Saturday, May 21, 2016

If You Prefer Heavy Metal!

Just a quick note that I have started up a second blog, Heavy Metal Pervert, where I plan to post pictures of metal releases (with a strong emphasis on CD porn) and notes/commentary about them.  I must stress I am not interested in having anything like a full-fledged review blog; the new blog will be a place to put my initial impressions before I (in most cases) forget what something sounds like.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ordered to Kill for Pleasure

I realize replacing Gary is no small feat, but couldn't nowadays Blood Feast exhibit a tiny bit of quality control? If the monotonous shouter they currently have on vocals is any indicator, the upcoming album is destined to be a $3.33 Hell's Headbangers clearance title.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Weird Tales of Metal - Lone Rager "Metal Rap" 12" (1984)

Once upon a time, when he still had metal relevance, Jonny Z. of Megaforce got the questionable idea of doing a one-off novelty song with the Rods serving as his backing band.  So what is the resulting record?  An oddball novelty release deserving of its minor infamy? A wacky 80's curiousity?  A strange testament to the growing popularity and mainstream acceptance of metal at the time?  A vanity project?  A well-intentioned attempt to celebrate the greatness of metal gone wrong?  A harebrained Zazula scheme?  Probably some of all of these.

Before going into the music, let's look at the cover, which is an immediate subject of much derision.  Jonny is decked out like a low budget version of El Duce.  Actually, considering that it's El Duce we're talking about, let's say lower budget, but the sweat-stained pillowcase here really does make the Mentors hoods look like highbrow costuming.  The Lone Rager is clearly an early proponent of the fringe-jacket-in-metal look, also championed by Dave Mustaine and Turbo-era Halford.  I wish I had written about this record years ago so I could make a gag about Marsha being whipped with the belt he's wielding, but unfortunately nowadays I'm immediately reminded of the Fueled By Fire album with the Hot Topic patron looking kid being choked with a pyramid stud belt.  The Rager appears to be laying down his metal credo from a law office; since Zazula is Jewish, I'm guessing a relative offered its use for a quick photoshoot.

I have to stress that in contrast to its title, there's no actual rap to be found on Metal Rap.  The backing track is relatively simplistic metal/hard rock that keeps an upbeat rhythm but is free from any trace of rap.  Jonny's vocals are an attempt at "rapping," perhaps, but more accurately it's a Jersey accent--with added "funky" inflection--talking in a stilted cadence.  It's corny, tongue-in-cheek stuff and  the vocals definitely bring a '70s radio DJ-type voice to mind.  The most annoying element is the dumb child chorus singing "Metal Music" after every verse, foreshadowing poppy European power and folk metal trends.  The kids are all individually credited on the back cover, but I don't recognize any of the last names except for Jonny's daughter.  I'm not sure if they are children of band members, of Old Bridge Militia members, of booth owners at the Route 18 flea market, or what.  I would be delighted to learn that any of these children were molested due to having appeared on this recording.

The B-side ("Special Air-Guitar Headbanging Dub") is an instrumental version with guitar shredding over the top courtesy of Andy "Duck" MacDonald (guitarist in later incarnations of Blue Cheer, who also played on the Thrasher album on Combat).  It's pleasant enough but admittedly it exudes a certain feeling of stock music genericness--it reminds me a lot of the end credits music from the old Hard'n'Heavy videotapes.  One can also draw some comparisons to Thor's "Death March," though the Thor instrumental is much more ominous--and better.  All that said, I wouldn't mind listening to an album of instrumental material like this at all.  And therein lies the major problem with this release--the A-side is more "interesting" from a novelty standpoint, but has very limited value for repeat listening.  The B-side is more enjoyable, but without any vocals it completely sidesteps the whole "rap" schtick the record is based on and seems like a tacked-on afterthought.  While the A-side was put on the Deeper into the Vault compilation, the B-side is unfortunately unavailable elsewhere--it would be nice to see it on a compilation or as a bonus track just for the sake of completism.

The lyrics are surprisingly good overall, especially considering they were most likely penned in a couple of minutes.  Yes, some lame bands are mentioned and corny lines show up in order to force things to rhyme, but they're fairly witty--get past the tongue-in-cheek aspect, and they contain a pretty accurate assessment of the early metal scene.  There's also some fun "Heavy Metal Hunter"-style name-checking at the end, and I can't bring myself to be overly harsh with any lyrics that manage to mention Bodine, H-Bomb, and X-Ray in a single verse.

Admittedly this was a pretty dumb idea that ended up being executed well enough, and as an inoffensive novelty, it's far from the worst things Megaforce has been associated with.  I'm not sure it deserved retail release as a 12", though; it should have been a flexi or perhaps a freebie for buying $50 worth of stuff at Rock n' Rock Heaven.  Not to diminish his contributions to heavy metal, but it seems like Jonny Z. always had a bit of a narcissistic streak (some of the old Megaforce, uh, "promotional tactics," the Metallica Behind the Music clip where he made a tenous connection between Megadeth's name and Megaforce, and the liner notes of the Deeper into the Vault compilation, which tout Lone Rager as some sort of groundbreaking genre fusion), so I wonder if putting this out was an extension of that.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Crippling Velocity

One of the funniest YouTube comments I've ever read.*

Vaguely-thematically-related videos I can throw in to pad this post's content:

*The only one I can think of at the moment that comes close (and which sadly seems to be deleted from YouTube) was "kill this guy and bring back escolas," which someone had posted on a newish Steel Assassin live video.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Dark Angel is guilty, the crime is life, the sentence is death...

When watching the Vegas video above, YouTube recommended several Dark Angel live vids from their 2014 Sweden Rock Festival appearance, which was the first time I saw any significant amount of the Rinehart reunion stuff.  So now is as good a time as any for a post about Dark Angel and the Don Doty debacle.

Let me preface everything by saying I don't come from a place of obsessive Darkness Descends worship. It's a great album and I enjoy it; "Perish in Flames" is especially awesome and "Darkness Descends" is of course killer even though I think the verses are a bit too, well, verbose.  There's even some intertwined nostalgia since I vividly remember getting Darkness Descends on CD.*  As much as I like it, I'm hesitant to even put it among the company of my favorite US thrash albums.  It just never resonated with me the way things like the first Whiplash album did.

As for the Rinehart-era albums, I'm pretty indifferent.  Leave Scars is solid but I never listened to the album much, opting to get my Rinehart exposure from Ultimate Revenge 2 or the 3-Way Thrash video.  At least I can remember some of the music, which is more than I can say for Time Does Not Heal.  I don't hate the Rinehart stuff, but I'm squarely in the Doty camp.

My favorite Dark Angel album is actually We Have Arrived (pleasingly, a sentiment that's not as unheard of as I would have expected).  Aside from the obvious connection of both bands having early releases on Azra/Metal Storm, stylistically I'm reminded quite a bit of the first Overkill album; both albums can be roughly divided into thrash-based and speed metal-based songs, and both exude quite a USPM aura at times (Overkill perhaps more so).  So I applaud Mr. Richards for his fine musical taste and talent seeking abilities.  His obsession with shaped picture discs, not so much.  Anyway, when the whole Don Doty fiasco happened and it became clear he wasn't going to be involved in an official Dark Angel reunion, I actually found myself fervently hoping that Rob Yahn or Jack Schwartz would resurface to play with Doty.

So, my impressions after seeing footage of both recent Dark Angel and Eliminate:

Dark Angel
Musically, fine.  Initially after seeing some of the Sweden Rock Fest vids I thought Rinehart had lost his high range, but he does pretty well during the 2014 Finland and Chile shows.  He seems to be somewhere inbetween for the 2016 Japan shows.  My main complaint is that all sorts of aggroisms are steadily creeping into the vocals now--Ron often slips into barking vox, tough talk, and Hetfield-esque growls.  Unfortunately, the band look rather lame nowadays.  Rinehart is the biggest offender--his work shirts and wallet chain bring to mind many terrible non-metal Roadrunner Records acts.

Much better than I expected, and though it may not look it based on the band's appearance, the old songs are treated with appropriate respect overall. Hopefully they'll stick to playing as a live act and stay out of the studio, as I would not trust this lineup to write any new material that is worthwhile musically--SwinE, Hunger, Oil, and even Dreams of Damnation don't exactly inspire confidence.  I think it's been years since Gene has drummed on anything I would find remotely interesting.**

First was that teaser clip that didn't have any vocals.  Then came that weird, super-hoarse karaoke version of "Darkness Descends."  Then finally, actual live vids of Don singing.  From the limited footage available, it seems like his high range is totally shot.  He sounded hoarse and raspy, which is to be expected, but I would argue his vox are better suited to thrash than some of the aggro silliness Rinehart tends to belt out at times.  The cadence of the vocals was pretty spot-on and his performance came off pretty well overall.  No issues with the rest of the band.  Like Dark Angel, much better than I was expecting.  In fact, my biggest complaint is Don's babbling stage banter (unfortunately nothing fun like the old intros to "Perish in Flames").  Case in point, "The Burning of Sodom," which has kinda awkward banter summarizing the biblical story of Lot--"I'd like to welcome you to Sodom" from '86 will do quite nicely, thank you.

The short Eliminate instrumental clip circulating sounds okay and doesn't seem to suffer from any modern pitfalls, but isn't mind-blowing either.  For now, I'm skeptical about any future release.  However, I think the prospect of something decent coming from veteran Devastation and Hirax axemen is far better than for DA.

So there you have it.  Time does not heal, indeed.


* To summarize, I ultimately picked it over a Coroner CD at the record store.  I'd love to be smug and say that Priest was right, You Don't Have to Be Old to Be Wise and all that, but it really comes down to a fundamental metal fiscal concept--when funds are severely limited, allocate them to the album with the coolest band logo and/or cover.

** Possible exception: I have not heard the new Viking album from last year, but will give it a fair shot.

***I love the hyperbole of the ad, don't get me wrong, but for the record, Seven Churches over Darkness any day.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Deeper into the Vault" CD (1991)

Megaforce rarities (well, mostly) compilation, with the title and content making it a clear successor to the 1985 From the Megavault LP (and even including 4 tracks originally on that release).  Aside from the currently-ubiquitous Venom, Fate, and Overkill tracks, a surprising amount of the material here is still otherwise unreleased on CD.  Excellent compilation overall, although looking back on it now, it's a sore reminder of how quickly Megaforce lost the plot.

Comes with a 24-panel foldout insert.  One side has the "Metal Rap" lyrics, brief notes about each track, and a short chart listing the earliest independent Megaforce releases.  The reverse has a collage of vintage Megaforce-related pics (helpfully numbered and indexed), and a reprint of an official complaint letter from the Township of Old Bridge, NJ to the Zazulas (letting bands on tour sleep and rehearse at their home was a zoning violation).

Testament (Legacy) - Burnt Offerings
Chuck's vocals on the album version have more of a genuinely menacing feel than Steve's sneering style, but Zetro does throw in some very pleasing OTT screams.  Hard to pick an outright winner--the Testament version, while sharper and thrashier, seems more constricted; the demo version's guitar solo is oddly low in the mix.

Venom - Acid Queen
Classic Venom.  On here due to licensing deals, in this case being Megaforce's Immortals of Metal #1 picture disc version of the "Die Hard"/"Acid Queen" EP.

Mercyful Fate - Black Masses
Incorrectly listed as "Black Funeral."  I think this is actually a better choice than "Black Funeral" due to the catchiness of the wailing chorus coupled with those SUPER SUBTLE lyrics about infant sacrifice. GIMME SOME BABY BLOOD!  As with the Venom track, Megaforce released a "Black Funeral"/"Black Masses" Immortals of Metal #2 picture disc EP.

Anthrax - Across the River/Howling Furies (Live Texas)
Always liked how "Across the River" suddenly throws in that Maiden-worship section in the middle.  While I don't normally think of "Howling Furies" as one of my favorite tracks from the debut, it showcases some fine twin guitaring.  Oh yeah, listen for Joey remarking "nice tits!" towards the end of the song. If the date is correct, Spreading the Disease wasn't even released, and they were already getting chicks at gigs?  Chicks who flashed, no less?  Amazing.

Lone Rager - Metal Rap
I intend to do a full post about the Lone Rager 12" shortly, so discussion of the actual music will wait until then.  Just as a dorky novelty track, it probably should merit at least one listen in your lifetime, especially considering it's not actual rap music (c'mon, you owe it to The Rods).  Whether it truly deserves a slot on this compilation is arguable, though it's not as much of a throwaway track as the S.O.D. contribution.

Hilariously, the liner notes here strongly hint that Lone Rager was some sort of groundbreaking rock/rap fusion that was ahead of its time.  I'm surprised Jonny Z. didn't just throw a certain signee of his under the bus and take all the credit for inspiring "I'm the Man" and "Bring the Noise."

Blitzkrieg - Blitzkrieg
The ultimate version of this NWOBHM mega-classic, from the Buried Alive single.  Especially after the last track, it's rather heartwarming to read in the notes that this was included because of its greatness and influence, not because Megaforce licensed it for a release.

Overkill - Sonic Reducer
One of the best punk-to-metal cover songs, though not particularly rare or desirable since it's included on virtually all later pressings of Feel the Fire.

TT Quick - Victims
From their '84 EP, which has yet to see any sort of reissue.  This song (and the EP in general) are heavier and much more in line with the early USPM scene than the band's later material.  Avoids the more accessible rock influences and AC/DCisms of their first album, and far superior for it.

Raven - Take It Away (Live)
Taken from the Live at the Inferno sessions, but ironically better than anything on the actual album.  Raven's best/second best song, forever jockeying for position with "Inquisitor."

S.O.D. - Ram It Up
Inferno cover, though I don't think it's identified as such anywhere on the CD.  The Inferno version is quite punkish, whereas the cover has a thrashier/crossover feel and could easily pass as a S.O.D. original.  Vocals sound better than those of the original.  Included on some CD-reissues of Speak English or Die.

The Beast - Is This Life
The Beast - The Shape
2 of the band's 3 tracks from the excellent Born to Metalize comp., with a pre-Ripping Corpse (and pre-dental surgery) Scott Ruth on vocals.  Solid traditional HM, though the omitted "Randall Flagg" is probably the strongest of their three tunes.  "Is This Life" is more straightforward, while the creepy intro, Halloween-themed lyrics, and some Mercyful Fate-esque touches give "The Shape" a clear horror-tinged vibe.

For a long time this was the only material from Born to Metalize available on CD, but the Hades songs eventually appeared as bonus tracks on reissues.

M.O.D. - If The Shoe Fits
From the Gross Misconduct recording sessions.  Similar to (and better than much of) the material on the album.

Exciter - Death Revenge
Unreleased track from the Violence & Force sessions.  Another weird exclusion, as it would have been one of the best songs on the album.  Resurrected for several of the band's 2010-2011 live shows.  I thought for sure it would have been included on the Megaforce reissues of the early albums, but so far its only other CD appearance seems to be on a Brazilian reissue of Long Live the Loud.