Posts Tagged ‘Slayer’

I am not the oldest Volbeat fan, I only discovered them last year at Download Festival 2018, but I have been listening to them absolutely non-stop ever since.

Volbeat cds for birthday and Christmas, Volbeat t-shirts under my work clothes pretty often, Volbeat on the car stereo during every road trip to visit relatives, Volbeat in the car ride to work almost every work day. Overall; I’ve listened to over 2,900 times in the past year. Something that few other bands can boast. Since records began in 2011 (when I started tracking it via LastFm), they are my 9th most listened-to artist. So basically; I’ve listened to them more in one year than I have some of my favourite ever bands, almost any other band in fact, in the last 8 years.

So you could say, that coming into this new album, which is the first new one to be released in my time as a fan (not counting the amazing live album, Let’s Boogie! Live from Telia Parken), that I was more than a little excited.

…So imagine my surprise when the first time I listened to it, I didn’t really care for it. At all.

Now, that was partially my own fault, first of all I was lifting weights on a red hot Summer’s day, with a noisy fan on while I did so, so maybe it wasn’t really hearing it in the best conditions. Additionally; I was beyond hyped, so I wasn’t really going in with realistic expectations.

Having listened to it a good few more times, some of them while driving, some while exercising and some just sitting there in a quiet room paying close attention, it has definitely grown on me more.

There are some stand out tracks that I am really happy to have in my Volbeat collection and which I would be excited to see live. ‘Die To Live’ is probably the best of them. I mean, how could it not be, featuring as it does guest vocals from the mighty Neil Fallon from Clutch. It is a jaunty up tempo rock n’ roller with tinkly piano reminiscent of Illusion era GnR and fun saxophone reminiscent of the Boomtown Rats but a basic bouncy pop punk structure for the rest of the song that wouldn’t be out of place on a mid period Green Day or Rancid album. Real fun tune.

There is also the singles ‘Parasite’ which is a 40 second punk statement with punctuated vocals and oodles of energy, and ‘Leviathan’ which is just an absolute sing-along anthem up there with previous gems like ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ or ‘Thanks’ or ‘Lola Montez’ in the Volbeat-sound-like-fun stakes. The band are always great when Jon gets pounding on the floor toms. It is the kind of smile-inducing big stadium shouter that makes you remember how fun Rock Music is when you are 13 years old.

Another great thing about the album is the lead guitar work, Michael and Rob’s lead guitar lines and solos are utterly majestic at times (think the Guitar solo from Anthrax’s ‘Safe Home’ and you’ll know what I mean)… the kind of magical guitar solo that transports you to another place.

That said. I don’t think I would be out of place in saying this is the band’s worst album. Well, if not worst, then, least good. The first point against it in my book is really subjective, but it is just not heavy enough. There’s maybe two Metal songs on it. ‘The Everlasting’ and ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ (with guest guitar from Exodus’ Gary Holt!) are the heaviest tunes, but they stand sort of alone in that front… and even ‘Cheapside Sloggers’ is only Metal in the second half once the guitar solo section kicks it up a notch.

The second thing against it is they re-use a lot of things from previous albums. Single ‘Pelvis On Fire’ for example will be real good fun if it is the first Volbeat song you ever hear but it is exactly halfway between ‘Devil Or The Blue Cats Song’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and you kind of feel they are ripping themselves off a little bit. Haven’t I heard that vocal melody before? Hasn’t he done an Elvis voice before? That slow down speed up thing sounds familiar.

The third thing, again subjective, is that they do too much of the overly earnest big American radio rock style. On the previous album they did it a bit on tracks like ‘Goodbye Forever’ or on the album previous to that, with ‘Cape Of Our Hero’ but they did it really, really well and in small doses. Here they do it so much it kind of overwhelms the album. They do inject Volbeatness into those songs, but just not enough for my tastes. It makes the album sound a bit bland. Usually a Volbeat album is a rollercoaster going from sounding Psychobilly, to Pop Punk to Groove Metal to Stoner Metal to 1950s Rock N’ Roll to Metallica-Worship and back again, all in a seamless package where it all flows together and you don’t even realise its weird that bagpipes have entered the mix.

On this album it feels like a radio rock album with a few detours. Initially at least. The more I listen to it the more I get into it. I also feel like me saying they do too many radio songs is a bit like Millicent Stone in the TV show Bunheads telling the ballet dancers they are doing too much of a certain step (when she herself has no knowledge of dancing). And saying there isn’t enough metal is a bit silly when the tracks I have said where the best songs, ‘Die To Live,’ ‘Parasite’ and ‘Leviathan’ are in no way metal and are still brilliant. And some of my all time favourite Volbeat songs from across the discography like ‘Lola Montez’ and ‘Sad Man’s Tongue’ and ‘Still Counting’ aren’t metal either.

That’s perhaps a conflicted mess of a review. To summarise I would sum it up thusly, the gut reaction was negative but its a grower and although I would certainly not make it your first Volbeat album unless you love earnest radio rock, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a disappointment and it has at least 5 or 6 songs I am really happy with and will be happy to include on future playlists, and would be happy to see live. However; if all you liked about Volbeat was the heavier side of them, like ‘Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza,’ ‘Slaytan’ and ‘Wild Rover Of Hell’ …then maybe this album might not be an instant hit with you either.

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.

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.”

Batman

***SPOILERS AHOY AND MEANINGLESS CONTENT IF YOU HAVEN’T READ IT. ***

Ok. I’ve just finished reading Batman – Death Of The Family this morning. Instead of going through the usual format of these Amateur Batfan articles, I’m just going to launch straight into some gut reactions. Here goes:

I can’t actually articulate whether or not I enjoyed this book. I mean, I think each and every page was good, but somehow it seemed like a bad story.

For me, this was something where the whole was much less than the sum of its parts. It was like Resident Evil 5 for me; I had a lot of fun playing Resident Evil 5 and liked every single set-piece in it in isolation, but if I watched the actual plot as a movie, it wouldn’t live up to its own marketing hype.

I’ve read a few things online saying it was overly gory and horrific, but I didn’t actually notice that until afterwards, upon reflection. I think it had a great tone. I read some things saying that Joker’s face being cut off was too gross. I dunno, I just thought it was cool looking. It really is a striking image.

I didn’t even think that the plot or the dialogue were bad. Heck, the first few chapters really, really draw you in. Joker doesn’t like how Batman has evolved from a strong solo act into the leader of a big band (I, as a casual, barely-informed comics-outsider, fan felt like that too initially until I read Scott Synder’s Gates Of Gotham and Black Mirror… I liken it to Guns N’ Roses and their Use Your Illusions albums and tour. “Hey? Wasn’t this supposed to be a bad-ass rock band? What are all these trumpets and soul singers and country songs here for?”) and so wants to take away all the baggage and just leave it as Batman Vs. Crime. He also plays on the fact that Batman can barely keep up with him by recreating his old crimes but perverting them so Batman is playing catch-up instead of stopping him.

None of that is bad. In fact its all quite good. Yeah, Joker questioning the worth of the Bat-family and DC Comics proving why they are good is a great idea, and Batman struggling to predict Joker because Joker is the most difficult villain to predict is an entertaining read. It all sounds like the basis of a good, satisfying book.

Its this other thing that just got to me… this insistence on scale. This manufactured importance. They made ‘an important story.’ Not they made a story, and it was so good that people got on board and raised it to the level of important. They sat down and made an important story on purpose.

My question is, was it worth it? Wouldn’t it have been better to just have had a really good Joker-is-angry revenge story, than some thing that claims to be existential and revelatory, but then leaves you feeling a bit confused and sold-short.

Why does it have to be a ‘terrifying return,’ ‘a return of such importance’ or an ‘ultimate showdown.’ Why do writers have to bow down to the expectation that this has to be the most significant Joker story ever told? Why does everyone have to try one-up eachother by making the Joker more and more messed up? Why does everyone have to reveal some deeper truth to Batman and Joker’s relationship?

After a while its either just repetition or credibility-stretching ret-conting.

The thing about arms-race mentalities is that the artistic quality that comes from them is a bell curve. Sure, somebody does something, somebody else does it more gets us from Thin Lizzy to Iron Maiden, and from Iron Maiden to Metallica. It also gets us from Slayer to Sodom to Sarcofago to countless bland unlistenable bands that are such a wave of intensity that it loses all sense of meaning and significance.

Extremity is a dynamic. It only works in context. It only works by juxtaposition.

I get that Joker is a much-loved character. But like a comedian who’s audience loves him too much, the jokes are starting to suffer. What good is a character that has to have the best story ever?

That’s how Metallica ended up making Lulu.

You can’t just redefine a character every-single-time otherwise there is no character. Just an insert-character-here box, with a little quote on the bottom that says “best character ever, trust us!” I asked my friend about it, and he responded “Modern Writers are so in reverence of the Joker, they feel like they aren’t doing it properly if they don’t do it” …I think that’s a pretty good sum-up. Loving something too much can just get tiresome. I think that’s why I have such a problem liking Starwars.

Do you know what else though? This may seem a bit contradictory to my previous point, but where is the consequence? If this is the most important Joker story ever… why isn’t Alfred left blinded forever? Why aren’t the whole Bat-Family slaughtered and irreversibly killed forever? Either this is business as usual or it’s a world-shaking cataclysm that redefines everything. You can’t just say its world shaking but then let everyone get away unharmed. I guess you have the fact that the Bat-family didn’t come over to Bruce’s house at the end… but that’s hardly the same as Jason Todd’s actual murder or Barbara’s actual paralysis.

I could get behind the whole “this is Joker’s most gruesome assault ever” premise if it wasn’t so easily foiled, and devoid of any lasting impact. It would be cool to have Alfred just be blind from now on, and then struggle with being less helpful since he can’t read the computer screen any more. It could be like a disability-coming-to-terms story, or it could leave him as a bitter alcoholic… or something.

In the show House, when he gets locked up in a Mental Institution, it seemed like the ballsiest move ever. This show had been about a doctor on the brink and now he’s fallen over the edge. It would’ve been so cool to see the status quo shattered and the artistically bold move of just having him locked up, but they ditched that idea real fast and missed that opportunity. In Dexter there was a similar missed opportunity to have some genuine brave shake-up but it was wasted too.

This story feels like that. It screams ‘huge deal’ and then actually delivers the usual deal.

I’ve read some stuff online that people complained about, such as the acid that burned Batman’s mask didn’t injure his face, and the police not having Joker’s DNA being incredulous. I’ve also read some defense of the book saying it reveals alot of big deal things about the characthers, and the fact that everyone is huffing with Batman at the end is a big consequence and not just a little tiff to be brushed off.

In repsonse to those points, I wonder:

“I’m sorry if I’m being stupid… but what is this reason why Batman never kills the Joker?
I don’t see what it is.”

Otherwise, yeah, the DNA thing is fine because he wasn’t a criminal before being the Joker so shouldn’t be in a database anyway, the Joker Venom cure and acid-face thing I just file away under “reasonable suspension of disbelief within the context of the medium.”

The story feels a bit pointless to me, unless of course, from now on everybody does hate Bruce and no one associates with him anymore for years and years. Then yeah, the story will have some impact. Seems like a bit of a crap reason to huff with Batman though, he’s always giving out limited information. Its his thing. He’s that kind of guy. He’s never been a blabbermouth.

Furthermore, as to the character-defining stuff; As an audience, we’ve also known for years that Batman and Joker have a “special relationship” and “need each other” and all that, so it didn’t need retold as if it was new information. We’ve know for years Joker prefers trying to kill Batman than really killing him, so its not a big deal. We’ve known for years he doesn’t care who’s under the mask. So… again no big deal.

Oh Yeah. Another thing that has been touched on online is I that the New 52 continuity doesn’t make sense. With that one, I totally agree. If Batgirl isn’t Oracle then why/how did the Killing Joke story still happen? Maybe its explained somewhere, but its not explained enough in this book, where it needed explaining. Barbara and Jim can’t be so traumatized by the Killing Joke story but for it not to have happened (Which is what it feels like without that missing info).

So. There. A vent of all the annoyances of that first read. Blleeeeeurgh.

Ok. I’m done.

As I say though, every page was good. I don’t know how to feel. I just see a picture of Joker with his face hanging off and think “that is so cool looking,” and I read a chapter and am completely entertained until I’m finished reading. Its only afterwards, when you get a moment to think about it that you start wondering what’s went wrong.

Do I like this book or not? I can’t even tell.

Arkham Origins did the same old “lets go deeper on the Bat-Joker relationship” thing too, but I didn’t mind too much there, because at least it was a mechanically brilliant game. Is Death Of The Family a mechanically brilliant book?

Well, some of the set pieces are great and the art is superb, and it is entertaining and a page-turner, so sort’ve… but still, that salty aftertaste.

Maybe it’s a grower. I’ll get back to you on that.

If possible, I advocate healthy discussion in the comments, I want to know what y’all think…

Its day 34 of my third Get (Into) What You Paid For challenge. I’ve been adhering to the challenge and haven’t broken the challenge yet. To be honest it hasn’t been too challenging. Challenge, Challenge, Challenge. So; Christmas has came and went, and the kind people in my life have provided me with a brilliant collection of very-well-thought-out gifts, which has definitely taken the urge to buy myself stuff away for a while.

I’ve been given numerous biographies on bands I like (including Sabbath, Megadeth, Slipknot, Jethro Tull); Power Metal albums from Iced Earth and Gamma Ray; Prog Metal albums from Porcupine Tree, Pain Of Salvation and Tesseract; Thrash from Testament. Even a bit of Grunge in the form of the new Pearl Jam album. My listening habits from the last year are all very well served by this.

I’ve been given a massive load of comics from my friend Magnum, and I’ve been given the new Batman videogame. My gaming and reading habits from last year are all pretty well served by this too.

Pretty much, I’ve just had a massive influx of things I like and so that quells the urge to buy more things I like.

Another reason I’ve been doing OK with not buying things is that I’m completely and drastically broke. Its easier to exert some restraint when there’s more reason to do so. Maybe I’m fianlly an adult, now that I can confidently say I’d rather be able to pay my rent than buy myself something entertaining. I’ve got so bloody much stuff already anyway that its becoming easier to shrug off the itch to get more, I’m beginning to learn some perspective and tone down my overspending.

Taking this financial situation into account, and the fact that I didn’t blog as frequently on the subject this December as I had in the previous two GIWYPF challenge months, I’ve decided to extend this one into a two-month epic. That’s right. I’ll try not to buy any books, comic books, DVDs, Blu Rays, Band T–Shirts, Books, Music or Videogames for another month, making it a stretch from December 1st to February 1st. I don’t think I’ve ever went that long without buying something of this nature since turning 18.

But if I was going to break the challenge, what would I break it on?

Riverside’s debut, Haken’s whole discography, the two Psychotic Waltz reissues, some of the more famous Fates Warning albums, and DreamTheater’s Awake all spring to mind. As does Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff and Angra’s Angel’s Cry.

I’d also like to get the two most recent Batman collections, the Death Of The Family main story and side-stories books. Everything I’ve read from Snyder so far has been good and I’d like to be a bit more “In The Loop” with things, if it wasn’t so costly.

Oh. And there’s one new Arctic Monkeys B-side that’s came out during the challenge. I like to always buy those B-Sides pretty much as soon as they are released, this is the longest I’ve gone without getting an Arctic Monkey’s B-Side since the release of their second album.

To be honest though, I don’t think there’s much risk of me breaking the challenge. Having a massive exam schedule that requires serious, dedicated revision for, having no money, and having been given those excellent Christmas gifts should keep me busy and thinking straight.

So; today, having done my revision for the day, I’ll take a little break and do a quick little series of mini-reviews/thoughts of what I’ve been listening to lately. As you might imagine, most of it will be the gifts I got for Christmas that I’ve described above. Here goes:

I got a copy of Tesseract’s new album Altered State for Christmas. I went and saw them live about a month ago and was completely blown away by them. They were supporting Karnivool who I’d imagine were less big than them, but who weren’t. They had an annoying loud fan who wouldn’t stop screaming for songs they didn’t play (“Dead Man”) and making a clown’s horn noise. I wish that fan had kept their big mouth shut, but the concert was awesome. Tesseract’s guitarist is very tall… Anyway; This album completely lives up to my expectations. Its absolutely fantastic. Such incredible musicianship and utterly spellbinding vocals. I can foresee this band becoming huge, if there’s any justice. Also, there’s a Saxaphone solo. Always a plus for a Floyd/Tull/Crimson fan!

I think I’m going to be dedicating a heck of a lot of listening time to this record in the near future.

Keeping with the Prog theme, Porcupine Tree’s Deadwing. I’ve been craving Deadwing for quite a while now. Ever since I got into the band, Deadwing has been my number one, most-wanted album of theirs, although I’ve managed to get everything around it first.

Interestingly, on just one listen, I was able to tell instantly that is their best record. I’ve had about five or six listens now and am still firmly of that opinion. The title track and ‘Arriving Somewhere But Not Here’ are absolute gold, and ‘Lazerus’ is a haunting, magical ghost-ballad. If this had the three best songs of Fear Of A Blank Planet on it too, it would be one of the best albums of all time.

I think I might make some sort of Porcupine Tree best-of, with ‘Sound Of Musack’ ‘Drawing The Line’ ‘Normal’ and then the majority of Blank Planet and Deadwing on it.

What else have I listened to? I recently talked extensively about listening to Pain Of Salvation’s The Perfect Element album so I won’t go into too much detail about it again here. Anyway, I listened to it again while I was weightlifting and although I had understandably reduced-concentration on it, I really am impressed by this album. If you like any sort of Prog Metal you should really pick up a copy. Its only about £3 on Amazon.

Tesseract, Porcupine Tree and Pain Of Salvation are three very different bands, and they all scratch very different parts of my brain, but any way you look at it, Prog Metal is pretty well served by that trio of absolutely phenomenal records. What about Power Metal then?

I also got given Horror Show and The Glorious Burden by Iced Earth for Christmas. I’ve listened to them both quite a few times now. I like Iced Earth, they play 40% Judas Priest, 40% Testament and 10% Warning era Queensryche. Pretty well suited to me then. Both albums are great, as was Something Wicked, which I got given for my previous Birthday. The three of them together feel like one big album. There’s sort of a continum between the three of them. Its hard to explain.

On The Glorious Burden, there’s a nifty bit where the lead guitars play the rhythm of “Johnny We Hardly Knew You.”

Interestingly as well; The Glorious Burden has Tim Paper Owens on it instead of Matt Barlow, who at the time had left the band to join the US Police force in the wake of 9/11. He’s a perfect replacement for Barlow. Both are brilliant at high screams, both sing with manly authority and both do a fine impression of Forbidden’s Russ Anderson. I don’t know if its actually the guitarist doing those bits. Could be. They’re so similar across the two records. I’ve also got given their live Blu-Ray for Christmas, so I’ll have a look when I get a chance to watch it, and see if I can crack this mystery. Is Schaeffer the phantom Russ Anderson impersonator? Or do both Barlow and Ripper both have that one particular style really well honed?

This record makes me want to try out the two Ripper-Era Priest albums that I avoided. Tim is certainly an incredibly talented guy. Replacing Halford can’t have been easy. Just look Blaze Bailey. The fans really didn’t go for him even though he’s very talented. Also – Maaaaaaaan hunt. Maaaan, Hunt. Manhuntmanhuntmanhuntmanhunt.

In addition to the serious, Thrashy, USPM… I’ve been listening to the fun, bright, melodic German Power Metal of Gama Ray. I’ve been hammering their 2007 album Land Of The Free II recently; its met with mixed reviews, but I really like it. Its such a fun, energetic, and pleasant record. The guitar solos are magnificent. Kai is one of my favourite guitarists of all time. I read a lot of people complaining about stealing that bass-bit from Maiden’s Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner. Gama Ray frequently steal bits from Priest. They’ve even stole bits from Deep Purple. Its just something you have to deal with. Its still a good song. I don’t know, maybe I should be harsher, but, I just can’t help but love everything Gamma Ray do. Its difficult to listen to Gamma Ray and not just be put into a good mood. I’d absolutely love to see them live. I wish I’d been a fan when they did that tour with Helloween recently. That must’ve been brilliant to behold.

Also, after having listened to Tesseract, I had another listen to Periphery. Periphery’s album is such a shapeshifter. Every time I’ve heard it I’ve listened to it in a completely different way. Sometimes I hear it as a radio-friendly Metalcore record, sometimes I hear it as a crushing desne Messugah-influenced affair, and sometimes I hear it as a rapid-fire, all-over-the-place, highly technical, Protest The Hero style modern prog mish mash.

That’s happened to me before, with Machine Head’s Burn My Eyes. I’ve heard it in completely different ways at different times. Makes you wonder what your ears and brain are up to.

Its also interesting just how different it is to Tesseract’s album. Its like the difference between Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Megadeth’s Peace Sells But Who’s Buying. Both are defining albums of Thrash, but both sound vastly different. Same goes here. Animals As Leaders’ Weightless album is as vastly different as those two are from eachother yet again. Perhaps that’s throwing Slayer’s Hell Awaits into the second albums by Thrash bands analogy. If all those Djent bands are Thrash, then what does that make Messugah? Judas Priest?

Oh. Y’know what. I can add three more things onto the “to-do-list” / risk-of-me-buying-these pile. Skyharbour, Monuments and Circle’s new albums.

Anyway, there are some seriously brilliant songs on this record. I particularly love ‘Erised’ and the single, ‘Scarlet.’ The whole album is fantastic though; the musicianship and vocals are incredible. There are parts that are so heavy, parts that are floaty electronic dreams and a lot of memorable clean choruses. Periphery – Love that shit.

I forgot just how good Tool’s Undertow album is. I usually think of the subsequent three albums when I think of Tool. There are some seriously fun, memorable, enjoyable riffs on this album. Some damn catchy vocal parts, some interesting lyrics, and it’s a lot more succinct and serious than I remember. I guess having gotten into all the Tool-influenced bands recently also helped. And the grunge; there’s a slight bit of grunge about Undertow that I may previously have been put-off by.

Speaking of being put-off; I think the thing about the carrots made me forget about all the completely awesome songs on the record. Tool usually have one or two little comedy moments or unusual additions, so I don’t know why that particular one took over. Well, at least I know better now. Songs like ‘Intolerance’ and ‘Bottom’ are absolute gems. I can see this working its way into a much more regular rotation from now on.

Ok; that’s enough for one installment. I’m going to have to keep it up all the way through January. Let’s hope I stick with the whole financial-discipline thing a while longer, ey?