll be covering The Black Mirror. I wanted to write “a modern classic.” To be honest I don’t know for certain if that’s true, but regardless of whether or not its definitively true, it deserves to be true, and its true in my mind.

This book is just straight up excellent. Its everything I want from a comic book. Its intriguing, visceral, adult, great to look at. If you asked me “I want to start reading comic books, recommend one to me” then this is the one I’d give you. (Well, this or ‘Owls). Last time, I said that the book on discussion (Batman Gothic) was good, but that I wouldn’t rhapsodize about it. That is not the case this time. I’d very much like to scream my affection for this book from the rooftops. I full on recommend you swap money for a copy of this book whether you were already planning to or not.

Batman

Batman: The Black Mirror:

– Writers: Scott Snyder

– Art: Jock & Francesco Francavilla

– Colours: Jared K. Fletcher & Sal Cipriano

– Continuity: Post Crisis, Pre-Flashpoint

– Timeline Position: Late Career, Post R.I.P,

– Batman is: Dick Grayson

– Villains: James Gordon Jr., Mr. Guiborg, Sonia Branch, Roadrunner, Tiger Shark, The Joker,
– Allies: Tim Drake as Red Robin, Barbara Gordon as Oracle, Alfred Pennyworth, James Gordon (Police), Barbara Gordon Sr, Harvey Bullock (Police),

– References: Mad Hatter, Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, Jason Todd, Dr. Langstrom, The Flying Graysons,

– Story: [Spoilers as fuck!] The overarching plot revolves around Dick Grayson, who is now Batman since the death of Bruce Wayne, investigating a series of murders in Gotham. The murders are taking place using old versions of Gotham Villain’s signature tricks (eg. prototype Joker Venom, old Fear Gas etc.). He tracks down a crime-loving secret society of asshole socialites, infiltrates one of their auctions (in which they auction off memorabilia from famous crimes) whereupon he is discovered and has to fight them off. Eventually it turns out that Commissioner Gordon’s son James Jr was messed up after the events in Year One, and is a creepy-ass serial killer. This is told through flashbacks and Batman and Red Robin discover it through investigations and adventures that see them fight Roadrunner, Tigershark and The Joker. Commissioner Gordon doesn’t want to believe his son is such a sick fuck, and is convinced that James Jr. can handle his mental health problems with a new experimental medicine, but Barbara knows what James Jr. really is.

James Jr.’s medicine is revealed to have actually been causing psychopathy rather than curing it, and he reveals that it has been mass produced and introduced into the Gotham baby-food supply. He believes that psychopathy and a lack of human empathy is the liberating next stage in human evolution and wants the next generation of Gothamites to be as sick as he is.

James Jr. later tries to kill Barbara (after already poisoning Barbara Sr. and framing the Joker for it to lure Batman into a trap) but fails. Commissioner Gordon finally turns on his son after the attempt on his daughter and ex-wife’s lives, and shoots James Jr. in the leg, knocking him of a bridge in a scene mirroring [Black Mirror, innit] Year One, but the Commissioner saves his life. It is his son after all. Arkham bound, is that sick creepy prick. [Its a sign of great writing when a writer can make you feel genuine contempt for a villain]

In the epilogue Dick and Commissioner Gordon discuss their “long haul” future in the endless fight against crime while looking out the window, and there is a close up of a baby on the street looking a bit disturbed, indicating James Jr’s plan succeeded. Maybe Batman will have to fight that baby when it grows up to be a serial killer.

It’s a lot, lot, lot better than I’ve just made it sound though.

– Tone: The tone of this story is fantastic. Its dark as hell. Its flat out creepy at points, its got a Seven/Zodiac feel a lot of the time, and a Resident Evil 4 feel at other times. Its one of the darkest, most evocative and interesting Batman stories I’ve read to date and it really, really draws you in. It’s the sort of thing that you’ll have to read in one sitting because you just can’t put it down. There’s this great sense of dread and impending doom, as you just know that creepy little prick is evil and is going to start causing havock and break his old man’s heart, and you just sit there waiting for the axe to fall the whole time.

Its absolutely bleak and uncompromising. People have limbs amputated, jaws cut off, its just downright grim.

– Art: The art is absolutely top notch. Its very stylized, but its absolutely fantastic and suits the dark-ass tone of the story so well. It adds to the storytelling in a really powerful way. Its not just good as a storytelling device though, its excellent in and of itself. So many of the covers and individual panels would makes excellent posters. Its definitely in my top-five favourites that I’ve ever seen so far.

– Overall: I think this is hands down one of the best Batman books on the market. I said the art is in my top-five, but y’know what, the whole thing is. Its got a real mean, uncompromising tone, an intriguing and emotionally strong story, brilliant visuals, satisfying fights, no stupid or out of place dialogue, and a heck of a lot of strong scenes.

I said it before, if you want to start reading comic books and you ask me for suggestions, my number one choice is this. Pick it up. Get absorbed. It’s a brilliant serial-killer movie mixed with gadgets and outlandish locations (battle in a plane, in an underwater base etc.). I think this is a good book to check out if you like the Nolan movies. I think its an even better book if you liked the Sin City movie. I think it’s a good book period though. One of the best. Just read the damn thing already.

[Ps. Don’t I say on the market too much? As if I’m some sort of distribution house? I don’t know where I picked that phrase up from.]

‘Till next time!

I’ve had a lot of free time this week to sit and read blogs. Some of them have really got me thinking. I read a list questioning which are the most famous Metal Songs and most famous Metal Bands. Generally; I love these sorts of things. But then you knew that already, didn’t you?. I read dozens and dozens of these sorts of lists, on blogs and in Magazines and on Rate Your Music or whatever else.

The thing I’ve noticed in dozens of them is that, there’s a sort of mythical set of perfect answers. Some of answers of course are pretty hard to disagree with; Metallica, Iron Maiden and Ozzy Osbourne for example. Ask everyone on a bus in the middle of Manchester to name as many Heavy Metal bands as they can think of, and I reckon those bands would come up quite a lot.

The thing is though, there’s quite a few other names that will regularly come up on the hypothetical average-list that are either controversial among metal fans as to whether or not they actually count as being metal or else are dubious as to how famous they actually are.

This isn’t necessarily a harsh criticism of metal fans and list-makers, but it does raise some interesting points that I think are worth stopping and thinking about. So; when considering who are the most famous Metal bands and Metal songs, you’ve got to ask yourself two questions. What is fame, and What is Metal?

Just a quick thought: Twisted Sister and Motely Crue are probably more famous than Bathory or Mercyful Fate. Bon Jovi are probably more famous than that. Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot probably are too.

Machinehead, Avenged Sevenfold, Disturbed and Bullet For My Valentine are probably all more famous than Queensryche and Celtic Frost nowadays too.

I say “probably” because there’s really no way of knowing. Fame isn’t really a quantifiable concept, its more of an informed perception. We all know that Coca Cola is probably more famous than Only Fools And Horse, but we can’t really prove it on an individual level without gathering gigantic, unrealistic amounts of information that none of us could really be bothered to gather. To actually know for certain you would have to ask everyone on earth if they had heard of each, and then record and compare the answers. You would also have to know that they weren’t lying and that nothing was altering the results.

There’s another issue. The silent majority. You know when you go to a concert and its absolutely full. Think of how many people attend Download Festival every year, and then how many attend a single Motorhead concert. There’s more at Download.

Why does that matter? Well; There are so many people who are casual in their interest of Metal. People who don’t dress as Metal fans, don’t blog about it, don’t talk about it at work, but do know every word to System Of A Down’s Toxicity album. You can look at a Chemistry student who has no indicators of being a Metal fan and who does talk to you about a dubstep song they heard at the weekend, but they actually absolutely loves Disturbed and Bullet For My Valentine and just didn’t bring it up. You can find a girl in a nightclub listening to indie bands who will surprisingly be completely able to drunkenly sing all the lyrics of ‘Run To The Hills’ at you upon request. You’ll find people posting about how much they love pop stars on facebook and when you go into their bedroom there is a huge poster of Zack Wylde.

What I’m getting at, there’s a heck of a lot of people who listen to Metal that you wouldn’t necessarily expect. More than the readership of Metal Hammer Magazine, more than the crowd at your local sold-out mid-October Down concert. There’s hundreds of thousands of people who don’t even consider themselves a Metal fan that could tell you who Lemmy, James Hetfield and Corey Taylor are just from a photograph. My own mother could. Yours probably could too.

So. When we ask ourselves who are the most famous Metal bands; we need to ask “famous to who?” – because I’m pretty sure the average drunk stroppy teenage girl taking ecstasy tablets when asked to name ten heavy metal bands are more likely to identify Slipknot than Venom.

If you played somebody Helloween’s “Keeper Of The Seven Keys,” Judas Priest’s “Painkiller,” Pantera’s “Walk,” Limp Bizkit’s “Nookie,” Motely Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and Europe’s “The Final Countdown” I’m pretty sure more people can identify the last two or three than the first two. There may be a few generational differences, and there may be a bit of bias in the form of people not wanting to identify bands that they dislike (human nature, its annoying aint it?) but I recon more human beings know the answers to the less Metal-respectable bands on that list.

The easy way around that it to choose who you want “fame” to apply to. OK. Say, we only count people who have at one time owned a copy of Reign In Blood and have attended at least one Metallica concert? More of them will probably still know Marilyn Manson than King Diamond. More of them could identify “Welcome To The Jungle” than “Pull Me Under” by intro alone, because its still more famous overall, even if you are a serious Metalhead. Because you don’t live your entire life in a Metal-bubble.

Well, we’ve considered what fame actually means now.
But hold on a second. What even is Metal?

Are Europe a Metal band? Well, some people say they are a Hair Metal band. Hair Metal is a type of Metal. Therefore by that logic, they are indeed a Metal band. Not so fast though; Some people say Europe are a hard rock band. Some people say they are a Pop band.

Are Led Zeppelin a Heavy Metal band? A heck of a lot of people would say yes. A heck of a lot of people would say no. What about Deep Purple. Watch any worthwhile documentary about Heavy Metal and there’ll be talk of Deep Purple. That being said, nowadays most people on the street would call them “classic rock” rather than “heavy metal” even though the actual term was applied to bands like Zeppelin and Purple and AC/DC for years and years. So are they Metal or aren’t they? They themselves might call themselves “Rock n Roll” but so does Ozzy Osbourne and even Motorhead. If “In The Name Of Tragedy” by Motorhead is just Rock n Roll then I’ve seriously got to start checking out Buddy Holly.

Ok. Well what if you decide that Zeppelin aren’t Metal but Black Sabbath are. What about Queen. You go listen to “Dead On Time” and “Son And Daughter” by Queen and tell me with a straight face that it isn’t as Metallic or Powerful as “The Wizard” by Black Sabbath.

How about if we decide that the first ever Metal album is “Sad Wings Of Destiny” then? What after that is still Metal? Are Metallica? Are Helloween? Are Pantera? Are Machine Head? Are Slipknot? Are Bring Me The Horizon? Are Cannibal Corpse? Are Korpiklaani? Are Emperor? Are Limp Bizkit?

You can say Limp Bizkit aren’t because the vocals are not like Judas Priest and there’s an extra instrument (the DJ). Well, Cannibal Corpse’s vocals are very, very different to Judas Priest’s and Korpiklaani have extra instruments (Violins and Accordions).

I’ll admit some Limp Bizkit songs sound nothing like Metal. Ballads, and songs with electronic drums and effects and no distortion. What about Black Sabbath’s “FX” “Fluff” “Laguna Sunrise” “Changes” and “E5150” ? What about Judas Priest’s “Epitaph,” “Last Rose Of Summer” or “Love You To Death”? Ballads, songs with no distortion and incorporation of electronics on some songs.

Even at that, some classic tracks by Metal’s originators (which weren’t intros, experiments or ballads, but just normal songs) are still less-Metal than some Hair Metal and Nu Metal songs. I’d wager Limp Bizkit’s “Gimme The Mic” is much more Metal than Black Sabbath’s “Am I Going Insane?” or “Solitude” or even “Behind The Wall Of Sleep.”

Going the other way. I think that Korn’s “Blind” is closer to the sound and spirit of the original Black Sabbath tracks than Cannibal Corpse’s “Frantic Disembowelment” does. Hell, I think Twisted Sister sound a thousand times closer to the sound of Judas Priest than Darkthrone do.

Then there’s the people who don’t think Metalcore bands are Metal, either because of catchy clean choruses, or because of the incorporation of parts of Hardcore. Well, Chaos AD is incredibly Hardcore Influenced. Anthrax and Nuclear Assault were Hardcore influenced. Are they no-longer Metal?
Helloween and Stratovarius have some of the catchiest, cleanest choruses going, so are they no-longer Metal?

The thing is though? Who can really say? Metal-ness isn’t a fact. Its an opinion. Its a negotiation for consensus.

Half of the people who say something is not Metal but something else have no clear, quantifiable, non-contradict-able reason why. Its either just that they don’t like the band and have mistaken their own opinion with fact, or that its not something that can be definitively and incontrovertibly proven in the first place. There is no mathematical definition of Metal. Some people think death growls preclude you from being Metal, just read all the reviews of Children Of Bodom by Yngwie Malmsteen fans from the 80s who demand melodic falsetto singing. These people will swear until they are blue in the face that “cookie monster vocals” are the opposite of Heavy Metal. Try telling that to the audience at Hole In The Sky or Bloodstock festival though, they’ll give you a swift and unpleasant rebuttle more likely than not.

At the end of the day, there are people who think Krokus and AC/DC are Metal and that Limp Bizkit and Deicide aren’t. There are people who think that Immortal and Pig Destroyer are Metal but Poison and Quiet Riot aren’t. Heck, until about three years ago even I called pre-Dio Black Sabbath was just classic rock and not Metal.

What is and isn’t Metal is up to your own interpretation, apparently. Except Iron Maiden, nobody has ever said Iron Maiden aren’t Metal. Lemmy says Motorhead aren’t Metal but at least Steve Harris calls Maiden a Heavy Metal band. There’s at least comfort in knowing that whatever else in this world is up for debate, Iron Maiden are undisputed a Metal band (Although you could mistake “Prodigal Son” for a Boston or Rush song if you weren’t paying attention).

So. I guess where I’m going with this is that, there is an element of what the dedicated Metal fans want and indeed expect to be the most famous Metal music. It is based partly on the personal taste of a few Magazine writers, partly on actual consensus and partly on a self fulfilling prophecy of what we’re continuously told. The list seems to cover one arbitrary point of view and one arbitrary period in time. It isn’t full inclusivity nor is it completely strict and based only on true original Heavy Metal. Its often after the first Heavy Metal Bands go reclassified to “Classic Rock” but before other subgenres became popular.

I mean, I can’t tell for certain, but I’m pretty sure more people know and care about Bullet For My Valentine and Slipknot than have ever cared about Venom. But most people who actually like music to the point of making lists don’t want that to be the case.

Similarly, I think that year on year, Deep Purple, AC/DC and Led Zeppelin gain more new fans than Venom do. But we’ve all decided that they don’t count. For some reason. That is not particularly logical or fair.

Then there’s the really commercial bands like Linkin Park and Bon Jovi. Almost (not necessarily if you’re being pedantic, there have been flops, but you know what I’m getting at) by definition of being commercial, more people will know a band. A huge amount of us decide that if a band are too commercial, they aren’t Metal anymore. Why is that? Part of it may be based in truth, but again, part of it seems to just be based on what we want.

Take home message; when we ask ourselves which Metal songs, albums or artists are the most famous, I guess you’ve just got to ask whether or not they are Metal, or who you are being famous too that counts for the purposes of the list. You could spend years aggregating every list and reference to bands in every magazine, videogame, radio-show, podcast and television programme ever made and still only have a small, biased sample of a few people’s impressions of which bands were the most famous. You could count every Youtube view and LastFm scrobble ever recorded and still ultimately not know what’s in people’s heads or even who’s heads to look in.

After you to went all that effort to find the correct numbers, there’d still be debate on who “counts.”

And that’s just “famous.” It gets even muddier when we go onto “most-influential.” Oh well, at least everyone knows when it comes to “best” that its just straight-up unarguably subjective and we can all admit its just our own opinions. (Well, the sensible ones of us at any rate.)

So; With all that being said, I’d like you all to answer in the comments, who do you think are the 20 most famous Metal bands?